The New York Mets are operating at a normal level, second place in the National League East. However, sneaking into the playoffs as a wildcard team isn’t the goal. As owner Steve Cohen laid out while taking control of the franchise two years ago, the goal was to win a World Series within three years.
In an attempt to complete that goal, New York attacked the free agency market in a specific way - several veterans with no qualifying offers attached - to win now and maintain flexibility in the future. However, now that the injuries have piled up and, for some, the play has tailed off, the question must be asked: Are the New York Mets too old to win a World Series?
Entering the 2023 MLB season, Baseball Reference had the Mets with the second-oldest group of position players (30.9) and the oldest group of pitchers (32.1). That, in part, was thanks to another successful offseason, where the Mets acquired veterans like Justin Verlander, David Robertson, Brooks Raley, Omar Navarez, and Tommy Pham - four players all over the age of 31. Joining the likes of Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Mark Scherzer, Jeff McNeil, and Eduardo Escobar, all important staters last season and all over the age of 30.
The Mets roster is older, what will it mean for their destiny?
The goal was to create a nucleus of win-now players who could contend with the Braves and Phillies in the National League East and win it all. And after winning 102 games last year and coming a tie-breaker away from winning the division, it’s tough to see why the Mets would move away from that strategy.
But so far, that plan has seemed to come with a downside. Starling Marte has dealt with a handful of injuries, Omar Navarez is currently out for the next two months with a calf strain and Eduardo Escobar has taken a step back offensively. Despite those weaknesses, the Mets have been able to cover them up with star-studded prospects Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty, both have been brought up to the major league roster.
On the hitting side, the Mets have created a good group of prospects that could take over in the event of their starters tailing off. Between Alvarez, Baty, and Vientos, New York has alternatives at first base, third base, and catcher. From there, the Mets can shuffle things around, by playing Jeff McNeil between second base and left field if needed, Escobar and Pham off the bench handling various positions with the infield and outfield, the Mets can somewhat sustain wear and tear offensively.
The pitching side, however, is a significant cause for concern.
Kodai Senga seems locked in as a number three starter in the Mets rotation, but the pitchers around him seem to be breaking. Justin Verlander has yet to make his New York debut with an arm injury, Max Scherzer had his latest start pushed back, while Carlos Carrasco has dealt with an up-and-down performance so far, before landing on the 15-day DL. Verlander and Scherzer are both 40-year-olds, while Carrasco sits at 36 years old.
For Verlander and Scherzer, the thought process was going to be either they were going to be injured or good. So far, they’ve been injured. Carrasco, who the Mets considered trading this offseason, has tailed off a bit on his fastball. The Mets have some youth to their system, with David Peterson in the backend of the rotation and Tylor Megill being an unsung hero for the first month of the season. What’s even worse is that the Mets don’t have the farm system to lean on to cover some of the weaknesses.
David Peterson and Tylor Megill are two of New York’s six-best starters and the front office acts like it. Peterson is the team’s current number-five starter, while Megill is the first pitcher in action when someone goes down. After that, though, it’s bleak. Jose Butto has a few major league appearances under his belt but looks more like a backend rotation piece at the moment.
Guys like Dominic Hamel and Mike Vasil, the two best pitchers in the Mets system in Double-A, just aren’t ready to jump into the rotation at the major league level. The Mets also have Dylan Bundy toiling in Triple-A Syracuse as a starter, but that only solidifies the point - The Mets are in trouble if they can’t have their rotation intact for the majority of the season. Against the likes of Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, New York will need their aces to gather some victories.
The New York Mets have started strong and with the rise of some of their top prospects into the equation, New York might be able to take a step forward offensively shortly, while also bringing down the average age of the everyday lineup. However, the pitching side is in flux with various injuries and a significant gap of pitching talent in their farm system, so the Mets might have to explore the trade market.
The Mets are old and rely on their veterans. Whether or not they’re too old to win a World Series remains to be seen, but if they can’t get their veteran pitches going, New York can kiss their World Series chances goodbye.