Here’s a contrarian point of view: The New York Mets should be glad the National League East-rival Washington Nationals just splurged $210 million on Max Scherzer. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Under the deliberate guidance and decision-making of general manager Sandy Alderson, the Mets—finally—appear to be on the verge of becoming relevant and maybe even competitive for the first time since Carlos Delgado was their starting first baseman.

Yes, the same Delgado who has been retired long enough to be put on—and then dropped off—the Hall of Fame ballot.

The last time the Mets had a winning campaign? Try 2008, six seasons ago, which is tied for the longest active streak of losing years in Major League Baseball with the Houston Astros.

Even for the bright and thorough Alderson, who was hired after the 2010 season, this rebuilding project has taken a long (looong) time.

Well, it’s probably going to take just a little bit longer. At least, if the Mets are going to take the NL East by storm on the strength of their stockpile of exciting, young, high-upside starters.

Returning to the front of the rotation after missing all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery is Matt Harvey, who became one of the sport’s biggest stars with a breakout 2013 (2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 9.6 K/9), in the middle of which he started the All-Star Game—in his home park—for the NL squad.

The big questions, of course, are how much of Harvey’s ridiculous repertoire will return and how many innings he conceivably could pitch, especially in the first year, post-procedure.

“As of now, realistically, throwing 200 innings in the regular season is probably not likely,” Harvey said via Adam Rubin of in January. “I mean, if you make 33 starts and seven innings a start, obviously doing the math that’s over what I’m probably going to throw.”

Lined up behind Harvey are fellow right-handers Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler, both of whom already have had success in the majors and have the kind of stuff and potential to become front-liners, too.

Wheeler started to come into his own over the second half of 2014 (3.04 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.6 K/9), at which point deGrom was busy putting together a fantastic run that earned him the NL Rookie of the Year Award from out of nowhere.

While Wheeler still has some work to do to improve his control and command, deGrom is a candidate for regression, simply because it shouldn’t be expected that he will pitch to a 2.69 ERA over the course of a full season, as Anthony DiComo of notes. Those two need to fully establish themselves in 2015.

Then there’s Noah Syndergaard, the club’s consensus top prospect and arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball, particularly since the 6’6″ right-hander affectionately called Thor is just about ready to debut in The Show after spending all of 2014 at Triple-A.

As Jonathan Mayo of writes of Syndergaard:

The two-time Futures Gamer is knocking on the door with his combination of stuff and command, a fastball that can get up to 98 mph, a curve and a changeup, all of which are above-average offerings. Syndergaard‘s 3.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career thus far speaks volumes about what he’s capable of.

That said, Syndergaard is only 22 years old and had his first real struggles in pro ball at hitter-friendly Las Vegas last year, posting a 4.60 ERA, albeit with a career-best 145 strikeouts in a career-high 133 innings. He’ll likely experience some growing pains and a transition period. That’s what 2015 is for.

All of this is fine, by the way. Despite the losing and controversy that has hovered over Flushing since Citi Field opened in 2009, the Mets shouldn’t be in a rush to have everything come together this year.

Which brings us back to the point above about the Nationals.

They’re coming off an NL-best 96-win season in which they won the division by a ridiculous 17 games, the largest margin in the sport. At the outset of the offseason, they already were favorites to repeat as NL East champs and looked poised to make some waves in October, too, after failed forays in 2012 and last year.

And then, on top of all that, Washington went out and signed Scherzer for $210 million.

That makes the Nationals the overwhelming front-runners in the division, if not the entire Senior Circuit, for 2015.

But after ’15, things could open up a bit more, as four key Washington players—right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister as well as shortstop Ian Desmond and center fielder Denard Span—are set to hit free agency a year from now.

With Scherzer‘s contract taking up a large chunk of change, the Nationals certainly won’t be able to bring back all four, and they might have trouble replacing them, too.

Enter the Mets’ real window to winning, starting in 2016.

Besides, by that point, they won’t be giving (er, wasting) any starts to the likes of Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon or Dillon Gee, who could be traded even before the start of 2015, per Mike Puma of the New York Post. Those three are perfectly capable mid- or back-of-the-rotation starters, but the wave of arms the Mets have coming back and coming up is far superior to Niese, Colon and Gee—and soon will make them obsolete.

After Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler and Syndergaard—all of whom are 26 years old or younger—the club could hand over the final rotation spot to one of their other young pitchers.

Yes, the Mets have more arms on the way, too, namely highly regarded prospects such as left-hander Steven Matz and righty Rafael Montero.

Matz was named the team’s second-best prospect behind Syndergaard by Baseball America, and Montero already has had a taste of the majors, and despite being a starter, he could be relegated to the bullpen this year and beyond given all of the depth.

The last several seasons haven’t been any fun in Flushing, but the well-armed Mets have slowly, patiently, methodically put themselves in position to return to relevance in 2015.

And if all the pitchers come together and everything breaks right, playoff contention is possible. In 2016.


Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of, and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.

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