5 moves that got Mets to the World Series
From a front-office perspective, a World Series trip is usually years in the making. And while the Mets made a few shrewd deals this year that helped put them over the top in the National League, most of the moves that got them to this point were made years ago.
From where I'm sitting, these are the five most important moves that got the Mets to the World Series (air time for Game 1 is 7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on FOX, game time 8 p.m.).
1. The R.A. Dickey trade
After Dickey won the 2012 NL Cy Young Award, the Mets, knowing that they had pitching depth in their organization, smartly decided to trade the ace at his peak value rather than sign him to an extension. They found a buyer in the Blue Jays, and in return, they extracted two potential premium players from them. At 23 years old, Noah Syndergaard has been as impressive as any rookie starting pitcher, leading all first-year starters with 166 strikeouts while posting a 3.24 ERA. Meanwhile, catcher Travis d'Arnaud is finally healthy after dealing with a variety of ailments, and put up a .268/.355/.487 line over 268 plate appearances. That slugging percentage would have led all catchers had he qualified. Both guys are key pieces for the Mets this season and years to come.
2. Re-signing David Wright
When Wright was a year away from free agency following the 2012 season, he and the organization both had to take a leap of faith. The front office had to decide on whether it should invest $138 million over eight years to arguably the best position player in franchise history. Conversely, Wright had to decide if this was the organization that was going to take the steps necessary to win. Wright believed in the plan, and the front office showed incredible discipline and decision-making in the Draft and internationally over the past several seasons (15 players on the roster are homegrown, the most of any playoff club).
Wright isn't the player he once was, but he still posted an .814 OPS this year, is a consummate leader, and was integral in convincing the likes of Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer to buy in and sign with the club.
3. Signing Curtis Granderson
In a move to infuse more offense, the Mets signed Granderson to a four-year deal during the 2013 Winter Meetings. They hoped he would be a middle-of-the-order bat and run producer. But after a slow 2014 season, manager Terry Collins and new hitting coach Kevin Long felt his best place in the lineup this year was batting leadoff. After making a couple of mechanical adjustments under Long's observation, Granderson became one of the best leadoff men in the NL, leading the Mets with a .364 OBP.
Granderson's productivity has gone under the radar in the postseason due to Daniel Murphy's torrid October, but he has set the table for the Mets, posting a .385 OBP while driving in seven runs and even stealing four bases in five attempts.
4. Trading Ike Davis
This was less about trading Davis and more about the fact that it opened up the door for Lucas Duda to take over as the everyday first baseman. It seems like an obvious move now, but when the 2014 season began it was unclear who the Mets would choose as their long-term answer at first.
Davis, the Mets' first-round pick in the 2008 Draft, hit 32 homers in 2012, and was considered a better defender. The organization tried to keep both, playing Duda in the outfield (he played 100 games in 2012 and another 58 in '13), but as Davis' struggles continued beyond '13, the Mets decided it was time to cut ties with him and make Duda the full-time first baseman. He responded by hitting 30 home runs in '14 and another 27 this past year, with an impressive .838 OPS while playing solid defense.
5. Acquiring Yoenis Cespedes
OK, so there was one move from 2015 that had to be on this list.
No player moved at the non-waiver Trade Deadline made a bigger impact for a team this year than Cespedes. His numbers as a Met are gaudy: In only 230 at bats, he hit 17 home runs, had 44 RBIs, a .942 OPS and a 157 OPS+, while playing mostly center field for the Mets (starting 39 of his 53 games in CF), a position that evaluators were convinced he was not comfortable playing anymore.
Over the course of the summer, the Mets acquired two other veteran bats in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, promoted rookie Michael Conforto from Double-A to the Majors, and welcomed Wright's return from a long disabled list stint, and all of those moves helped create a deeper and more dynamic lineup. But the Cespedes acquisition almost single-handedly allowed the Mets' offense to come alive, as it averaged more than five runs per game in the final two months of the regular season.