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Friday, February 14, 2014
2014 prediction: The Mets will finish ...

By Adam Rubin

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The longest active streak of consecutive losing seasons in the majors belongs to the Mets and Houston Astros at five apiece.

What will the Mets need to do to snap that ignominious distinction?

They will have to ride their starting pitching … and still will need to have a ton of things break right.

General manager Sandy Alderson has asserted on multiple occasions that the Mets have spent among the most in MLB this offseason by signing Curtis Granderson (four years, $60 million), Bartolo Colon (two years, $20 million) and Chris Young (one year, $7.25 million).

But the 40-year-old Colon, despite finishing second in the American League in ERA last season at 2.65, quite obviously is a downgrade over Matt Harvey, who is expected to miss the entire season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Granderson may just end up a statistical wash with the departed Marlon Byrd. And Young hit only .200 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 335 at-bats with the Oakland Athletics last season.

So where does the improvement over last year’s 74-88 record come from?

The Mets will have a full season of Zack Wheeler as opposed to a half-season in 2013. And they should have Noah Syndergaard debuting as early as mid-June, potentially giving them this season what they received from Wheeler a year ago.

Alderson rightly noted the starting pitching is pretty deep even minus Harvey -- so much so that four capable starters already are locked in barring injury (Jonathon Niese, Colon, Wheeler and Dillon Gee) and five competent options (Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan, Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom) are competing for one final spot.

David Wright described the Mets as “100 percent” better than a year ago, however na´ve that assertion is.

“A lot of the guys that weren’t invited to spring training last year, this is kind of first look for me,” Wright said. “So, just like last year I was excited to watch Montero and Wheeler at the time, this year I’m just as excited about some of these other guys. You’ve got Syndergaard, who obviously kind of headlines, and deGrom and [reliever Jeff] Walters -- some of these other guys that maybe go a little below the radar.”

Having added Doug Fister to an already formidable rotation, the Washington Nationals appear the class of the NL East. And the Atlanta Braves should not be far behind.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Philadelphia Phillies continue to age, with even Cole Hamels now an uncertainty for the Opening Day roster.

So the Mets and Marlins may end up jockeying for third place in the division when all is said and done.

In reality, .500 would be a massive achievement for the Mets.

Barring any late shakeups to the roster, the bullpen may be heavily reliant on Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth to return to past form in order to have competency. And the Mets will need Ike Davis, provided he is not traded, and Ruben Tejada to have rebound years.

The prediction, at least barring a meaningful roster change before the March 31 opener against the Nats at Citi Field: The Mets will finish in fourth place in the NL East, with a 76-86 record.