By Joe Rini
The New York Mets seek redemption as the 2023 season dawns this week. Winners of 101 games in 2022, visions of the World Series disappeared amidst a September fade and the whimper of an early Wild Card series exit against the San Diego Padres. The signing of Justin Verlander quickly dried the tears of Jacob deGrom’s departure and fueled hopes for 2023. However, the season-ending injury to Edwin Diaz leaves a giant void in the closer’s role. Here’s a look at how the Mets roster shakes out in their quest for a World Series title.
Mets Seek Redemption as Core Remains
On the plus side, the core of the Mets lineup remains intact. The NL’s batting champion and RBI leaders, Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso, man the right side of the Mets infield. Francisco Lindor flourished at shortstop and at the plate in 2022, and the Mets shouldn’t expect less this year. A healthy Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte will be topping the lineup on Opening Day. The 2022 NL Manager of the Year Buck Showalter will helm the dugout once again. He and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner navigated the rotation through the absence of deGrom and shrewdly managed the workload of the bullpen in 2022.
Unlike the batting lineup, most of 2022’s starting rotation will be pitching elsewhere in 2023. However, the addition of three-time Cy Young Award winner Verlander bolsters the top of the Mets rotation with Opening Day starter Max Scherzer. A key question in 2023 will be whether Kodai Senga translates his success in Japan to Citi Field and MLB. Left-handed pitcher David Peterson injects youth into the rotation as he’s elevated from the spot starter role. However, the absence of the injured Jose Quintana quickly compromises the depth of the rotation. While Tylor Megill starts 2023 at Triple-A after an injury-plagued 2022, the Mets will undoubtedly count on him to jump into the rotation when necessary.
As Mets Seek Redemption, Questions Abound
As the Mets seek redemption, challenges lurk in the bullpen and at DH. The closer’s role will be filled alternatively by veterans David Robertson and Adam Ottavino in Diaz’s absence. Robertson saved 20 games in 2022 for the Philadelphia Phillies, while Ottavino had a sparkling season setting up for Diaz. However, both are 37 years old, and Showalter and Hefner will have to navigate their workloads accordingly. Their elevation to closing roles creates gaps in the middle innings of games. Drew Smith and Brooks Raley will pitch important innings out of the bullpen. The Mets also need to fill the former roles of Seth Lugo and Trevor Williams, two pitchers who could pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen.
The Mets did not dramatically fill the need for a DH in the offseason. Therefore, the Mets start 2023 filling that role in-house and with a modest addition. Daniel Vogelbach returns as the DH from the left side of the plate while Tommy Pham takes at-bats from the right side. Pham signed with the Mets in January, and he and Vogelbach should at least provide competence at DH. They hit a combined 35 home runs in 2022, although their batting averages were in the .230 range.
Rookies on the Way
High-profile rookies Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty will start the 2023 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse. While fans yearn to see them play at Citi Field, both need additional seasoning at the Triple-A level. While Baty showed flashes of pop at the plate in a brief audition last season, he needs to improve his defense at third base. Alvarez, a 21-year-old catcher, socked 27 home runs in the minors last season but suffered growing pains after moving up to Triple-A. Look for Alvarez and Baty to be early call-ups if the offense lags.
The Quest Begins on March 30
Nothing is guaranteed as the Mets seek redemption from 2022 and win their first championship since 1986. At ages 40 and 38, Verlander and Scherzer will battle Father Time in addition to their NL East foes. A tough division battle is expected, but the Mets have enough proven veterans to at least earn a wildcard spot and hopefully extend their season into the World Series.