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From playoff outsiders to World Series contenders

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Reviewing the Mets' midseason makeover and how it transformed their season.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Sandy Alderson remade the Mets at the 2015 trade deadline through a series of trades and a key call-up. While everyone recognizes that these moves helped the team, it’s impressive to consider just how much they did so.

The remake started on July 24, when the Mets called up Michael Conforto from Double-A to replace an injured Michael Cuddyer. At the time, the Mets were 49-47 and three games behind the Nationals for first place in the NL East.

Later that day, the team added two more bats in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe in exchange for minor league pitchers John Gant and Rob Whalen. The Mets made their fourth—and biggest—offensive addition a week later when they traded pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa for Yoenis Cespedes. With Travis d’Arnaud having just returned from injury and David Wright on the way, the Mets’ offensive remake was complete.

Meanwhile, the team took additional steps to shore up its bullpen by trading minor league pitcher Casey Meisner for Tyler Clippard in late July, and then fellow pitching prospects Matt Koch and Miller Diaz for Addison Reed a month later.

Both at the time and in retrospect, it’s hard to describe these moves as anything other than a resounding success. Cespedes was the biggest difference-maker for the Mets and had one of the most impressive two-month stretches in franchise history: In just 57 games, Cespedes hit an outstanding .287/.337/.604 with a 157 wRC+, 17 home runs, 44 RBIs, 39 runs scored, and 2.7 fWAR (2.3 bWAR).

Conforto also impressed in his first two months as a big leaguer, hitting .270/.335/.506 with a 134 wRC+, nine home runs, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored, and 2.1 fWAR (2.1 bWAR) in 56 games. Johnson and Uribe made nice contributions in utility roles, hitting .250/.304/.414 with a 100 wRC+, five home runs, 13 RBIs, 18 runs scored, 0.0 fWAR (0.3 bWAR), and .219/.301/.430 with a 104 wRC+, six home runs, 20 RBIs, 17 runs scored, and 0.7 fWAR (0.8 bWAR), respectively.

Finally, Clippard and Reed added late-inning stability to a bullpen that was otherwise shaky and in a state of flux. In 32.1 innings, Clippard had a solid 3.06 ERA (83 ERA-) with a less solid—but not atypical for Clippard—4.65 FIP (120 FIP-), 7.24 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 1.39 HR/9, and -0.1 fWAR (0.2 bWAR). Reed was even better, compiling a minuscule 1.17 ERA (32 ERA-) with a 2.74 FIP (71 FIP-), 9.98 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9, and 0.3 fWAR (0.6 bWAR) in 15.1 innings pitched.

In total, these six acquisitions contributed 5.7 fWAR and 6.3 bWAR to the Mets during the final stretch of the season. By comparison, the players they replaced—Juan Lagares, Dilson Herrera, Darrell Ceciliani, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Eric Campbell, Michael Cuddyer, Danny Muno, John Mayberry Jr., Erik Goeddel, Carlos Torres, and Alex Torres—contributed a combined 2.1 fWAR and 1.4 bWAR in about twice as many plate appearances and three times as many batters faced.

Therefore, the Mets’ midseason additions—including disabled list expirations—likely improved the team by at least four to five wins. Given where the Mets stood at the trade deadline, those wins made a big difference: From late July to the end of the season, the Mets went from three games out of first place to division champions with a seven-game cushion.

It’s impossible to know for sure how the season would have played out in the absence of those moves. What we do know is that they helped take the Mets from the brink of playoff contention and transform them into serious World Series contenders.

Alderson made a lot of gambles at the deadline, from calling up a Double-A prospect to trading highly regarded prospects for several two-month rentals. Fortunately for the Mets, those gambles paid off in a big way, even if the Mets ultimately lost in the World Series to the Royals. Cespedes and Conforto produced well beyond expectations, while the other four players made important contributions off the bench and out of the pen.

In short, the front office made the right moves at the right time in an important year for this franchise. For that, Alderson and his team deserve a lot of credit.