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In challenging year, Mets lay out their future

NEW YORK -- This was the year the Mets were finally supposed to gel. General manager Sandy Alderson's blueprint had been in place for two seasons, and for much of Alderson's third summer, things seemed to be unfolding as planned.

As Alderson looked on from his suite at Citi Field, Matt Harvey was busy establishing himself as a legitimate ace, transforming into an A-list Manhattan celebrity. Zack Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud were taking their final steps from prospects to big leaguers, filling out the Mets' young core. David Wright was doing what he normally does, enjoying another MVP-caliber season. Down on the farm, the organization's young pitching was thriving.

But it all started crumbling somewhere along the way, leaving the Mets wondering once again about their future. Injuries wreaked havoc on the roster, culminating in Harvey's partially torn right elbow ligament, an issue that still hovers over the team today. Wright and Jon Niese spent significant time on the disabled list. Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada all earned themselves Minor League demotions. By September, manager Terry Collins was authoring lineup cards that did not even remotely resemble the one he scrawled out on Opening Day.

What it meant was that 2013 was a water-treading summer for the Mets, who struggled to evaluate players unable to stay on the field. In large part because of what happened in 2013, the Mets head into this offseason not knowing the identity of next season's first baseman, shortstop, outfield or rotation -- all things they hoped to settle between the white lines this summer.

That is not to say nothing good happened for the Mets in 2013. For much of the summer, they showed uncommon pluck in succeeding despite everything that went wrong. Collins earned continued positive reviews for his work, while the Mets received much-needed contributions from unexpected sources -- Marlon Byrd, for example. And Juan Lagares. And so many others.

It just wasn't quite what they wanted out of a season designed to propel them onto a playoff course in 2014. So many of the questions the Mets had heading into this season -- the identity of their outfield, for example, or Davis' status as their long-term first baseman -- went unanswered. So now the Mets will need to begin the process of answering them all over again.

But first, a look back at what went right and wrong for the Mets in 2013:

Record: 74-88, third place in National League East.

Defining moment: Within a five-day span in late August, the Mets lost Davis to a season-ending injury, learned that Harvey had torn the ulner collateral ligament in his right elbow and traded away two of their top three home run hitters (while the third, Wright, sat idle on the disabled list). Already well out of the pennant race, the Mets stumbled into September from there.

What went right: Before tearing his elbow ligament, Harvey was enjoying one of the most dominant pitcher seasons in franchise history. He started the All-Star Game at Citi Field, and might have made a serious run at the National League Cy Young Award had he stayed healthy. ... Similar to Harvey one year earlier, Wheeler made his debut around midseason and impressed almost immediately, finishing the year with a 7-5 record, a 3.42 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 100 innings. He improved noticeably as the summer progressed. ... Bobby Parnell emerged as a bona fide Major League closer in place of injured incumbent, Frank Francisco, saving 22 games in 26 chances with a career-best 2.16 ERA. But Parnell, too, eventually succumbed to a season-ending injury. ... Scooped up off the free-agent scrap heap, Byrd blossomed into one of the league's most consistent power hitters and best comeback stories. The Mets ultimately traded him and catcher John Buck to Pittsburgh for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. ... Several young players buried on the organizational depth chart emerged as useful pieces for the future, including Lagares, infielder Josh Satin and reliever Gonzalez Germen. ... Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins gave the Mets a standout season, becoming a valuable mentor for Parnell and others. ... Right-hander Dillon Gee bounced back from last year's injury scare to become a consistent weapon in the rotation.

What went wrong: The Mets suffered two major injuries before even leaving Spring Training, proceeding without Johan Santana for the entire season and Francisco for most of it. Santana ultimately underwent surgery for the second time to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, almost certainly ending his Mets tenure and perhaps his career. ... From there, injuries only continued to decimate the roster. Among those who missed at least six weeks were Wright, Niese, Tejada, Davis and Parnell, all of them cogs on the Opening Day roster. ... Poor performance from several players in the April 1 lineup also led to a trio of Minor League demotions. Davis, Tejada and Duda all spent time at Triple-A Las Vegas after struggling with the big club. ... Harvey's injury erased many of the good vibes from his standout summer. He is still attempting to avoid Tommy John surgery, which would sideline him for all of 2014. ... d'Arnaud missed most of the season with a broken foot and struggled offensively once he arrived in the big leagues, though the rookie did draw rave reviews for his work behind the plate.

Biggest surprise: Coming off a dreadful age-34 season in which he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, earning a 50-game suspension that forced him to play winter ball in Mexico in an attempt to salvage his career, Byrd signed a Minor League deal during the offseason's final days. All he did from that point forward was hit, and hit for significant power, allowing the Mets to trade him and Buck to the Pirates for a pair of intriguing young players. For the Mets, it was a low-risk, high-reward lottery ticket that cashed out handsomely.

Hitter of the Year: Despite a right hamstring strain that forced him to miss seven weeks, Wright was again his team's best hitter. In the first season of an eight-year, $138 million deal that could make him a Met for life, Wright performed so well at the plate that he was in the NL MVP discussion prior to his injury. But the team's offense struggled mightily in his absence.

Pitcher of the Year: It had been a long time since any pitcher brought as much excitement to Flushing as Harvey, who elicited Dwight Gooden comparisons on a near-weekly basis. None of Harvey's rotation mates even approached the 2.27 ERA or 9.64 K/9 that Harvey established prior to his injury, numbers that elevated him to superstardom. News of his injury reverberated around the game, which had adopted Harvey as one of its brightest young players.

Rookie of the Year: With a nod to Scott Rice, who enjoyed a storybook rookie season at age 31, Wheeler was everything the Mets hoped he would be in his first 100 innings. The Mets' top pitching prospect quickly glided past the control and pitch tipping issues that plagued him in his early starts.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.

New York Mets, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, David Wright