Following four days off for the All-Star break, the Mets return to action Friday against the Marlins in Miami.
"Come and get us," Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen dared rival teams this past winter.
That's exactly what your rivals have done.
Van Wagenen and the Mets begin the final stretch of the season at 40-50, while trailing eight teams for the last Wild Card spot and a 4.9 percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to FanGraphs.com.
That said, the final 72 games will bring plenty of opportunity for fun, fear, chaos and cheer...
The Mets have players to trade and holes to fill. Van Wagenen showed this past winter that he's not afraid to be aggressive and creative, which were two qualities rarely practiced by his predecessor. Also, due to his background as an elite talent agent, he has shown the awareness, tact and negotiating skills to get things done.
In less than three weeks he'll have the opportunity to add to this year's roster, flip so-so talent for so-so prospects or ship out major assets in an attempt to rebuild the roster for future seasons. In any case, I have no doubt he'll do something and, in typical Van Wagenen fashion, I don't expect it will be boring.
Zack Wheeler, a free agent at the end of this season, will almost certainly be traded and net at least one top-50 prospect in baseball or two of a team's top 20 prospects.
Todd Frazier, also a pending free agent, is likely to get moved as well.
Van Wagenen will no doubt push to find a taker for C Wilson Ramos, who has another year on his contract, and Jason Vargas, who is also a free agent at the end of this season.
It's scary, but Van Wagenen may also want to consider going full tilt and dealing Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo and Amed Rosario for a boat load of young talent. I believe in the above five guys and know they'll each have successful careers. However, to create sustained success built on more than just hope and luck, the Mets need as many promising, young, long-term, affordable talent as possible to put around Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto and the new nucleus of Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil. And, sadly, with so many assets to deal, now may be the best time to do it.
Rookie of the Year race
Pete Alonso's 3.6 WAR leads all MLB rookies. Directly behind him in WAR are National League rookies Fernando Tatis Jr., Alex Verdugo and Bryan Reynolds, all of whom when combined have as many home runs as Alonso.
It's hardly a forgone conclusion that Alonso will win the NL Rookie of the Year. There is a lot that can go wrong for him, just as a lot could go wrong for Tatis Jr., Verdugo and others. However, it'll be a fun race to watch down the stretch and -- like McNeil and the batting title -- I expect Alonso will be leading or in the mix down the stretch.
Batting title race
Mets INF/OF Jeff McNeil not only leads the National League with a .349 batting average, he leads all of MLB.
The NL batting champion during each of the past five years has hit at least .319, which seems very attainable for McNeil, who finished 2018 hitting .329. He could hit .290 between now and the end of the season and still likely be in a good spot to take the crown.
Interestingly, had McNeil played in 15-to-20 fewer games last season, he could have been in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. However, due to Alonso's dominant first half, McNeil's ineligibility is probably a moot point.
Changing of the guard
Van Wagenen and his manager, Mickey Callaway, have both been given a public vote of confidence by their superiors. As a result, reporters have cited inside sources stating the same. I believe none of the above. It's not that I think anyone is lying, I just know having been a fan for 30 years and a writer the past 15 that no one is safe following three consecutive losing seasons -- especially when the manager wasn't hired by the current GM.
Joe Girardi and other highly regarded former managers are sitting on the sideline, and with a GM running the Mets who loves big personalities and past success, any logical person would know a change at manager is very possible.
In the event Van Wagenen decides to make a change, I expect it will happen after the season.
I do think Van Wagenen is staying put. It would be unfair to hire him and not give him at least 18-to-24 months to build the team he wants to build.
Playoffs? You're talking about playoffs?
I know, the odds are very much stacked against the Mets reaching October.
However, they are middle of the pack when it comes to their strength of schedule, according to ESPN's SOS rankings. Also, the majority of their remaining games will be played at Citi Field, where they are 23-19 as opposed to being 17-31 on the road.
The thing is, to leap frog eight teams and pick up seven games in the Wild Card standings, the Mets need to win roughly 45 of their remaining 72 games. The bad news is that a .625 winning percentage during a 10-week stretch is difficult for any team let alone a team like the Mets that has to date struggled to put together a significant winning streak. Also, it's very possible they trade impact players to other teams, which will only make it harder to claw back above .500.
The good news is that we've seen many players on this roster do amazing things before, such as in 2015 when they played .600 between July 11 and the end of the year. So, it's possible, but a lot has to go right to hit the numbers needed to create a miracle in 2019.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!