Brown: Future Is Bright, But Big Decisions Ahead For Mets In Offseason

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

The 2019 Mets roller-coaster season is over. The regular season ended on a high note with a Dom Smith pinch-hit three-run homer to win the game for the Mets in extra innings in his first at-bat back in months. The victory got them to 86 wins, which was a nine-game improvement from their 77 wins last year. 

But in the end, they missed the playoffs.

This team was expected to be a playoff team. The talent was there for them to win 90 games, which would have got them the second NL wild-card spot. 89 wins would have put them in a tie with the Brewers. They fell short, and while there was improvement, they still didn’t get to where they should have been. There was a lot of jubilation from Mets fans yesterday in what was a fun way to end the season, but the team still missed out on playing at least one more game, by three wins. Coming that close when there were so many games that they had in hand and lost, is pretty frustrating. 

The Bad

It should not take this whole week for the front office and ownership to realize that it’s time to move on from Mickey Callaway and go in another direction at manager. I hate to have to repeat myself many times, but Callaway has to be fired if this team wants to be a championship-caliber team in 2020. The thought of Callaway even managing a playoff game already makes you nauseous. It just can’t happen. That’s the first order of business. 

Outside of Callaway, this was the year of Edwin Diaz and the bullpen. Diaz single-handedly can be looked at as the reason why the Mets aren’t making the playoffs. Diaz’s demise started in late May in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. After that, he was an absolute disaster. He lost all his confidence and just did not have command of his pitches anymore. Callaway kept going to him time after time after time, and he continued to fail in big spots. He gave up four runs to blow a three-run lead in that Dodgers game, three runs to blow a game in Queens against the Cardinals in June, five runs in Philadelphia, and four runs in July against the Phillies again. The hits kept on coming. The icing on the cake was him blowing a game against the Nationals in September. The Mets gave up seven runs in the ninth, blowing a 10-4 lead, the worst regular season loss in franchise history. 

It’s hard to fathom the Mets turning to Diaz again at all, let alone as their closer. He was given an abundance of chances and he crapped the bed. He stunk it up. If you bring Diaz back, it can’t be in the closer’s role. Seth Lugo was the lone bright spot in the Mets bullpen. Justin Wilson had a nice year as well, although he had a couple costly games he blew in September. Brodie Van Wagenen and the front office need to revamp the corps of relievers. Lugo should stay there and probably be the closer. Wilson will also stay, and deservingly so. 

Outside of maybe Robert Gsellman, it’s hard to argue for keeping anyone else. The likes of Tyler Bashlor, Paul Sewald, Daniel Zamora, Drew Gagnon and Walter Lockett should not see an inning out of the bullpen next season. If the Mets want to be taken seriously, they can’t keep throwing Triple-A pitchers out in close games and praying bad things don’t happen. 

They have got to go out and get quality arms and treat the bullpen with care. It’s become an essential piece for good teams. If your bullpen isn’t good, you won’t survive. Starters just aren’t going consistently deep enough, especially in the NL, for a team to live off having a few good relievers. You need to be deep in the pen, and the Mets have a lot of work to do there. 

The Nationals' Victor Robles rounds the bases after hitting a ninth-inning, two-run home run against Edwin Diaz of the Mets on Aug. 11, 2019.  Al Bello/Getty Images

The Good

There is a core in place here that the Mets found that is exciting. That is part of the reason over the final weekend that some fans were pumped up. They discovered that Pete Alonso is the heart and soul of this team. The rookie blasted 53 homers and is the new rookie home run king. He drove in 120 runs and played terrific defense. He conducted himself like a veteran and was a huge reason for fans coming out to see this team. Alonso also played in 161 games. He was out there every day and never got hurt. That alone in itself is quite the feat, considering the amount of injuries this team endured. 

It’s unfortunate Jeff McNeil fractured his wrist, but he was in contention for a while for the NL batting title. McNeil was sensational this season, despite dealing with a few injuries. He showed that he can play almost any position. McNeil gives the Mets some flexibility in the field and a bat they desperately need in that lineup. He also showed some power this season, which was a theme this year in baseball with the supposedly juiced balls. McNeil was actually pretty damn good in the outfield for a guy they thought would maybe just be a second or third baseman. 

Amed Rosario took the next step this season at the plate that the Mets hoped for, hitting .287 and driving in 72 runs. Rosario should be locked in as their shortstop in 2020 and beyond. 

Michael Conforto had another impressive year, this time hitting a career-high 33 dingers and 92 RBIs. He has continuously gotten better and better each season. Conforto needs to be here long-term and should be locked in as this team’s right fielder next year. At some point, the Mets will have to look to lock him in to a contract, but right now he is still arbitration-eligible for a few years. 

We knew Jacob deGrom would be incredible, but after a slow start, he returned to Cy Young form. So much so, that even his top competitor this season, Hyun-jin Ryu said that deGrom should win the award again this year. DeGrom is proving that he’s probably going to be worth every penny of the five-year, $137.5 million contract the Mets gave him in the offseason.

The Mets got solid seasons from Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and two months from Marcus Stroman. Matz and Stroman should be locks for the 2020 rotation. The Mets would be wise to see what offers they can get for Syndergaard, who was very inconsistent and caused some drama with his picking of catchers. They might give Wheeler a qualifying offer. He might be wise to take it, considering it would be in the neighborhood of $17 million for 2020. It wouldn’t be a bad move to see what package you can get for Syndergaard, and then add a big arm in free agency to bolster the rotation. 

J.D. Davis came out of nowhere to have a big role and hit the cover off the ball. Davis was expected to maybe be a utility player and a backup. Instead, he stepped in and turned into one of the Mets best hitters. Davis hit .307 with 22 homers and 57 RBIs, so that trade really worked wonders for the Mets. The question for Davis and the Mets is where do you play him? He played mostly left field this season, but he isn’t very good defensively. Dom Smith is the other guy who was terrific at the plate, but he could not play left field for the life of him. They are in a tough spot with both of those guys and will need to decide if they should keep them and live with their defensive struggles. It seems like if they were to trade someone it would be Smith, because he just didn’t look as ready to play the outfield. He deserves to play somewhere, whether it’s as a first baseman or in the AL as a DH. The Mets could potentially get bullpen help for him. 

As you can see, there were a lot of positives to take from this year’s team. The negatives are pretty simple: manager and bullpen. If they fix those huge holes, they could be a playoff team and a major contender in 2020. They aren’t far away. The core was put in place in 2019 and there were plenty of bright spots to take into the offseason. If Van Wagenen and the front office can put a revamped bullpen together and hire a manager with a history of winning in the clubhouse to run the show, at this time next year, we should be talking about a playoff preview, and not what could have been.

You can follow Jake on Twitter @JakeBrownRadio