The Super Bowl is over, pitchers and catchers have reported, which means it is, unbelievably, time again for another baseball season. The Mets enter this season with a different feel than they’ve had in recent years. For the first time in the Steve Cohen era, the Mets don’t enter the season with serious World Series aspirations. Coming off a 75-win 2023 season, they forwent their annual free agency splurge that we’d become accustomed to in recent seasons in favor of a more practical, low-risk approach under David Stearns.
That has resulted to mixed emotions about the 2024 Mets among the fan base. Some are viewing this as a “punt” season, while others still view the Mets as serious playoff contenders, and there’s probably a lot of people somewhere in the middle. That’s where ZiPS and PECOTA stand right now, as both projections peg the Mets for around 83 wins, which would give them a tenuous hold on the 6th seed according to both systems.
Regardless, this is as tepid as the Mets’ fan base as a whole has been going into a season in a few years. So let’s take the temperature of a few of our writers here at Amazin’ Avenue and see how we all feel about what Stearns has built for 2024.
I’ll begin by saying I am one of those fans who, no matter what the prospects of the team are heading into the season, plans to watch every game. Because you never know. That is the beauty of sports, after all. That said, I am not very optimistic about the 2024 Mets. This offseason has felt a bit Wilponian in an off-putting way that leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth I did not expect to feel in the Cohen era.
I’ve come into spring training with low expectations before. We all have. We’re Mets fans. We know this song and dance. But I think it’s a little different when you haven’t been given a taste of how things could be. In a way, having the carrot of Steve Cohen’s money always keeping the Mets in play for major free agents dangled in front of us and then being taken away is almost worse in some ways than never having it at all.
Missing out on Yamamoto was a big hit to my morale, personally. I understand that the Mets tried. But it felt like after losing the Yamamoto sweepstakes, the Mets decided that they’d rather not invest in the 2024 team very much at all and that they may as well punt. While I can understand that mindset, I don’t agree with it. While there were no other Yamamoto or Ohtani level free agents on the market, there are more significant upgrades available than what the Mets have done. Blake Snell remains unsigned. Matt Chapman remains unsigned. Jorge Soler remains unsigned. J.D. Martinez remains unsigned, though the Mets have been connected with him of late and adding one more significant bat to the offense would make me feel a heck of a lot better about the 2024 team.
Instead, the Mets have opted for higher-risk, lower-cost options that don’t require long-term commitments, mostly on the pitching staff. What makes this different from the Wilpon era, however, is that I have much more trust that David Stearns is better at identifying the right players to gamble on. While it feels unlikely that any of the additions to the rotation will replace the production of Justin Verlander, what gives me hope is remembering how truly dreadful the back half of the rotation was last season and knowing that it would be pretty difficult for the combinatorial efforts of Sean Manaea, Luis Severino, and Adrian Houser to not be an improvement on that disaster.
As during the Wilpon years, we are being asked to trust the process to a certain extent, but I never believed the Wilpon regime had a process in place to trust at all. So, in that way, this is progress, I suppose. But the Mets have not won a World Series in my lifetime and I am tired of trusting the process. Call me spoiled or deluded if you must, but I had—perhaps naively—believed that Steve Cohen’s ownership meant that the fanbase would no longer be subjected to low expectations. We would be subjected to underperformance of high expectations, to be sure. The 2023 Mets are a shining example. But I had hoped that the days of going into spring training with a team not expected to contend for a playoff spot would be over.
Yet here we are looking at a roster for which the most meaningful upgrade on the 75-win 2023 Mets is an elite closer returning from injury and providing a boost to the bullpen by default. Otherwise, there is little to be excited about when looking at this team. I have hope that the organization will continue to improve its player development processes; I will be eagerly watching for any contributions from the likes of Christian Scott, Drew Gilbert, and others to further bolster this optimism. Hopefully someday Stearns will not have to spend his offseason plugging the many holes on the roster exclusively with free agents. But the Mets are not there yet and as a result, I have trouble squinting my eyes and seeing the 83-win team the projection systems are predicting.
I don’t know if “comfortably numb” is exactly the way to put it, but my mixed feelings heading into this season are more familiar than the high expectations I felt at this time last year. I’m skeptical and a bit guarded, but so too am I curious to see how this all shapes up. It’s encouraging to me that the farm system is much deeper and more talented than it’s been in a while, because you’re only going to get so far with a roster full of 30-somethings without anyone of particular note to replace them when inevitable injury or fatigue sets in.
I am especially interested to see how Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez fare this year. My expectations of Alvarez are probably unreasonably high, but at the same time, he’s young enough and has such an exciting blend of attributes that I don’t know how you can’t at least imagine him turning into an All-Star. As for Baty, I (also unreasonably) think of him as a sort of fulcrum around which the fortunes of the team this year and the overarching team-building strategy turn. If we find out that Baty can hit — that his struggles last year were just an adjustment phase — then the lineup suddenly looks much better and the Mets have third base locked up for the foreseeable future. If not, well, David Stearns has some work to do.
Speaking of Stearns, while I’m cautiously optimistic he will eventually build the type of quality baseball operation I think we’ve all yearned for, his and Steve Cohen’s failed pursuit of Yoshinobu Yamamoto was as concerning as it was disappointing, and it casts a bit of a pall on the season for me. Part of it is that I think the Mets are worse off this year, and going forward, without Yamamoto in the rotation. Beyond that, I worry that Cohen and Stearns’ strategy with Yamamoto was ill-conceived and ill-informed — and I worry what that portends for future opportunities in the top end of the free agent market.
That said, what I keep reminding myself is that you really can’t predict ball. Each and every year, strange and unexpected things happen to teams for good and ill. The Mets could well play to expectations and end up on the fringes of the Wild Card race. But there’s a non-zero chance that they’re a bit better than that! For all the shortcomings of the roster as it’s currently constructed, it seems like they have depth and upside in greater measures than they’ve had in years gone by. I’m curious — and, yes, eager, now that I get right down to it — to see how it all unfolds.
First off, I just want to make clear that I was actually in favor of pretty much everything the Mets did this offseason, save for not signing Yamamoto and (so far) a DH. I think the players they signed all display a clear and consistent vision and an understanding of certain concepts they never showed pre-Stearns. I also agree with their evaluation that this was not the market to sign a bunch of expensive players to piecemeal a team together for 2024; besides Yamamoto and Ohtani, there were no major difference-makers out there that really made sense for this team in its current position or greatly changed the outlook for 2024 and beyond.
However, this is probably the least hyped I’ve been for a baseball season since the Wilpon years. Thinking of spring training makes me feel nothing. I don’t even remember what day Opening Day is. I keep forgetting players the Mets added. It all feels kind of just uninspiring.
But here’s the thing; I don’t think this team is bad? This is still the core of a lineup that was top-5 in baseball just two years ago by both runs and wRC+, and almost all of those major contributors are still here, with potential contributions from younger players now. This is also one of the deepest Mets starting rotations I’ve ever seen. There’s no one true ace, but you can count about 10 guys deep who can be anywhere from good to serviceable for the MLB team in a reasonable scenario. And Stearns has made a career out of building bullpens from scraps, so I have more faith there than I usually do.
I don’t think this team is excellent, but I also don’t think they need “everything to go right” in order to make the playoffs, either. Everything going right would look much more like a 90+ win season. A mid-80s win season is something of a middle-case scenario, as the projection systems indicate. And the difference between a high-70s win team and a mid-80s win team is not actually as substantial as you might think, and performance in one-run games and sequencing often play a big role. Plus, I don’t think everyone has totally recalibrated what a “contender” is in the three Wild Card era, either. As we’ve seen, straddling .500 will keep you in the race for basically the entire year.
So I don’t think this team definitively sucks or that they’re destined for another pointless 75-win campaign, but I’m also not particularly excited for the season. Balancing those two feelings in my head has been difficult, and is probably the result of offseasons past being so much more exciting. I’ll probably come around at some point.
I largely share Dave’s evaluation of both the offseason moves the Mets have made and of their outlook for the 2024 season. As things currently stand, I feel far more bullish on the state of the pitching staff over the offense. While I can easily envision a scenario where guys like Sean Manaea and Shintaro Fujinami can step up and be major contributors, I see fewer reasons for optimism in an offense that significantly underperformed last year and has made few meaningful additions. I’m reasonably high on Francisco Alvarez and think he can be an even bigger part of the offense than he was last year, but Brett Baty? Starling Marte? Mark Vientos? I have less faith that those guys—all of whom, as things currently stand, are being given important roles in the starting lineup—will be significantly better than they were in 2023 (though I won’t discount the possibility altogether), and if they’re not, I think we’ll be in store for the same level of offensive mediocrity that we saw last year.
That probably leaves the Mets on the periphery of playoff contention. I think whatever National League team winds up with the third wild card team will probably be a fairly mediocre one, so could the Mets be just good enough to be that team? Sure, if just a few things go reasonably right, they could. But it’s far from a given. And while recent history has shown that the playoffs are a crapshoot and you just have to make the dance to have a chance of going all the way, I certainly wouldn’t place money on this Mets team to make a deep playoff run over the likes of the Braves and Dodgers even if they did make it to October. So all things considered, we’re probably gearing up for yet another year without a World Series trophy coming home to Queens.
However, I’ll deviate a bit from Dave a bit to say that despite these realities, I find myself feeling... well, excited might be too strong a word, but not altogether uninterested in seeing how things go this year. While I would obviously much prefer to be going into a season with the belief that there’s a real chance this year could be the year, there is a certain satisfaction in watching baseball when your expectations aren’t quite so sky-high—but still not altogether absent. Mainly, I think the fact that for the first time in quite a while, my feelings about the long-term outlook on the franchise are on the rise—both because of the presence of David Stearns and the deep wallet of Steve Cohen—that I’m a bit more willing to put up with what will likely be decent but unremarkable team. And if the Mets end the year on the outside looking in on playoff contention, but having had certain outcomes which bode well for future success—say, Alvarez taking the next step or promising prospects like Drew Gilbert and Christian Scott reaching the majors and looking like legitimate building blocks—then I think this season will be one worth paying attention to, if not for its own sake then for what it might foreshadow is to come for this organization.
For much of the offseason, I’ve been underwhelmed by the Mets’ decisions and downplaying my hopes for what the team might be able to accomplish this year. The concept of building a perennial contender is certainly appealing, but it was a bit alarming to see the phrase “payroll flexibility” come up in the Steve Cohen era—a vestige of the Wilpon/Alderson-era, though at least in this case it wasn’t being said directly by the person running the team’s baseball operations.
The team has a great core of outstanding players on its roster, all of whom are still very much in their primes: Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Edwin Díaz, and Kodai Senga. All five are in the age-29- to age-31-season range going into this year. And even if you’re optimistic about Alonso sticking around long term and a believer in great players over the age of 30 remaining great, you’d really hate to burn a year where you know the Mets have these guys.
David Stearns and his front office have filled out the roster with capable if uninspiring players, and the popular projection systems have the Mets at the tail end of the playoff picture. It’s entirely possible that they’ll outperform those projections, but the bar should be higher than “might grab one of the last playoff spots” going into this season.
This whole offseason the scene from Robin Hood Men in Tights where Prince John tells the gathered crowd, “We shall have a wedding or a hanging but either way we ought to have a lot of fun huh,” has been running through my head. For this season to go right, all the bets the Mets have made will need to hit. The starting rotation can either be really good or a disaster. The bullpen should be better with Edwin Díaz making his return, but there is also the potential for way too many Drew Smith innings.
Will Brett Baty and Mark Vientos improve? Is Starling Marte fully healthy? Is Luis Severino not totally cooked? All of those questions will need to break right for an organization that does not have a history of things breaking right for it. In fact when things go wrong they combust in both expected and unexpected ways.
Harrison Bader, Joey Wendle, and Tyrone Taylor are all fine depth pieces so the Mets raised their floor from last year’s 75-win team to perhaps something a little more solid. However, none of those moves will put them in contention with the Braves for the division title so this team’s ceiling is basically sneaking into a Wild Card. After the past two years of disappointment that also feels like a disappointment where you have to really squint if you want to get excited about this year’s squad.
The Mets tried and failed when they brought in two bona fide aces so now maybe a team full of reclamation projects will succeed because That’s baseball, Suzyn. So the 2024 Mets are probably going to be either really bad or really mediocre. They could throw us a bone and extend Pete Alonso to get some measure of excitement up, but there has been little movement on that front so far. But this is still the Mets, and at least the return of the trumpets will be something to look forward to even if it isn’t heralding a championship.
My sentiments roughly echo the vibe of everyone else here. I’m of two minds with this Mets offseason. The rational mind is telling me that it’s a process, that there’s a lot of talent on this roster, and that spending does not guarantee anything, so their efforts have largely made sense given constraints and ‘new management’. There have been a lot of interesting and savvy moves made by David Stearns, and there’s a lot of potential for good things to happen with this club. The irrational (although perhaps not incorrect) mind is that, following the spending spree of the past two winters, this offseason feels like a big letdown, and the team has not done nearly enough to make up for the fact that they went 75-87 last year and were irrelevant by June.
Given the current payroll and the slim pickings available this winter, I didn’t fully expect the team to replicate their previous winters. The club clearly set their price on Ohtani and Yamamoto and were all in, and those didn’t work out. But ending up with neither, and then having no discernible ‘Plan B’ has made it really hard to get excited about this season. Add in the fact the Atlanta Braves are almost assuredly going to run away with this division, and the Mets don’t find themselves in an enviable position.
I do think they’ve made some interesting short-term investments for the rotation, and there is a world where the Mets could reap the benefits. My big concern is the innings leader among the bunch in 2023 was Kodai Senga with 166 1/3, followed by Sean Manaea with 117 2/3. That brings me to my second-biggest worry, which is a bullpen largely filled with reclamation projects and past-their-prime (or, worst yet, never-in-their-prime) pitchers which is relying heavily on the return of Edwin Díaz. This bullpen could just as soon be a complete revelation as it could be a complete and utter disaster, and we’ll all find out together which one it will be.
Luckily (depending on how you look at it), Rob Manfred’s over-eagerness to exploit the almighty dollar by adding more playoff teams to the mix means the Mets will be in the hunt longer than they would have before Manfred’s changes. I still view this as a high-70s win roster, thus falling just short. However, there is a universe where, if everything breaks right, this team could find itself in the mid-80s and sneaking into the playoffs. The problem, for me, is that in my now-27 years of watching the Mets, they have often relied on everything breaking right, and not only have things rarely all broken right at the same time, but it’s rare that half the things break right.
The Mets are going to need all their stars to play to the best of their ability, along with noticeable leaps forward from their kids to succeed. And yet, despite my largely gloomy view of the season, I am counting down to Opening Day and will be seated at Citi Field on March 28, ready to watch 162 games over the next six months. Bad baseball is better than no baseball, after all.
I feel the need to preface my remarks with an admission: I’m always the worst judge of this. I’m the guy who truly believed on Opening Day 2010 that this team had something to it. I almost bought a Mo Vaughn jersey in 2002. I thought that the 2015 club was a year or two away from a playoff run. So, take any of my prognostication with a Bartolo Colon-sized grain of salt.
After missing out on seemingly every free-agent target on the team’s wishlist and losing their GM for falsifying records, the 2023/2024 offseason looked considerably bleaker than even pessimistic Mets fans likely conceived. There is only one reason that I’m not in line with the most vocal naysayers, even though I’ll be saying plenty of nay myself. That reason is David Stearns.
I do not think that Stearns is Billy Beane circa 2001 and has constructed a team that looks like trash to me because I’m not up on the newest analytics. I don’t think this was all the plan from the start, or they were never really convinced that they were in on Yamamoto. But what I think Stearns has been able to do this offseason is to give the team a sense of realism that has been lacking in the Steve Cohen era.
Once Stearns realized they weren’t getting Yamamoto or Ohtani, he looked at the team as it is currently constructed and was able to, hopefully, judge it accurately as an objective outsider. He also avoided a classic Mets trap of the 1990s-2010s: signing ‘top tier’ free-agents that were market inflated and not really all that good. Instead, Stearns went after a combination of reclamation projects and safe signings.
From a dispassionate, scientific standpoint, this team is fascinating. The question marks are gigantic ones, from both new and returning players, and it seems possible that this team is going to lose 90 games or win 90 games and neither is that much of a stretch.
And so, honestly, I have no idea how to feel going into this season. When I see Instagram stories of players goofing off around Port St. Lucie, I’ll think “this team’s got great chemistry already!” When Luis Severino looks like dogshit in a Spring Training game, I’ll think “they should’ve ponied up too much for Snell.” But one thing is for sure: I’m still watching 140+ games in 2024, no matter what. There’s no cure for my Mets fandom.