Constructing a winner: Mets
How New York used the Draft, trades, free agency and international signings to build its playoff team
MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of Division Series rosters.
For the first time since 2006, the New York Mets are National League East champions. However, they didn't always look like a team bound for a division title.
Headed into the All-Star break, the Mets' offense ranked last in the Major Leagues in batting average and was tied for the lowest OPS in the NL. But all that changed with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, as it was just three days after his arrival that the Mets passed the Washington Nationals in the standings and never looked back.
"Through August and early September, he was the foundation of the offense," said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson of Cespedes, who blasted 17 home runs in 57 games after joining the Mets.
However, the Mets would not have been in a position to compete at the Deadline if not for the overwhelming success of the starting rotation, which finished the regular season with the fourth-best ERA and the fewest walks in the NL, and a bullpen that held opposing hitters to the league's second-lowest average.
"The strategy in building the team focused on the pitching, primarily the starting pitching, and that's where the enthusiasm for our franchise's future began to develop, even while those players were in the Minor Leagues," said Alderson.
"I think it started with Matt Harvey, and even though Zack Wheeler didn't pitch for us this year, he was part of what created an interest in the future of the team among our fans. Once Jacob deGrom arrived last year, he sort of added to that mythology, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz gradually came to mean the same thing."
Player, how acquired, year
Michael Conforto, Draft, 2014 (1st)
Jacob deGrom, Draft, 2010 (9th)
Lucas Duda, Draft, 2007 (7th)
Jeurys Familia, Int'l sign, 2007
Wilmer Flores, Int'l sign, 2007
Erik Goeddel, Draft, 2010 (24th)
Matt Harvey, Draft, 2010 (1st)
Juan Lagares, Int'l sign, 2006
Steven Matz, Draft, 2009 (2nd)
Daniel Murphy, Draft, 2006 (13th)
Jon Niese, Draft, 2005 (7th)
Kevin Plawecki, Draft, 2012 (1st supp.)
Matt Reynolds, Draft, 2012 (2nd)
Hansel Robles, Int'l sign, 2008
David Wright, Draft, 2001 (1st supp.)
The Mets' roster this season featured an impressive collection of homegrown talent, but none more famous than David Wright -- the only remaining player from the club's postseason appearance in 2006. Wright appeared in eight games to open the season before landing on the disabled list with a back injury, but he returned to the lineup in late August to give the club a final boost for the stretch run.
"[Wright's] return turned out to be very important, not only because of his subsequent performance, but also the inspiration it provided having him back in the clubhouse and lineup gave the team a real sense we could win it," said Alderson. "I think it was a big lift for the team when it happened, and it came about at the same time as some other things: Travis d'Arnaud getting healthy, Wilmer Flores playing much better after the aborted trade, Michael Cuddyer making contributions, Daniel Murphy continuing to be very steady."
Aiding the Mets' starting rotation all season was closer Jeurys Familia, who saved 42 games in 47 chances and posted a 1.87 ERA over 75 appearances. He also saved the organization from having to trade for, or sign, a potentially pricey ninth-inning alternative.
"He's been extraordinary and extraordinarily important," noted Alderson. "My five years here we really hadn't had a consistent, dependable closer -- somebody capable of going out there night after night and close it down like he's done."
Before they traded for Cespedes, the Mets decided to give outfielder Michael Conforto -- the team's first-round Draft pick in 2014 -- the chance to make an impact. That's precisely what the 22-year-old did, hitting nine home runs and 14 doubles while driving in 26 runs over 54 games.
"Conforto's arrival and ensuing performance was absolutely critical because he gave us a bat from the left side and also gave us some real length in the lineup, down into the six and seven holes," said Alderson. "One of the reasons we took a shot at him from Double-A was due to who he is and the maturity he demonstrates in his play and in his life. His offensive approach we had confidence in, because he's a guy with a plan at the plate, and we knew being able to fall back on that strength would be important in giving him a chance to be successful."
Player, year, acquired from
Yoenis Cespedes, 2015, Tigers
Tyler Clippard, 2015, Athletics
Travis d'Arnaud, 2012, Blue Jays
Kelly Johnson, 2015, Braves
Noah Syndergaard, 2012, Blue Jays
Addison Reed, 2015, Diamondbacks
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 2015, Angels*
* Acquired via Waivers
The Mets made a series of acquisitions at the Deadline, each of which designed to address weaknesses on the roster. They acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe from the Braves, Tyler Clippard from the A's and, finally, Cespedes from the Tigers. Alderson and company also added Addison Reed from the Diamondbacks in a later deal.
"There was a sense on our part that we needed to upgrade our overall roster and give us some options player-wise, we need to improve the bullpen, and we wanted a bat if we could get one," said Alderson. "Most of those deals were made out of opportunity -- opportunities arose and we subsequently evaluated."
The trades couldn't have worked out better, as Johnson and Uribe provided manager Terry Collins with increased roster flexibility while also giving the young team a greater veteran presence. Clippard and Reed both assumed key roles in the team's bullpen over the final two months -- filling a major void in the wake of Jenrry Mejia's season-ending suspension -- and helped bridge the gap to Familia in the ninth.
"Clippard became available and was somebody we needed, especially in light of what was happening with Mejia," said Alderson.
Cespedes, meanwhile, went on to bat .287 with 17 home runs after joining the Mets, with all 17 of his homers coming during a 31-game period from mid-August through mid-September.
Bartolo Colon, 2013
Michael Cuddyer, 2014
Curtis Granderson, 2013
The Mets have been incredibly patient in building a playoff-bound lineup, often to the dismay of their fans. However, the club's ultimate success this season has validated the process while further highlighting its ability to develop players.
"We didn't sign any of the big free agents, largely because we liked our pitching staff and felt we had some young pitchers who could compete not only in the rotation but also in the bullpen," said Alderson. "We had a lineup of guys who weren't proven Major League players, necessarily, but we had a commitment to see guys like d'Arnaud, Duda through at the Major League level."
The only notable offseason signing by Alderson was Cuddyer, who they targeted for his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Unfortunately, the veteran outfielder battled injuries and spent a significant amount of time on the shelf. His absence might have been felt more if not for the consistency of Curtis Granderson, the team's key free-agent signing from the previous year.
"I think the steadiest offensive performer we had all season was Granderson, who didn't miss a day due to injury and played consistently good defense with an OPS over .800 from the leadoff spot," said Alderson.