St Louis Cardinals v New York Mets

2012 Record: 74-88, 4th NL East
2012 Pythagorean Record: 75-87
Impact Player: 3B David Wright
Impact Pitcher: LHP Jonathan Niese
Top Prospect: RHP Zack Wheeler 

Significant Acquisitions: C Travis d’Arnaud, RHP Shaun Marcum, C John Buck, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Scott Atchison, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, OF Marlon Byrd, OF Collin Cowgill, LHP Aaron Laffey, C Anthony Recker, IF Omar Quintanilla, RHP Greg Burke, RHP Carlos Torres, C Landon Powell 

Significant Departures: RHP R.A. Dickey, CF Andres Torres, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Chris Young, LF Jason Bay, OF Scott Hairston, C Josh Thole, RHP Ramon Ramirez, RHP Jon Rauch, RHP Manny Acosta, IF Ronny Cedeno, RHP Miguel Batista, C Mike Nickeas, C Kelly Shoppach

The New York Mets are smack in the middle of what appears to be a long rebuilding phase. General Manager Sandy Alderson and his administration have so far been able to stave off the rabid New York media and fanbase and are quietly going about their business in a slow and measured manner. New York is coming off their fourth straight losing season and this past winter—more than the first two under Alderson—they started to completely remake the makeup of the franchise.

First, they signed face-of-the-franchise and “team captain” David Wright to an eight-year, $138-million extension ensuring that he’ll be around for the next good Mets team. Then they dealt reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays for a package including top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and right-hander Noah Sydergaard. Combined with an emerging core of prospects that includes righthander Zack Wheeler and shortstop Gavin Cecchini, the Mets system is turning around in a hurry. The Mets will probably be bad for another year or two, but they are quickly setting themselves up to be an NL giant again soon.

Pitching
The Mets traded their best pitcher in the offseason, but heading into Spring Training, you could squint and see a decent rotation for 2013. After all, they expect to be getting a full season from young phenom Matt Harvey and they still have excellent left-hander Jon Niese. They also signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal who, despite the likelihood of him getting hurt, is a decent mid-rotation pitcher. Then there’s former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana who tossed the first ever no-hitter in the 51-year history of the Mets last season.

Then as Spring Training wore on, the injuries began piling up. Both Marcum and Santana predictably will start the year on the DL and both could end up missing significant time. Now the back end of the rotation will be filled out by Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey, which is nobody’s idea of decent.

Still, Niese will likely be the Opening Day starter now that Santana is hurt. He was his usual, unheralded yet awesome self last season posting a 3.40 ERA and the peripherals to match it. 27-year-old Dillon Gee will likely slot in behind Niese after a decent season in 2012 where he posted a better K/BB ratio than Niese over his 17 starts. There’s some suggestion that he’ll regress and may not be more than a fringe starter or average reliever, but the Mets don’t have the luxury of using him that way right now.

Matt Harvey has the stuff of a future ace and he showed it in a 10 start debut last season striking out almost 29% of the batters he faced. He’ll need to command the ball better if he wants to live up to his lofty potential once the league figures him out. Hefner and Laffey will fill in until something better comes along. Laffey will actually be an extra reliever to start the year as the Mets won’t need a fifth starter the first few times through the rotation.

Expected closer Frank Francisco looks like he will also start the year on the DL so Bobby Parnell will get his long-awaited chance to make an impression in the role to start the year. He posted excellent strikeout and groundball rates in his second full season as a reliever and improved his command significantly.

The Mets will compensate for the loss of free agents Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez with offseason acquisitions Brandon Lyon and Scott Atchison who will set up Parnell. Left-hander Josh Edgin was impressive at times in his rookie season and if his home run-rate normalizes, he could be dominant. Ageless veteran LaTroy Hawkins was also brought in after another good season in Anaheim. His diminishing strikeout-rate has to be a worry though. Left-hander Robert Carson and right-hander Greg Burke will fill out the ‘pen until Francisco is healthy.

NYM P

Lineup
The Mets scored more runs than only four NL teams last season and this year’s rendition of the team is not likely to fare any better. The team’s only legitimate star is Wright who will miss Opening Day with an intercostal strain, but is expected to be back sometime in April. Second baseman Daniel Murphy, first baseman Ike Davis and “leftfielder” Lucas Duda were all above average hitters last season and both Davis and Duda have the skill-set to get even better, but none of them are great players.

The rest of the lineup is full of holes. Converted infielder Jordany Valdespin is expected to platoon in centerfield with Collin Cowgill—who was acquired from Oakland over the winter—and Marlon Byrd, who hasn’t played a meaningful game since being released by the Red Sox last June, is the expected starting rightfielder. Mike Baxter may also see time out there.

At the bottom of the lineup will be catcher John Buck—who found himself included in both mega-trades conducted by the Blue Jays this winter—and shortstop Ruben Tejada. Buck is in the final year of a three-year contract and is a stop-gap until d’Arnaud is ready. d’Arnaud was optioned to AAA-Las Vegas where his possibility of becoming a super-two free agent will be whittled away until late May or early June. Tejada, meanwhile, is a good defender at short and he hit enough last season to inject some high hopes into the fanbase. He doesn’t hit for any power, but the Mets could definitely do worse.

Given the futility of the Mets lineup, the bench figures to play a large role in 2013. Anthony Recker and Landon Powell are still battling for the backup catcher job, but Recker seems to have the inside track. Infielders Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner figure to split time at third base until Wright is ready, after which they’ll provide defensive depth for the inept Murphy at second. Turner can also handle the outfield.

Defense
The Mets were an average defensive team according to their defensive efficiency-rating last season, but an outfield that could end up giving significant time to both Duda and Baxter—two players who should be playing first base—does not bode well for a repeat of that performance. Valdespin and Cowgill are the best defensive outfielders on the team and neither is especially good. Byrd’s inclusion on the roster probably has everything to do with the fact that he’s not awful with the glove.

In the infield, the left side looks good, but not great, with Wright and Tejada, but the right side could be porous with Murphy and Davis—neither of whom are good defenders. Behind the plate, Buck isn’t a good defender, but Recker is well-regarded and so is d’Arnaud.

NYM H

2013 Outlook
Sandy Alderson inherited a team from former GM Omar Minaya that was bad at the Major League level and also had a barren farm system bereft of impact talent. So far, his team has done a nice job restocking the franchise at the minor-league level by drafting well and making some savvy trades with the Major League talent that Minaya left behind. The Carlos Beltran and Dickey trades have given the Mets a potential superstar battery in Wheeler and d’Arnaud, as well as another high-ceiling arm in Syndergaard and other prospects such as Cecchini and outfielder Brandon Nimmo give Mets fans a lot to look forward to. Unfortunately, the current team won’t come close to contention for at least another year or two.
2013 Prediction: 67-95, 4th NL East 

For a detailed depth chart with statistics, click here. Stats obtained from FanGraphs (Mets’ team page here) and Baseball Prospectus. Depth chart info provided by MLB Depth Charts.