Even when they ranked among the industry’s higher rollers, the Mets routinely found themselves plagued by organizational depth concerns. Or have you forgotten how they placed the fate of their 2006 season in the hands of erratic Oliver Perez (he pitched well!), turned similarly in 2007 to a gassed Tom Glavine (he didn’t) and fielded a 2008 do-or-die lineup with left fielder Nick Evans and second baseman Ramon Martinez (they posted 0-fers)?
Here comes your daily dose of irony, then: Now closer to the middle of the pack economically, the Mets don’t look so shallow anymore.
Yes, as they enjoyed their final day off of the regular season, with the three other contenders for the National League’s second wild card taking the field, the Mets could take solace in this surprising reality: They can make a strong case for possessing the deepest roster of anyone in this fight.
Set to take on the Reds for a three-game weekend series in Cincinnati starting Friday night, then winding up their schedule at home with four against the Marlins and three with the Braves, the Mets have at their disposal:
• Their five best starting pitchers in Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard (in that order).
•Their top nine leaders in offensive WAR, as per Baseball-Reference.com: Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, J.D. Davis, Wilson Ramos, Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano and Brandon Nimmo.
• Their two most valuable relievers: Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson.
Yup, go ahead and add the comedic kicker to that last part: Their two only valuable relievers! You’re not wrong. Yet take a look at the Mets’ competition and their depreciating assets:
• The Phillies (78-73), who lost to the Braves on Thursday to fall even with the Mets (79-73) in the loss column, have lost outfielders Corey Dickerson (left foot) and Andrew McCutchen (left knee) to season-ending injuries, and a third outfielder, Obudel Herrera, has been suspended for the duration of 2019 after violating baseball’s domestic violence policy. They’re also missing their highest-paid starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta (right elbow), and a small army of relievers headlined by former Yankee David Robertson (right elbow).
• The Cubs, 82-70 heading into their Thursday night game with the Cardinals, don’t have their most valuable player, Javier Baez (left thumb), for the rest of the regular season, and very likely Anthony Rizzo (right ankle) as well. Baez’s fellow shortstop Addison Russell is out with a concussion. While they activated closer Craig Kimbrel (right elbow) on Thursday, they’re still missing relievers Brandon Kintzler (left oblique) and Brandon Morrow (right elbow), who has missed the entire campaign.
• The Brewers, who also took an 82-70 record into their Thursday afternoon game with the Padres, are missing Christian Yelich, not only their most valuable player, but also the reigning NL MVP. Yelich was putting up a great case for a repeat until breaking his right kneecap last week.
We can’t complete this audit without mentioning that the Mets’ highest-paid player, Yoenis Cespdes, has missed the entire season, first while recovering from bone spur surgery on both heels and then after suffering multiple fractures in his right ankle on his Port St. Lucie ranch in May. Kudos to the Mets for surviving that series of circumstances, though if you truly thought the eccentric, injury-prone Cespedes would play this season, you were more delusionally optimistic than Bill de Blasio at an Iowa steak fry.
With a payroll of $158.8 million as per Spotrac.com, 10th highest by the website’s tracking — to be clear, those calculations don’t include the insurance rebates the Mets receive for Cespedes and David Wright, nor the deal they cut with Wright to defer his salary — the Mets stand primed and ready despite spending considerably fewer bucks than the Cubs ($218.1 million) and being on par with the Phillies ($156.6 million); the small-market Brewers stand at $128.6 million.
Strong roster or not, the Mets more than likely will run out of time in this race. At least, though, they’ll do so with their best on the field rather than watching from the dugout.
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