The 2018 New York Mets were a funny bunch. In many ways a continuation of the 2017 campaign, it was the year when Jacob deGrom became a household name among baseball fans but also the same season when we realized getting back to the postseason might not be so easy.
Still armed with some nice young starting pitchers, the Mets were hopeful the 2017 woes from their staff were nothing but a blip. Several of their pitchers turned in awesome seasons. deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard all pitched well. In the bullpen, they even had success from Jeurys Familia and Seth Lugo.
Aside from those five, it was a pretty rough year. The 2022 Mets cannot make the same mistake.
A weakness of the 2018 Mets was their belief that things would turn around
The Mets had more than deGrom, Wheeler, and Syndergaard in their rotation that season. Matt Harvey was still with the team early on but was traded in early May after posting 7.00 ERA in 27 innings of work. He hadn’t been the same post-2015.
Steven Matz was also coming off of a bad year. And while he improved in 2018, the 5-11 record and 3.97 ERA were hardly anything more than fifth starter material.
The Mets did very little to try and improve their pitching staff over the winter. They brought in starting pitcher Jason Vargas as an option. Following a lengthy injury that began in the preseason, Vargas would go 7-9 with a 5.77 ERA in his 20 starts for the team. Looking back at what the starters gave them in 2017, they needed to do much more.
The team couldn’t find any help elsewhere. Corey Oswalt made 12 starts for them and another 5 appearances out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, he would go only 3-3 with a 5.85 ERA.
Times were tough for the starters. Things were worse for the bullpen.
Outside of Familia and Lugo, the bullpen couldn’t be trusted. It was a season of blown leads with far too many Triple-A relievers eating up significant innings. To try and improve upon what they had, the only offseason splash of any significance was to bring in Anthony Swarzak. He would pitch only 26.1 innings for the team and have a 6.15 ERA.
As for everyone else, there was a constant shuttle back and forth from the minors to the majors.
Why the current Mets have something in common with the 2018 team
The relievers were pretty good for the Mets last year and other than adding a quality lefty or two, I don’t think there’s much else they can really do. Concerns for me lie within the starting five.
deGrom and Max Scherzer will surely give us confidence coming into the year. However, to automatically assume the team gets a better year from Carlos Carrasco and/or Taijuan Walker could be a fatal mistake.
It’s those two wild cards and the other spot in the rotation that needs fixing. The Mets need to prepare for another rough season from Carrasco and a season-long stretch from Walker where he isn’t the same All-Star he was in the first half of 2021. Although neither will be replaced, the Mets need to ensure that the missing spot in the rotation isn’t haphazardly filled out. It can’t be a spot that goes to the winner of a spring battle between Tylor Megill and David Peterson. They have to avoid signing another Jason Vargas.
The starting pitcher well is pretty dry with some of the best names including future Hall of Famers like Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. I don’t think either really fits with what the Mets want to accomplish. At Greinke’s declining ability level and Kershaw’s injury history, they should be avoided in favor of the many trade candidates the Mets have been rumored to have interest in or merely speculated about.
The arms on the Cincinnati Reds, anyone from the Oakland Athletics, and maybe if they’re feeling especially daring, a Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher, would be the way to go. Starting pitchers of any quality can cost a lot in trades. Accepting a bad contract to go along with the player might be the best way to make it happen.
It seems as if the team isn’t ready to settle for what they already have. They could have easily run things back and gone into 2022 with a similar roster. Instead, they already look vastly different and that’s after only a month’s work before the lockout.
When baseball finally does resume, I hope they have the 2018 team on their mind. An unexpectedly bad year isn’t always a blip. Sometimes, it’s a sign of things to come. Don’t reinvest into those sunk costs. Buy shares elsewhere.