It has been a long time, perhaps since the 2004-2005 offseason, that a Mets team has been as transformed from the end of one season to the start of another. The remarkable thing about this winter’s glow up is that the Mets did not have to part with much of their core to make the changes, and so while the bullpen, rotation, and lineup all feature new, marquee players, the majority of the team remains more or less intact.
And so, with an improved Mets team, we wanted to get a sense of how the rest of the division saw our team going into Opening Day. And so, we reached out to the four other SB Nation sites for the National League East - all of which are worth your time - and asked one of their writers to tell us how they see the 2021 Mets, and how they think the season may go. At the end, we provided our own thoughts on the season.
Enjoy, and Let’s Go Mets.
Louis Addeo-Weiss, Fish Stripes: A new owner, a new shortstop, and hopefully a rebranding, the days of the ‘Wilpon Woes’ appear behind that of the New York Mets. With the sale of the organization to business magnate and noted art contessuer Steve Cohen last November, the streets of Flushing were filled with renewed optimism as the days of the penny-pinching ineptitude that was the Fred Wilpon-owned club were now a thing of the past. Before long, the team would sign a catcher, former Tigers and White Sox backstop James McCann, to a surprising, but reasonable 4-year/$40 million deal, though truth serum-consuming fans would’ve more-than-likely preferred the services of J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto would soon re-sign with the Philadelphia Phillies for $115.5 million, contractually binding him to the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ through 2025.
The real splash, though, would come on January 7th, when the club would acquire 4x All-Star Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrassco from the Cleveland Indians, a move that made the team preliminary favorites in what is a crowded National League East. Now, with the season less than a week away from commencement and the announcement that Carrassco will be sidelined 6-8 weeks with a hamstring injury, the uncertainty that appeared non-existent at the outset of this trade has now reared its ugly head. But pessimism aside, for a lineup that features the likes of Lindor, Alonso, Conforto, McNeil, and Davis, as well the recent darling that is Dom Smith, and a rotation that boasts the game’s best pitcher, Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and the recently-signed Taijuan Walker, expect the Mets to remain a factor in the division all season as they look to dethrone the three-time defending NL East-champs the Atlanta Braves.
Smarty Jones, The Good Phight: As has been pointed out by just about every pundit covering the sport, the National League East should be very competitive in 2021. All of the teams should at least be decent, and you could probably talk your way into any of them making the playoffs. I’ll ultimately pick the Braves to win the division (again), because they have some really good players at the top of the roster, and for whatever reason, they always seem to be able to find overachieving role players at the edges.
As for the rest of the division, the Marlins - despite their unexpected playoff appearance last year - still seem to be missing parts, while the Nats feel like they’re past their window. Second place - and very likely a Wild Card spot - will likely come down to the Phillies and Mets, and being an optimistic homer, I’m going to pick the Phillies.
Perhaps I’m underestimating the Mets who have become the darling of statistical projections. But this was a team that was eight games under .500 last year, and while getting Francisco Lindor was obviously a good move, the rest of their offseason had a very “Aim for the stars, land on the moon” feel to it. There was talk of adding J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, and Trevor Bauer, and instead they came away with James McCann, Kevin Pillar, and Carlos Carrasco. Those guys certainly aren’t bad, but it’s far from the superteam that was being speculated about at the beginning of the offseason.
Are those additions enough to turn what was a bad team in 2020 into a good one in 2021? If everything breaks right, they could have superb pitching and a deep lineup. But aside from Jacob deGrom, there are a lot of questions in their rotation, and a lot of hitters who we’re not sure exactly how good they really are. Based on a recent history of things definitely not going right (as well as that virulent homerism), I predict the Mets fall short of the playoffs.
Eric Cole, Talking Chop: The NL East is pretty clearly going to be one of the best divisions in baseball in 2021 with some up and coming teams as well as those that are trying to hang on to their windows of contention. The Mets are undoubtedly better than they were in 2020, but I still think the Braves are the class of the division. They nearly dethroned the Dodgers in the NLCS despite not having a functioning rotation for most of the season and that weakness has been shored up this offseason. The Mets have a really talented rotation lead by the best pitcher in the league in Jacob deGrom, but they are going to need the guys beyond deGrom to stay healthy and perform which has been a struggle. I see the Phillies and the Nationals in a similar tier with each other with, I guess, the Phillies being slightly better? Washington has lost pieces over time and Father Time and/or injuries are catching up with other important players. The Marlins were a fun story last year if you ignore the fact that them ignoring COVID protocols early in the season nearly torpedoed the entire 2020 season and they are up and coming, but I still think they are a year or so away from surpassing the teams right ahead of them.
The 2021 Mets are interesting as they definitely went out and made some splashy moves that ultimately made the team better. Obviously snagging Francisco Lindor is the headliner here, but I think signing James McCann was a sneaky good deal for the team and lengthens their lineup in a real way. I do think they need to lean more on Dom Smith, but then you factor in playing time at 1B and LF for other guys and I could see some weird decisions coming. Injuries and departures have hurt the Mets’ rotation outside of deGrom, but I like the moves they made in the offseason to shore that up with guys that have real upside. I question whether it will be enough to overtake the Braves, but I applaud the effort. That said, the issues the organization has had at general manager (to put it kindly) does make me wonder a bit as to how well they are going to be able to adapt and respond to roster issues as the season goes on. It should be a close and fun race to watch in the division this year and I expect the Mets to be right in the thick of it.
Marty Niland, Federal Baseball: With all due respect to everyone else, the National League East will be the division to watch in 2021 because it has three teams with the deepest, most experienced pitching staffs in baseball, each also with new offensive weapons. Atlanta, the Nationals, and the Mets have to be considered the contenders. Each will go as far as its pitching staff takes it, and either underperformance or injury will be the deciding factor among those three teams. The Phillies will likely have fourth place all to themselves. They might be competitive in another division, but not one with this much starting pitching. Miami has some young pitching that could give teams problems early, but it’s likely going to be a long season in Miami. Because the Nats, Mets and Braves will be so competitive, the top seed may go to another division winner, most likely the Dodgers.
Prediction: The Braves and Mets race out of the gate behind their strong pitching while the Nats stumble early because of defensive deficiencies and offensive underperformance. The Nats won’t be 19-31 bad, but they’ll need to gain ground at the beginning of May. By Memorial Day, the three contenders should be well bunched. The Nats pull off a blockbuster for Kris Bryant at the trade deadline, and he boosts their offense the way Yoenis Cespedes jump-started the Mets in 2015. The Nats take a significant lead over Atlanta in second and the Mets in third by Labor Day. The stretch run is one of the best three-way division races in memory, with each team dealing with unexpected pitching injuries to make it all the more unpredictable. The Nats’ top three starters and lights-out closing from Brad Hand propel them to their fifth National League East championship, while the Braves and Mets fight it out with each other and the San Diego Padres for the two wild card spots, with the Padres losing out on the final weekend. With the postseason reverting to 2019 rules, the Mets and Atlanta face each other for the right to advance against the Dodgers.
Predicted NL division champions and postseason results
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
Wild Cards: Mets, Atlanta
Division Series: Dodgers over Mets. Nationals over Cardinals.
Championship Series: Dodgers over Nationals
World Series: Dodgers over Rays
Brian Salvatore, Amazin’ Avenue: The Mets did more this offseason than in any winter in recent memory. Will that be enough to push them to the top of the division? Well, actually, it just might.
The Mets’ lineup is the deepest in the East, with new addition James McCann bringing up the eight-hole, despite an OPS+ of 142 in 2020. The Mets’ offense features a ton of power, but isn’t full of guys selling out for a long ball. Dominic Smith, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo all bring a more nuanced approach to the plate than, say, Pete Alonso, but putting Alonso in between Conforto and Smith means that he can concentrate on doing what he does best - hitting the cover off the ball - because he’s so protected by the hitters around him.
And this is not even mentioning the newest Met for life, Francisco Lindor, a switch hitter who is a top five offensive shortstop in the game. The addition of Lindor’s swagger and positive attitude has added to an already murderer’s row of ‘good dudes:’ players who seem to really care about each other and the fans. This is the most feel-good Mets team in at least 15 years, and it should make rooting for them quite easy.
Oh yeah, the Mets also have the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom and have significantly upgraded their starting rotation around him.
That said, the Braves are a really good team and last season the Mets weren’t very good. The Phillies and Nationals look marginally better than last season, and the Marlins somehow made the playoffs in 2020. There is a universe in which the Mets’ bullpen woes get paired with injuries and the team misses the playoffs for a fifth straight season. But this team inspires more confidence than that, and I think that the Mets will likely be either the champions of the National League East or a Wild Card team come October.