After a more calculated approach to the trade deadline, the New York Mets believe they are poised for success in the second half of the season. They currently sit at the top of the National League East with a 5.5-game lead over the Atlanta Braves. If they can finish the season on top, it would be their first division title since 2015.
Between now and then, however, many games are still to be played. Between the new additions, returning players and important series, there will be plenty of storylines to keep an eye on as the march to the playoffs really begins. Let’s take a look at some of these storylines for the second half of the season.
Will the Deadline Additions Contribute?
Despite rumors connecting them to Josh Bell and Willson Contreras, the Mets took a more strategic approach to the trade deadline. You can see the grades here, but I think it will be interesting to keep an eye on these new additions.
So far, the new DH platoon seems to be doing the trick. Daniel Vogelbach, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates, is hitting .324/.477/.559 for the Mets. Additionally, Darin Ruf seems to be showing his worth for the steep price the Mets paid. So far, he is hitting .333/.333/.444. The two players both contributed to each of the Mets’ two games today, helping them to a doubleheader sweep. In their short time, they have both had big moments–including this grand slam by Vogelbach.
The trade for Tyler Naquin was a surprise one, with the acquisition seemingly coming out of nowhere. In retrospect, however, it’s paying dividends. Naquin essentially replaced Travis Jankowski, who, despite some good defense and speed, was not built to help the Mets in the long run. Plus, the move helps keep Jeff McNeil at second base so Luis Guillorme can play more third base. With this alignment, the Mets are much better suited for good defense. Additionally, like Vogelbach and Ruf, Naquin has hit the ground running; he’s hitting .318/.318/.727 so far.
Lastly, the Mets acquired Mychal Givens from the Cubs to shore up the bullpen. Although a lefty reliever would have been more appropriate, this is still a solid addition. In three appearances (2.2 innings), he has already surrendered six runs. So, while it hasn’t been the best start in Queens for Givens, hopefully he will only improve from here. The Mets will need him to step up if they want any chance of making the playoffs and going far.
Reinforcements from the Injured List
While the Mets received help via trade, they are also receiving help from the IL. The biggest and most important of these additions is Jacob deGrom, who pitched five innings in his return to action. Against the Washington Nationals, he only gave up one run while striking out six. While he could have gone farther, it’s clear that the Mets are easing him back into action. Their current priority is making sure he can stay healthy and pitch every fifth day.
Trevor May is another pitcher coming off the IL after last pitching back in early May. His return could be great for the Mets, who are in dire need of another high-leverage reliever to go with Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino. While May struggled before going on the IL, hopefully he can regain his form and solidify the backend of the Mets’ bullpen.
Other additions include James McCann, who missed about a month with an injury. It will be great to have him back, especially with the Mets having missed out on Contreras. While he and Tomas Nido aren’t a perfect catching tandem, it is important they continue to contribute defensively and with their battery mates. Additionally, Tylor Megill could be returning soon–although in a much different way. While he started the year in the Mets’ rotation, he will be moved to the bullpen in his return from the IL. Hopefully, he can be another catalyst for the Mets’ bullpen and quickly adapt to his new role.
Crucial Series for the Mets
Between now and the end of the season, the Mets will have their fair share of important series–including some against their division rivals. After tonight’s 6-2 win, the Mets guaranteed a series win in this five-game series against the Atalanta Braves, pushing their division lead to 5.5 games (for now). In fact, including the previous four games, the Mets are in a 19-game stretch where 16 of those games are against the Braves or the Philadelphia Phillies–the second and third-place teams in the NL East. To say this stretch is important is an understatement, as the Mets will have to win most of these games if they want to stay at the top of the division. Outside of that stretch, the Mets still have two Subway Series games at Yankee Stadium and a three-game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The heat of August cools down with the arrival of September, as that month sees the Mets play a friendlier schedule. Out of the eight series during this month, only one is against a team currently over .500: the Milwaukee Brewers. Outside of that three-game away series, the Mets play seven games against the lowly Pirates and three games against the Oakland Athletics. In terms of division series, the Mets have one series against the Nationals and two against the Miami Marlins.
To close out the season, the Mets have a trip to Atlanta to face the Braves before returning home to play the Nationals once more.
Things seem to be going well for the Mets; they are at the top of their division, they have a strong team and, for the first time in over a decade, they are 30 games over .500. After a well-deserved break for the All-Star Game, the Mets had themselves a productive trade deadline that saw them improve. Now, with the second half of the season ahead of them, there is a lot to look out for.
How will the deadline acquisitions improve? How will returning players contribute to the playoff push? Will the Mets be able to take care of business during some crucial series? These will be the biggest storylines as the Mets try to clinch their first division title since 2015. Whether or not they can do it remains to be seen. However, they are ready, now more than ever, to make it happen. As the saying goes, “You Gotta Believe!”