A few days ago, the Mets signed their 173rd infielder of the offseason in: Adeiny Hechavarria, the former Marlin and Yankee veteran shortstop, to a minor league deal. Any signing that’s not Bryce Harper or one of many free agent pitchers gets everyone up in arms these days, so naturally there were some eyerolls from Mets fans whose infield depth is at capacity.
But this is a good thing. Not just Hechavarria, but Jed Lowrie, Robinson Cano, Peter Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier and Amed Rosario. All of these players will be impact players for the Mets this season in some capacity, whether in the starting lineup or on the bench. Hechavarria is an especially good move, considering the shortstop depth behind Rosario is pretty low.
Depth is more important than it appears to be. Mets fans should know this all too well, especially when it comes to the pitching staff. It actually makes the fact that Brodie Van Wagenen hasn’t signed a Gio Gonzalez or a Dallas Keuchel a little strange, but for what he lacked in staff signings, he made up for in the infield.
Last season, the Mets employed the likes of Adrian Gonzalez (opening day first baseman!), Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Dominic Smith, Tomas Nido, Luis Guillorme, Jose Lobaton, Jack Reinheimer, Phillip Evans, Matt den Dekker, Ty Kelly and Austin Jackson. These 12 players combined for a -5.4 WAR, and all but one (Bautista) had a negative WAR in 2018. These 12 players, none of whom are going to be central players for the Mets in 2019, combined for 1,640 plate appearances. The Mets as a team took 5,844 at-bats. That’s more than a quarter of team at-bats taken by players who either aren’t on the Mets anymore or won’t sniff more than 10 plate appearances for the Mets in 2019.
The new additions of Hechavarria, Lowrie and Cano alone combine for an 8.8 WAR. In the simplest interpretation, the Mets have added nearly nine wins alone just by adding those three to their lineup. Couple in the fact that Rosario has had a year of experience, McNeil will get a full year after posting a 2.4 WAR in the second half of 2018 and Alonso will play first base at some point, you’re talking maybe a dozen more wins added—and that’s not even including the acquisition of Edwin Diaz and various outfielders.
Last year, the Mets went 77-85. Their 2019 projection is flipped—85 wins and 77 losses. The Nationals are projected at 91 wins, which I think is a little high, but six games is close. Very close. Considering that the best pitcher in baseball barely cracked 10 wins last season, it’s promising that the Mets have beefed up their projection so much with all the offseason acquisitions.
Think about how many games the Mets’ bullpen blew in 2018. Think about the fact that, if the offense scored at least three runs in every Jacob deGrom start, he’d have 30 wins. The closer problem has been fixed. The offensive depth problem has been fixed. The bullpen as a whole is objectively stronger than it was last year. The three biggest issues that plagued the Mets last season have been resolved in some capacity. Sure, signing Harper would easily elevate the Mets to another level, but that’s a column for another time.
The 2019 season has a lot of potential for the Mets. I’m not going to get my hopes as high as they were two weeks into the 2018 season, but I’m at least expecting a winning season now. And I can’t wait to be pleasantly surprised when it becomes even more than that.