A familiar story in New York baseball plays out something like this every season — one team has its sights set on winning the World Series, while the other hopes to use the season to develop its prospects as it looks to the future. Historically, the Yankees have been the former and the Mets the latter, but over the past few seasons their roles have flipped, with the Yankees winless in the postseason since 2012.
The Mets will remain largely unchanged from last season. They re-signed star outfielder Yoenis Céspedes to a four year $110 million contract and brought back left-handed pitcher Jerry Blevins and right-handed pitcher Fernando Salas to round out their bullpen, but the team lost starter Bartolo Colón to the Atlanta Braves. Neil Walker also accepted the $17.2 million qualifying offer he was extended.
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson believes that this team can win the World Series — if it can stay healthy. The team had a top-ten run differential in baseball last year. Last season, Céspedes missed 30 games largely due to a quad injury. The team’s star-studded starting rotation — which led the league in wins above replacement — of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz was half gone by season’s end. If the rotation stays healthy, if Céspedes can play 150 or more games, and if everyone else performs as well as they did last season, the Mets should be a force to reckon with.
The Mets have a lot of ifs but should have the depth — with the aid of pitchers Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Zack Wheeler — to mitigate any injuries.
The Yankees, on the other hand, are in the midst of a youth movement. Though they splurged to sign reliever Aroldis Chapman — who was suspended 30 games in 2016 for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy — to a five year $86 million deal, the next generation of Yankees will be led by Gary Sanchez, who led the Yankees with 3.2 wins above replacement and hit 20 home runs in 53 games. First baseman Greg Bird, who missed last season to a knee injury, should progress, and the Yankees have a glut of outfield prospects including Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks.
Meanwhile, top prospects shortstop Gleyber Torres and outfielder Clint Frazier — who were respectively acquired for Chapman and Andrew Miller — are waiting in the wings and should get a taste of the big leagues this September. The Yankees of old are mostly gone.
The Yankees lack what the Mets have in spades: pitching. The Yankees next best starter after Masahiro Tanaka is CC Sabathia, who will turn 37-years-old in July. Behind him is Michael Pineda, who saw his walk rate more than double from the previous season, followed by Adam Warren and Luis Severino.
Perhaps the most telling detail in this tale of two teams can be found in their TV ratings. Despite the New York Times’ claim that most New Yorkers are Yankees fans, SportsNet New York’s website shows that last season’s Mets games averaged 263,850 viewers, compared with roughly 218,000 for the Yankees as shown in the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network’s records.
Though the divergent expectations for New York’s baseball teams are familiar, their roles have been reversed. Time will tell as the Mets will open their season April 3 in Atlanta against the Braves and the Yankees begin their season April 2 at the Tampa Bay Rays.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 27 print edition. Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected]