The 2015 New York Mets were a revelation. After a sub-.500 record in 2014, the Amazins were given the eighth-best odds to represent the National League in the last fall's World Series. Plainly, the team’s march to and through October was astonishing.
But it didn’t just happen, and it was hardly a fluke. Each feat last year’s club accomplished—clinching the division title, winning 90 games, and finally, raising the NL pennant—provided further and further validation of nearly every major roster move manufactured by general manager Sandy Alderson prior to and during the season. Now, the Mets begin their most highly anticipated campaign since the 2007 season, sporting a potentially all-time great pitching staff, a capable lineup, and a genuine shot at winning a third world championship.
Having said this, in 2016, Mets fans will watch their team face several players for whom they once cheered, and who have since found success at other clubs. Some of these notable ex-Mets left in favor of more desirable contracts or playing situations elsewhere. Others were cast away at the whim of either Alderson or his predecessor, Omar Minaya. Some had just simply run their course in Queens.
Without further ado, here is a nine-man, position-by-position lineup of active former Mets most likely to perform well this season—or, as it will now be called, the 2016 Ex-Met All-Star Team.
Catcher: Josh Thole, TOR
This is a delightfully harmless place to begin for Mets fans. You’d be hard pressed to find another "All-Star team" featuring this 29-year-old backstop who boasts a career .249 average and fewer RBIs in seven seasons than Kendrys Morales had in just 2015. However, a quick glance across the majors for others who qualify for this honor finds only Taylor Teagarden and Juan Centeno as Thole’s competition.
Prior to the rise of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, the catching position was easily the Mets’ weakest for the better part of a decade. (The last Mets catcher to drive in more than 60 runs in a season was, and remains, now-Hall of Famer Mike Piazza in 2005).
Looking back, the only positive aspect of the Mets' catching situation before d’Arnaud and Plawecki was that the club did not let any success-bound prospects that might’ve supplanted Thole on this list slip through their fingers.
(Photo by Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
First Base: Ike Davis, TEX
Make no mistake, Davis’s career was going nowhere in Queens. While he posted promising numbers in his first three seasons as a Met—peaking at a 32-homer, 90-RBI campaign in 2012—the rest of his Mets tenure was nothing short of disaster. Davis struggled to stay above the Mendoza line in 2013 and struck out in nearly a third of his at-bats.
Attribute it perhaps to the chronic symptoms of valley fever, but by April of 2014 it was clear to Alderson, and just about everyone else, that it was time for Davis and the club to part ways. The Mets traded their former number-four-rated prospect to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitchers Zack Thornton and Blake Taylor, both of whom have yet to crack the big league roster and are unlikely to do so this season.
Davis, now 29, begins the 2016 season in the Texas Rangers' organization, his third since departing Flushing. While his 30-homer days are presumably over, Davis will look to reestablish himself as an everyday-caliber first baseman at the major league level.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Second Base: Daniel Murphy, WSH
This one carries with it some raw emotion that has yet to scab over. During the 2015 postseason, Murphy belted seven home runs—one more than he hit in two of his six full seasons as a Met—and homered in six straight games. In doing so, the second baseman shepherded his club to a World Series berth. Even now, Murphy's performance last October seems nothing short of absurd, and will live eternally in Mets lore.
Few can criticize Alderson’s decision not to re-sign the career .288/.331/.424 hitter and notoriously shaky fielder, especially considering that Murphy’s playoff heroics grossly inflated his market value in free agency. What stings is that, now, Murphy’s cap bears the script "W" of the bitter rival Washington Nationals.
The man most responsible for the Mets’ playoff success in 2015 will now compete with his former club for a right to play postseason ball this October. A solid season from Murph, especially one that contributes to a division title for the Nats, will be an extraordinarily tough pill for Mets fans to swallow.
(Photo by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
Third Base: Justin Turner, LAD
After the Mets' series-clinching Game 5 win against the Dodgers in last October's NLDS, only one man from either club ended the series with two digits in the hit column. That man was Justin Turner. The fiery-furred third baseman followed his breakout 2014 campaign in which he managed an exceptional .340/.404/.493 batting line in 322 plate appearances with another stellar season in 2015.
In retrospect, Alderson's decision to non-tender Turner after the 2013 season was arguably the biggest whiff of the GM's five-year tenure with the club. Especially considering the volatile health of David Wright in recent years, Turner is easily the most sorely missed ex-Met currently in the majors. His presence—last season in particular—would have added invaluable strength and depth to the Mets' infield, and, considering Turner's postseason performance for LA, might just have been what the Mets needed to trounce the Royals in the World Series.
What's more is the fact that, as was not the case with Murphy, it would not have cost the Mets an unreasonable amount of money to retain Turner. In fact, the infielder made just $3.5 million combined over his last two seasons in LA. Take into account Turner's virtually league-average offense even before he joined the Dodgers, and it's clear that Alderson would probably like to have this one back.
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Shortstop: Jose Reyes, COL
Had Ruben Tejada lived up to the potential that many scouts believed was in store for the young Panamanian when he became the Mets' full-time shortstop in 2012, Reyes would not be as sorely missed. Tejada did not live up to those expectations. As a result, shortstop has been one of the Mets' weakest positions since Reyes vacated Citi Field.
Reyes's departure was an obvious and necessary part of the club's rebuilding project that preceded its recent success. Like Davis, Reyes, now 32, begins 2016 with his third club since leaving New York. His performance in his first half-season in Colorado was underwhelming, as the shortstop hit just .249/.291/.368. There's no question that Reyes's best years will always be those he spent in New York, where he averaged over 40 steals per season and won a batting title, along with four All-Star Game appearances.
While Reyes no longer possesses the same electricity as he did as the 19 year-old who broke into baseball in 2003, it'd be foolish to think that this year's Mets lineup would not be better with Reyes still in it.
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Left Field: Carlos Gomez, HOU
Granted, Gomez has played most of his career in center field. However, during his Mets tenure, brief as it was, Gomez played primarily in left. In the winter after his 2007 rookie season, he found himself consumed by Omar Minaya's crusade to bring two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Johan Santana to Flushing and was traded to Minnesota.
Last July, eight seasons and two clubs later, Gomez's career nearly came full circle back to New York. However, the done deal that wasn't sparked a domino effect that saw him shipped to Houston and Yoenis Cespedes brought to Queens.
Gomez, a two-time All Star and Gold Glove winner, projects to have another solid season with the Astros. That said, no sane Mets fan alive believes the that the club erred when it elected to scrap the Gomez trade and pursue Cespedes instead.
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Center Field: Angel Pagan, SFG
Pagan was a very nice player in New York. He's been that and more in San Fransisco, collecting two World Series rings in the process. In fact, after being traded by the Mets for a pair of veterans (neither of whom played more than a season in Queens) after the 2011 season, Pagan fit instantly in the Giants' lineup and played a key role in their 2012 championship run
While he certainly would not garner an everyday starting role over the likes of Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, or Michael Conforto, Pagan would have made a very nice addition to the Mets' bench in 2016, had fate kept him in New York.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Right Field: Carlos Beltran, NYY
Few players' legacies with the Mets have been as polarizing as Beltran's. On the one hand, he made five All-Star appearances in seven seasons with the club, posting excellent power numbers and collecting three Gold Gloves in the process. On the other, he will forever be linked in the minds of Mets fans to one single at-bat, as well as a couple of disastrous September collapses in the subsequent seasons.
The Mets can be satisfied with what Alderson was able to get in return for Beltran in a 2011 swap with the Giants. Zack Wheeler, who begins 2016 on the DL, will likely become one of the best fifth starters in baseball when he returns to action mid-season off a Tommy John rehab stint.
For his part, Beltran begins his 18th season in the majors and his third in the Bronx, still possessing above-average power and a sure glove in right.
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, TOR
The fact that Dickey is playing in Toronto and not New York is one of the biggest reasons why the Mets are now legitimate contenders. The Noah Syndergaard/Travis d'Arnaud battery is a critical part of the Mets' game, and it's all thanks to an excruciatingly difficult decision by Alderson to trade Dickey—the lovable, flutterball-throwing Cy Young Award winner—to the Blue Jays after his magical 2012 season.
That year, seemingly four out of every five Mets games were borderline unwatchable. The team finished the season with a paltry 74 wins and managed only a fourth-place finish in the division. But when that fifth game came around, those same Mets were appointment viewing. The fifth game meant that instead of an average Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, or Chris Young, or a shell of what was once Johan Santana, the man on the mound would be a 37-year-old at the top of his game throwing a pitch that few in history have ever attempted, let alone perfected.
It took guts to trade Dickey. The call meant parting with the only redeeming aspect of an entire team. It meant entering a 2013 season with barely anything for fans to look forward to. It meant patience; and it's been that patience, along with outstanding player development and a healthy amount of luck, that got the Mets to where they are today.
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)