New York Mets' best-case and worst-case scenarios for 2024 season

What, exactly, are these Mets?

Mar 8, 2024; Jupiter, Florida, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) hits a home run
Mar 8, 2024; Jupiter, Florida, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) hits a home run / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets will lay out about $65 million this season to pay guys to play for other teams. So at least, in that one awkward respect, 2024 will be a record-breaking season in Queens.

Whether it’s also successful on the field probably hinges on the Mets offense, since the pitching performance is more predictable ... which is not to say "better".

2024 New York Mets' Best-Case Scenario

On paper, the Mets aren’t as good as at least two of their division rivals, the Braves and Phillies. To be a postseason team this season, they have to improve an offense that was 19th last year in runs scored per game. They were also 18th in runs allowed per game, but while there’s hope for the offense, the pitching is what it is…more on that later.

The offensive upgrade must happen across-the-board, and since the Mets did little over the offseason to add to their 2023 cast, that upgrade has to involve veterans. Francisco Lindor had an .806 OPS, below his career average. Jeff McNeil had a .711 OPS, 80 points off his career average. Despite his 46 home runs, Pete Alonso was 50 points off his career average OPS. Starling Marte was off his career .788 OPS by more than 100 points.

Every one of those guys is a projected regular heading into 2024, and every one is capable of bettering, much less reaching, their career averages. If they all do, the Mets have an instant upgrade.

New York has one of the game’s most touted young catching prospects in Francisco Álvarez. Just 22 and entering his second full season, it’s reasonable to expect improvement on his sub-par offensive and defensive numbers. If Alvarez begins to fulfill the expectations others have of him, it very much enhances New York’s playoff prospects.

In Kodai Senga, New York has a pitching anchor. Last season, Senga produced a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts covering 166 innings. He’s 31 and still in his prime, and with the natural improvement one could expect from a player coming off a season of adjustment from life in Japan, he could be a Cy Young contender. Of course, he, too, is injured and on the road to recovery; Senga's return in May could be a best-case scenario.

The Mets were 75-87 last season. If they cash all the upsides, they can be a playoff team.

2024 New York Mets' Worst-Case Scenario

Beyond the currently-injured Senga, the Mets are counting on Luis Severino, Jose Quintana, Sean Manaea and Adrian Houser.

Here’s the problem. Severino is coming off a series of injury-riddled seasons; he hasn’t topped 103 innings since 2018. Quintana missed half of last season with sore ribs, he’s 36 and he was 3-6 when he did pitch.

Manaea? He’s working for his third team in three seasons, having produced a 4.68 ERA for the Padres and Giants in 2022 and 2023 before both employers dumped him. The Brewers were more than willing to trade Houser for prospects after he established his 31-34 record and career 4.00 ERA as nothing more than a filler piece in any serious rotation.

The horror story ensues if the rotation turns out to be as bad as it looks on paper and the Mets fade from contention. If that happens, Alonso – who is a free agent at season’s end and determined to test the market – may be traded, setting off both a free fall in the standings and a mutiny in the grandstands.

The Mets do get closer Edwin Diaz back from his season-long injury exile. The question is what there will be for him to close. Beyond that, New York’s problem in 2023 wasn’t its closer; subs David Robertson and Adam Ottavino combined to save 26 games with a credible 2.72 ERA.

Most realistic scenario for New York Mets

What the Mets really need is to spend more of owner Steve Cohen’s fortune on three available free agent arms – Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Mike Clevinger – to solidify the rotation. But given what the club is already paying Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and James McCann not to play for them – not to mention the additional competitive balance tax that would come into play – signing any of those three is unlikely.

That means the Mets' fortunes get back to the ability of the offense to support a wafer-thin staff.

That’s where there’s hope. Lindor, Nimmo, McNeil, and Alonso all have demonstrated the ability to be front-rank threats; in the cases of Lindor and Alonso, those threats can reach elite levels.

Realistically, the likelihood is that only one or two of those guys fulfill that hope. Realistically, Álvarez can be expected to upgrade his game, but that upgrade has a long way to go from his .721 OPS and negative defensive runs saved in order to reach big league elite.

Put it all together and the most likely scenario in Queens is a team performing on the lower fringes of postseason viability, with or possibly without Alonso.   

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