3 Q's Mets must answer before Opening Day

March 13th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The end of Major League Baseball’s lockout does not mean the end of uncertainty for the Mets. On the contrary, team officials are suddenly scrambling to do multiple things at once, hoping to fill remaining roster holes while also preparing for the start of Spring Training.

Many, many questions continue to surround the Mets, even as four in particular stand out from the rest:

1. How healthy is New York’s rotation?
It will be a significant spring in Port St. Lucie for multiple reasons -- most importantly, because camp will give the Mets their first extended window in months into the health of Jacob deGrom. The last time team officials laid eyes on deGrom, his ongoing elbow discomfort forced him to shut things down for the season. Now, deGrom hasn’t pitched since early July. Significant questions surround his ability to stay on the field, even while acknowledging deGrom’s routine excellence when he’s managed to pitch. One truth that remains evident is that the Mets will struggle to compete without a healthy deGrom leading their pitching staff.

Equally troubling is the fact that he’s not the only Mets pitcher with health concerns.

Newly signed starter Max Scherzer hasn’t taken the mound since skipping National League Championship Series Game 6 due to an “overcooked” right arm -- an issue he insisted was already behind him in November. Carlos Carrasco never found his form last year after missing the entire first half due to a torn hamstring. He also underwent surgery in October to remove a bone fragment from his right elbow. Newly acquired right-hander Chris Bassitt had facial surgery after he was hit by a line drive. (He returned late in the 2021 season.) Finally, rotation hopeful David Peterson hasn’t pitched since undergoing right foot surgery in July. The Mets won’t have a clear idea of what those three can give them until they evaluate them up close in Spring Training.

2. What immediate effects will Buck Showalter have on the Mets?
Coming off a year in which some officials believe the team suffered through a leadership void in the clubhouse, the Mets hired Showalter with an eye toward ending those sorts of issues. No available manager had a longer or more distinguished resume than Showalter in that regard.

The start of Spring Training will give the Mets their first look at what differences Showalter can make. Unlike their past two managers, first-timers Mickey Callaway and Luis Rojas, Showalter has done this before. Many times. Camp will provide an early window into Showalter’s methods and how they might benefit the club long term.

3. Did the Mets do enough to close the gap with the Braves?
With respect to the Phillies, who outpaced the Mets last summer, and the Marlins, who remain a feisty young club, the defending World Series champion Braves are the most significant obstacle separating the Mets from their goals. To be sure, the Braves have their own issues -- finding a way to re-sign Freddie Freeman chief among them -- but the impending return of Ronald Acuña Jr. should help ensure Atlanta’s continued success.

Did the Mets do enough to catch a team that finished 11.5 games ahead of them in the standings last season? Will they do more to close the gap? Will Atlanta make additional moves to fend off the Mets? The ultimate answers might not come until August or September, but they are questions worth wondering at the dawn of Spring Training, when both clubs have plenty of reason for optimism.