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The Mets have started the offseason strong but must finish it even stronger

A new Triple-A team and a new manager are a nice start, but the Mets still have a long way to go to a successful offseason.

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

It’s exceedingly rare that this can be said about the New York Mets, so I’m going to just go ahead and say it now because I may not get another chance for a while:

The Mets have surprised me in a positive way.

Twice!

Coming off of the 162-game gut punch known as the 2017 season, this offseason is a litmus test for the New York Mets. After doing nothing last offseason beyond bringing back the same exact 87-win team from 2016, minus Bartolo Colon’s 200 innings, this is a winter that ownership and the front office need to hit out of the park to get this thing back on track. There are many gaping holes on the roster, many decisions to be made, but plenty of room for the Mets to make the necessary fixes to what ailed them this past year if they are proactive, creative, and willing to spend—and of course able to nurse some of their injured talent back to full health.

Despite some of the luster being taken off by injuries, the Mets still have an enviable young core that they can build a contender around: two young aces, two elite-hitting corner outfielders, a closer who’s saved 50+ games, a dynamic young shortstop who’s just learning how to use the incredible tools he was gifted with, and a number of talented wild cards and role players on the roster who can be key contributors to a championship-caliber club with some combination of improved health and further development. There are pieces in place here to win, if they’re surrounded by the right parts added from outside the organization this winter—let’s say a third baseman, a second baseman, an outfielder, a starting pitcher, and a couple of veteran relievers, roughly.

This is why it was somewhat disconcerting a few weeks back when the rumors began to fly saying that the Mets’ already mid-market payroll could actually shrink into the $135 million range, as opposed to swelling closer to large market teams like the Cubs and Nationals who sit in the $170 million range. That felt like a bad omen, only made worse by the somewhat lackluster early list of rumored candidates to replace Terry Collins. Bob Geren? Chip Hale? Sorry, but haven’t we had enough of safe, boring retreads who are only on the list because they already personally know Fred and Jeff?

Well, a few weeks makes quite a difference.

The World Series hasn’t started, and the Mets have already made a pair of offseason splashes, moves that feel nearly as inspiring as they were surprising. The Mets shocked everyone by announcing the $18 million purchase of the Syracuse Chiefs, a move that will finally get the club’s Triple-A team out of Las Vegas’s dismal baseball environs after six seasons. And soon enough they shocked again, going off the board for new manager Mickey Callaway, despite rumors placing Manny Acta and Kevin Long as frontrunners for the job just days before the announcement.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Is the Mets organization ready to open up the wallets, make the shrewd moves necessary to assemble a deep roster, and finally produce the juggernaut team that fans yearn for? We’ll find out soon enough, but fan discontent is high, back roughly to levels seen before 2015. If the Mets do their typical wait-and-see routine and miss out on opportunities to acquire talent, things could get ugly quick. That being said, these moves at least provide some faint level of hope that perhaps the organization is both financially stable and ready to make the moves necessary to win.

Maybe, just maybe, that will translate over to how aggressively they build the roster this winter. In a crucial offseason such as this one, coming off a season as bad as the last one, it’s time for ownership and the front office to put up or shut up. A new Triple-A team and a young manager, while enough to elicit my praise right now in late October, are ultimately no panacea for lack of talent added to the roster.