Mets begin quest for first playoff appearance in seven years
The objective for the New York Mets is 90 wins.
Whether the aspiration is reality or an overly romantic notion will be determined over the next six and a half months. But for a franchise whose recent past has been underscored by a thorough franchise rebuilding, it is radical change in attitude.
“It’s attainable,” David Wright told reporters in Port St. Lucie during spring training, echoing a number first mentioned by general manager Sandy Alderson. “It’s a good starting point for us. Ninety wins is a good starting point.”
Despite authoring a 374-436 record over the last five seasons, the Mets enter the 2014 season with unmistakable ambitions due to a long-term organizational reconstruction that has borne cornerstone pieces in starting pitchers Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, along with catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Harvey will be out after Tommy John surgery, but the depth in the system is noticeable.
Added to that core in the offseason were outfielders Curtis Granderson (four years, $60 million) and Chris Young (one year, $7.25 million) and starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (two years, $20 million), all of whom signed free agent contracts.
“I think 90 [wins] is a good starting point for giving us something to shoot for and getting guys to understand that mediocrity is not going to be acceptable,” Wright said. “It’s not about being better than last year. What does that get us? Third or fourth place? It’s about being a good team and being a playoff-contending team.”
But there is a distinct difference between improvement and playoff contention. In a division in which the muscle-laden Braves and Nationals are the standard bearers, the Mets may not possess the necessary depth to contend as Harvey and Jeremy Hefner are recuperating from Tommy John surgery.
The Mets also have question marks at first base and shortstop.
Ike Davis (.333/.385/.750/1.135 in four games) and Lucas Duda (.300/.417/1.000/1.417) have been injured during a spring training in which both were expected to engage in a neck-and-neck battle throughout spring training.
“It’s probably who is going to be the healthiest,” manager Terry Collins said when asked who will be the Opening Day first baseman following the Mets’ 7-6 win over the Braves on March 20.
Comparitively speaking, the Davis and Duda competition is still more concrete than Ruben Tejada’s grasp on the starting shortstop job.
Tejada has hit .226 in 11 games, while committing four errors, fueling speculation that general manager Sandy Alderson is attempting to acquire a shortstop. Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius and Nick Franklin have been the names most linked with the Mets. Gregorius and Franklin would have to be trade acquisitions, while Drew is a free agent.
Drew reportedly passed on a one year, $14.1 million deal with Boston, with whom he won the World Series last season, earlier this spring. Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, has said his client could sign with a team after June’s draft. The Mets have the 10th pick in the draft, which is protected.
But would the Mets be willing to meet Drew’s price? Even with signings of Granderson, Young and Colon, the Mets only have a payroll of $73.996 million.
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.