Howard Megdal is the Mets beat writer for The Journal News, serving as the lead writer for the paper’s Mets blog, Mets.LoHudBlogs.com. In addition, Megdal is the author of “Wilpon’s Folly: The Story of A Man, His Fortune and The New York Mets,” in which he chronicles the financial and legal difficulties of the team’s owners.
I recently had the chance to interview Megdal, where he gave his assessment of this year’s team, talked about which Met has the most upside and estimated how many wins this year’s team could have, if all goes well. You can follow Megdal on Twitter @HowardMegdal.
Justin Silberman: What’s your overall assessment of the Mets through their first 20
games of the season?
Howard Megdal: Clearly, Matt Harvey is every bit as good as anyone could have hoped. Beyond that, it's encouraging to see (Daniel) Murphy and (Lucas) Duda off to strong starts. They need secondary talent among position players to fill roster gaps the farm system won't. The hitting is better than I expect it will be moving forward, but I'd like to be wrong.
JS: From what you’ve seen so far, what Met has the most upside this season?
HM: It's got to be Harvey, who can only be derailed by injuries. He's been that good so far. There's no precedent for a pitcher striking out guys like Harvey and then regressing significantly; only guys getting hurt.
JS: What’s the deal with the team’s outfield? Lucas Duda, Marlon Byrd and Colin Cogwill aren’t household names. With the exception of Duda, should Byrd and Cogwill be viewed as placeholders until the Matt den Dekker’s of the world are ready to come up to the big leagues?
HM: Afraid there are real questions about den Dekker's bat, too. I honestly don't know who is a likely regular outfielder in the system further developed than Brandon Nimmo, and he's probably two years away.
JS: Speaking of the team’s farm system, what minor league pitcher and position player has the best chance of getting called up and remaining with the Mets for the season?
HM: I think the combination of need and talent has Zack Wheeler at the top of the pitcher list, though Collin McHugh could leapfrog him out of a justified caution about Wheeler's development. It's hard to say which position player can come up and help. Probably Omar Quintanilla, since this team has no backup shortstop.
JS: This offseason, David Wright signed the largest contract in Mets history, an eight-year, $138 million deal, topping Johan Santana’s six-year, $137.5 million deal, so what does this say about the Mets’ current financial situation?
HM: Afraid it doesn't say much. They actually reduced the amount they are paying Wright in 2013-June 2014, when a massive loan against the team comes due. It was almost certainly a condition of the lender that they do so to approve the deal. Until ownership figures out a way to avoid that massive hit in 2014, and an even bigger one due from a loan they took out on their SNY stake (and increased this winter) due in 2015, we aren't likely to see much change. That means making the most of what they have on hand.
JS: After the Mets and R.A. Dickey failed to reach an agreement on a contact extension this offseason, he was shipped north of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming the first reigning Cy Young award winner to be traded in the offseason since 1999, when Roger Clemens was traded from the Blue Jays to the Yankees. What are your thoughts about Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard -- the two young prospects the Mets acquired in the deal?
HM: If Dickey had to be dealt, getting an elite catching prospect and a top-flight arm like Syndergaard was quite a haul. The injury to d'Arnaud is worrisome, both because it was not his first major injury, and because the nature of a foot injury could complicate his time as a catcher. (He's not the same level prospect at first base.) Overall, signing Dickey was a good choice for a team ready to add players and compete now. Financially, that's not where the Mets are, so getting guys likelier to help in 2015 and beyond, when that is either resolved, or young, cost-controlled players are even more important for ownership, made sense.
JS: Can you gauge where you expect the Mets to be by the All-Star break?
HM: Really hard to say. I think this is a 65-70 win team on paper. But I thought they were a 73-win team last year, and they were 46-40 before finishing 74-88.
JS: Do you see a .500 season perhaps?
HM: That feels like the outer limits of everything going right. But you never know; they've played that well so far. Certainty is neither realistic nor desirable in baseball, or anything else, for that matter.
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.