Both the Mets and Yankees will be looking to get back to the playoffs in 2016, but they may not be able to without significant contributions from their offseason acquisitions. Here’s a look at what to expect from some of the Mets’ and Yankees’ new faces.
Neil Walker, acquired from the Pirates for Jon Niese, will be filling the shoes of playoff hero Daniel Murphy - who landed with the Nationals. Walker compares favorably to the former Met mainstay; though Murphy has a better lifetime average (.288 to Walker’s .272). Walker has Murphy beat in lifetime OBP (.338 to .331) and slugging percentage (.431 to .424). Mets fans can also anticipate slightly better defense at second; Walker’s fielding percentage was 10 points higher than Murphy’s last season. Also, Walker is a switch-hitter while Murphy could only bat left, so this gives the Mets more options when setting their lineups in 2016.
Asdrubal Cabrera was picked up as a utility infielder the same week that Walker was brought in. The 30-year-old 2B/SS is coming off a renaissance year in which he batted .265 with the Rays with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs. He may not the be the player he was in 2011 and 2012 when he recorded back-to-back All-Star nominations with the Indians, but he should be able to relieve some tired players on occasion and deliver some quality at-bats from either side of the plate off the bench.
Mets fans should be familiar with Antonio Bastardo from his days with the Phillies, but the Mets decided to invest in him after a strong 2015 with the Pirates. The lefty hurled 57.1 innings, recorded a 2.98 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.46 in 2015, all of which are in line with his career averages. Bastardo is effective against both lefties and righties but it’s possible he will be used as a left-handed specialist in 2016; last year he allowed lefties to bat just .138.
Much has been made about the Yankees not signing a free agent this winter, but the Bombers still managed to improve their team through the trade market. The Yankees’ biggest offseason acquisition was second baseman Starlin Castro, who was brought in from the Cubs for long reliever and occasional starter, Adam Warren. Castro played shortstop for the vast majority of his six-year career in Chicago, but slid over to second to make room for Addison Russell in the middle of 2015. Once the Cubs signed Ben Zobrist, Castro became a viable trade prospect and the Yankees, who were going to go into the new season with Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley platooning at second, pounced on the opportunity to improve their team. Castro is a three-time All-Star with a career batting average of .281, and he’s averaged 11 home runs and 66 RBIs in six seasons. Castro also rarely misses games; he’s averaged 148.5 games played over his career.
The Yankees were embroiled in the most controversial transaction of the offseason as they dealt away some prospects for Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who was involved in a domestic incident with his girlfriend in October. Florida authorities declined to press charges against the Cuban fireballer due to lack of evidence, but Chapman could still be suspended by MLB under its new domestic abuse policy.
Even if Chapman is disciplined, he should still be able to make a big impact in the Yankees’ already intimidating bullpen. It’s unclear if he’ll be adding regularly to his career save total of 146 (earned over six seasons), but Bombers’ incumbent closer Andrew Miller won’t force Joe Girardi’s hand.
“My goal is to win,” Miller told Mike Francesa on WFAN on Feb. 3. “I’ve told people all along that there’s no resume that I’m building. I’m not worried about some sort of milestone or Hall of Fame case or anything like that.”