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Mets ready for a fresh start in 2018

Health, Wright, Callaway's impact top list of questions team faces
December 16, 2017

NEW YORK -- As 2018 begins, the Mets are the first to admit they're glad to see the calendar flip. Following a year filled with injuries and disappointment, those who call Citi Field home are eager for a fresh start.Here are five of the most pressing questions the Mets will

NEW YORK -- As 2018 begins, the Mets are the first to admit they're glad to see the calendar flip. Following a year filled with injuries and disappointment, those who call Citi Field home are eager for a fresh start.
Here are five of the most pressing questions the Mets will face in the New Year.
1. Can the Mets stay healthy?
There is no better predictor of future injury than past injury, a truth that does not bode well for Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and so many others. The odds of all those players staying healthy in 2018 are low.
But the Mets are taking concrete steps in an attempt to make it happen. As 2017 drew to a close, the team was pursuing multiple hires to its training staff, which has absorbed significant criticism in years past. The Mets have already revamped many of their internal training protocols, putting a significant focus on hydration, and have had conversations with Cespedes, Syndergaard and others about how best to work out during the offseason.

It may not boost the Mets to catch the Nationals in the National League East. But it could be just the edge the Mets -- who have endured more than their fair share of injuries the past two seasons -- need to rally back into the playoffs.
2. What changes will manager Mickey Callaway bring?
As soon as Callaway interviewed with Mets officials in October, the team was convinced he was the right man to help turn things around. Already, Callaway is talking about redefining pitcher usage, blurring the lines between starters and relievers. Some around baseball hope he can do for Harvey, Matz and Wheeler what he did for Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and others in Cleveland, helping them cultivate their raw talent into significant on-field success.

But Callaway is also unproven as a first-time manager, and his coaching staff has no managerial experience. His task? Keep the Mets healthy and happy, and ultimately turn around a club that underperformed in 2017. It's a big ask. But if anyone can do it, the Mets believe it's Callaway.
3. Is Wright ever going to play again?
The Mets head into 2018 assuming they will receive little of value from Wright, who has played in 75 games over the past three seasons. The Mets are now committed to Asdrubal Cabrera at third base, and could still acquire more depth at the position.
But that doesn't mean Wright, a seven-time All-Star who has endured myriad back, neck and shoulder injuries, won't take the field. The captain has been vehement in his desire to continue playing, taking it as far as to undergo back surgery -- his third operation in 16 months -- in October. If Wright can make it back to the field at age 35, the Mets will gladly accept his contributions even in a part-time role. If not, they will continue collecting insurance on an eight-year, $138 million contract that expires after the 2020 season.

At this point, a return for Wright would be more of an emotional lift than anything for the Mets, who still consider him the face of their franchise.
4. What is Harvey going to give the Mets?
No one -- not the Mets, not agent Scott Boras, not even Harvey himself -- has the answer to this question. All the Mets can do is give Harvey every resource possible following back-to-back humbling seasons for the one-time All-Star starter.
To that end, Harvey has spent much of this winter at Boras' training institute in Newport Beach, Calif., working to improve the command that betrayed him last season as he went 1-4 with an 11.28 ERA over his final six outings. Harvey has not been the same since undergoing surgery to remove a rib in 2016, and missed more than two months in 2017 due to right shoulder weakness.

But Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland felt strongly enough about Harvey to encourage the Mets not to trade him this offseason. If they succeed, Harvey could settle in as a dangerous mid-rotation weapon for the Mets.
5. Is the Mets' playoff window still open?
The NL East is not as soft as it was in 2015, when the Mets dominated the Braves and Phillies all summer, also taking advantage of the Nationals to win the division with just 90 victories. Three years later, the Nats are coming off consecutive NL East titles with no signs of slowing. The Phillies are much improved, investing significant money this offseason to improve their roster. The Braves have a strong young core of hitters in place. Only the Marlins, after selling off Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon, appear vulnerable.
Like the Nats, the Mets feel they have a playoff-worthy core in place with Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Conforto, Cespedes and Amed Rosario. But a relatively quiet offseason has many wondering if they have enough depth.
Few would deny the talent in Flushing. But can the Mets do enough with it to return to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, or will a second consecutive disappointing summer instead push them toward a full-scale rebuild?

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.