The major reason I think the team will have problems is the fact that they went 74-88 last season with RA Dickey going 20-6. Without Dickey, the Mets could have been 28 games under .500. I have a hard time seeing a Mets pitcher make up for what Dickey did last season in 2013. Add in the fact that the team did little to address a dreaded OF situation, this could get bad real fast.
The Mets first offseason under GM Sandy Alderson netted the Mets very little. They signed free agents like Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Tim Byrdak, Taylor Buchholz and Ronny Paulino, as well as Willie Harris and Scott Hairston. All to very inexpensive contracts, where Capuano, Byrdak and Hairston exceeded expectations. The Mets spent the next offseason essentially making all their moves in one day, trading OF Angel Pagan to San Francisco for RHP Ramon Ramirez and OF Andres Torres. All three now play for the Giants. The Mets also signed RHPs Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch and later added SS Ronny Cedeno to the mix. Hairston (.263, 20, 57) and Young both returned and were important members of the 2012 team. Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes were all gone by the end of 2011, with Dickey, Hairston and Jason Bay joining them after 2012.
As far as the Mets 2012 offseason, it started with the parting of ways with Bay, which was inevitable. The Dickey trade gives the Mets d'Arnaud, as well as John Buck, who in my opinion is still an upgrade over Josh Thole (.234, 1, 21 in 2012). Shawn Marcum is a good signing, even though he is coming off an injury riddled 2012 season. He should provide innings and averages about 12-13 wins in a full season. Brandon Lyon essentially replaced Rauch (3-7, 3.59, in 73 games) and showed a higher K per 9 IP than any other point in his career. The Mets hopes sit on what they can get out of Johan Santana, who is unlikely to pitch opening day for the Mets.
Offensively, the Mets brought in former OF prospect Collin Cowgill in a trade with the Oakland Athletics for minor league 3B Jeffre Marte. Cowgill had an unbelievable 2011 season at AAA Reno (Diamondbacks), hitting .354, 13, 70 with 95 RS in 98 games. He came down to earth last season, hitting just .254, 4, 31 in 63 games for AAA Sacramento. However, he is off to a great start this spring with 8 hits in his first 16 ABs. The Mets also brought in OF Marlon Byrd on a minor league contract, fresh off his 50 game suspension for the use of PEDs. Byrd is also off a 3 year, $15 million contract he signed with the Cubs. Both are expected to be on the opening day roster and possibly in the starting lineup. Other interesting signings are INF Brandon Hicks, who is expected to make the team as a utility player and OF Jamie Hoffman, who could be a sleeper. Farmhand Matt Den Dekker and minor league free agent Andrew Brown should also get strong consideration.
Cowgill and Byrd, if they make the team, could be part of a platoon with LHs Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter. Nieuwenhuis is already hurt, giving Hoffman and den Dekker a chance to win a job outright. Lucas Duda (.239, 15, 57 in 121 games in 2012) gets another chance to play everyday, this time in LF. With Buck behind the plate, the Mets are set with their infield of Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada and David Wright. The lineup I would go with is Byrd/Baxter RF, Murphy 2B, Wright 3B, Davis 1B, Duda LF, Buck C, Cowgill/Nieuwenhuis CF, Tejada SS. Obviously, Tejada can move up in the order to bat 1st or 2nd, as I expect manager Terry Collins to ride the hot hand. As far as the bench, I expect the Mets to pursue a trade of either Justin Turner or Jordany Valdespin, while I prefer the Mets to hold on to Valdespin. Hicks is likely to win the job as super utility player and two spots are left: one for an infielder and one for the backup catcher. The catcher is likely to be free agent Anthony Recker, who could be better offensively than some fans may think. Landon Powell comes over to provide some depth.
The Mets starting rotation will have a spot to battle for if Santana is not ready to go opening day. It is best for the Mets to get Santana to full health before running him out there, so hopefully once he returns, he has no further setbacks. Jonathon Niese is set to pitch opening day, assuming Santana is not ready to pitch. (Manager Collins already announced Santana would pitch opening day if healthy). Marcum probably pitches the second game, followed by Matt Harvey. Dillon Gee returns from his blood clot injury to pitch the 4th game, followed by either Jeremy Hefner, Collin McHugh or Jenrry Mejia.
The bullpen is also missing its top piece, closer Frank Francisco. He is unlikely to be ready opening day, making Bobby Parnell the closer. The bullpen could be much improved with Lyon, Latroy Hawkins, Scott Atchinson and younger pitchers like Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia and Robert Carson. Greg Burke is a pitcher the Mets like, so expect to see him on the OD roster. LHPs Pedro Feliciano and Byrdak will be part of the mix if healthy, as well as LHP Scott Rice. In my opinion, the Mets bullpen should look a little better than it did the past two seasons.
Of course, Wheeler and d'Arnaud will be anticipated as soon as possible, likely no earlier than the end of May. If the team struggles, they will clearly turn to the two to get some fans in the seats. For those of whom expect better than 69-93: Where do the Mets get the additional 14 games over .500 they got from Dickey last season? Can you trust the Mets to run three dependable options in their OF every day? What will happen to make this team perform exceedingly well? I predict the opposite of the last two seasons, they Mets have a bad first half, but finish very strong (not strong enough to make a serious postseason run). They will finish 69-93, forth place in the NL East. Vegas has their over/ under at 74, so I am predicting the under. As a Mets fan, I am rooting for the opposite of 93-69, but there is clearly no logic in that thought.