Sports

New York Mets sign multiple playmakers ahead of spring training

In the midst of a relatively idle MLB offseason, few would have guessed that the normally frugal New York Mets would be one of this winter’s most active teams. The Mets knew they needed to make upgrades both on and off the field after a dismal 2017 season, but the options were thin.

Dabbling in the trade market would have cost them too many of their budding prospects, not to mention the fact that most of the players available are already well past their prime, such as Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. Without much of a choice, General Manager Sandy Alderson decided to whip out the checkbook and dive headfirst into the free agent market.

Many premier players are expected to hit the market next year, but this winter still saw quite a few serviceable veterans looking for new teams. While the majority of the league engaged in a stare down with All-Stars like J.D. Martinez and Jake Arrieta, the Mets quietly swooped in and nabbed cheaper options before they could be outbid. Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak and Adrián González are three promising new players who will now spend most of their summer in Flushing, Queens.

None of these signings are exactly jaw-dropping, but they all help fill serious roster holes that plagued the Mets last year. As much as it will pain the team’s fans to admit, the David Wright era is coming to an end.

Frazier comes in on an inexpensive short-term deal that will allow Asdrúbal Cabrera to move to second base, a position he much prefers. Despite his low batting average the past couple of seasons, the two-time All-Star has a history of being a powerful lineup presence.

Frazier mashed 40 homeruns for the White Sox just two seasons ago, after winning the Homerun Derby the year before.

If he has anywhere near that level of production over the next two years, this signing will look brilliant. His substantial leadership skills and infectious personality will also do wonders for the
clubhouse.

González is another former All-Star whose stock has dropped due to injuries and age. His extremely affordable contract could end up being the steal of the offseason if he can also manage to replicate the stats he put up two years ago. Even if he loses the starting job to Dominic Smith, the Mets took a minimal risk on an experienced slugger with a proven track record.

Swarzak is probably the least recognizable name to the casual baseball fan, but not for long. The right-handed reliever had a breakout year last season with the White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, boasting career bests in nearly every pitching statistic.

His presence bolsters an already solid bullpen and reunites Swarzak with new manager Mickey Callaway. Swarzak attributes his revamped career to Callaway, referencing the time the two spent together as part of the Cleveland Indians organization two years
earlier.

The biggest move for the Mets, however, may have been bringing back a familiar face. Jay Bruce agreed to return to New York on a multiyear deal after being traded to the Indians last summer. While Bruce struggled during his time with the Mets last season, he rediscovered his swing while in Cleveland and helped propel the team to the playoffs. Bruce provides a much-needed power surge to an otherwise lackluster lineup.

The All-Star slugger is not the only player returning to Queens, as longtime Met José Reyes chose to return to New York to serve as a utility infielder and provide necessary depth for a team that was
tormented by injuries last years.

All these players, old and new, will be playing under the direction of rookie manager Callaway.

Despite the many improvements to the offense, the Mets still remain a team that relies on pitching, something Callaway knows plenty about. The 42-year-old former pitcher has been the Indians’ pitching coach for the last five seasons, guiding the team’s staff to the lowest ERA and most strikeouts in all of baseball.

His wisdom has helped pitchers like Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco all emerge into stars. The Mets are hoping Callaway’s knowledge can help Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and the rest of the staff regain the dominance they all have displayed at one time or another during their careers.

While his inexperience might worry some, his track record speaks for itself. Learning under future Hall of Famer Terry Francona over the years puts Callaway in a perfect position to thrive at the helm of this franchise.

All in all, the Mets have made plenty of moves this offseason without spending a ghastly amount of money. They improved the team for the short term without falling into any expensive traps that could cripple the team down the road. Unfortunately, much of this team’s success will depend on whether the injury bug bites as hard as it did last year.

Under new management, a healthy Mets team might be able to surprise many in the National League. For long-suffering fans of the organization, watching the Mets be active in the offseason while making smart deals is
refreshing.

It remains to be seen whether these moves will translate to wins on the field, but New Yorkers have a reason to feel hopeful.

February 28, 2018

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Evan Lewis


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