5. Lowered expectations
Heading into 2018, the expectation for the Mets was to compete for a wild card spot as opposed to the previous year of competing for the World Series. The team filled its holes by signing mid-tier free agents in Bruce, Frazier, Reyes, Swarzak, and Vargas. Though none of these moves were exciting, the expectation was for the players currently here to bounce back. Cespedes, Conforto, Familia, and 4/5 starting pitchers missed at least half of 2017 due to injury. The biggest phrase used for the 2018 Mets by fans was "if these guys stay healthy, we can be pretty good".
Heading into 2024, we cannot expect every hole to be filled by top free agent signings. Yes, Stearns will have conversations with the agents representing Ohtani and Yamamoto, but even Steve Cohen said in August that this level of spending is "not sustainable". Most holes are going to have to be filled with mid-tier signings and relying on the players here to bounce back.
Remember when Brodie Van Wagenen said in 2019, "we want to eliminate the if's". Well, the 2024 Mets are one huge "if" just like 2018 was. If McNeil bounces back, if Baty develops, if Diaz is healthy, if Acuna and Gilbert are blue-chip prospects, then the Mets can be pretty good. As Billy Eppler said in August, the Mets are developing for 2025. Any moves made this offseason will be with the expectation of contending more for the future rather than the present.