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Know your enemy: New York Mets

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Where are the Mets headed from here?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Once upon a time, the New York Mets were a team with a formidable starting rotation, one that blew through a very good Cubs team on the way to a World Series berth.

That was only three years ago. Since then, the Mets have:

  • Been bounced from a wild-card game by Conor Gillaspie
  • Had a 92-loss season
  • Started over with a new manager

That wasn’t the way Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins drew it up, I don’t think.

Of the vaunted rotation consisting of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, not one of those pitchers has gotten through an entire season injury-free. deGrom was the only one who did last year, and the Mets wound up giving starts last year to Tommy Milone, Adam Wilk and someone named Tyler Pill.

Not optimal for them, I think you’ll agree.

They’re going to try a lot of those guys again. Harvey came back last September and made a couple of starts, including one at Wrigley Field that can charitably be called batting practice for the Cubs. Syndergaard made five starts in April, missed most of the year and returned in late September. Matz pitched in June, July and August, but not in any other months.

You get the idea. These guys are good, but have not been able to stay healthy. Perhaps new manager Mickey Callaway, the former Indians pitching coach, will be able to help them do that.

Closer Jeurys Familia, who also missed significant time last year, returns, and healthy, or so the Mets hope. If he’s not, former Marlins closer A.J. Ramos is available. Anthony Swarzak, who became a good setup man last year split between the White Sox and Brewers, will have that role for the Mets.

I haven’t spoken much about the Mets offense. They were in the middle of the pack last year with 735 runs. They’ll have a new third baseman in Todd Frazier, who hits lots of home runs but who has hit .220 the last two years, despite 67 home runs, and who struck out 288 times in 1,064 at-bats over those seasons (27.1 percent K rate). The New York-area native should be happy playing at home, at least.

The Mets are going to try whatever’s left of Adrian Gonzalez at first base. A-Gon, who turns 36 in May, had the worst year of his career in 2017, hitting just three home runs in 71 games, and was left off the Dodgers’ playoff roster. The Mets would probably take a year from him similar to his 2016 season (.285/.349/.435, 18 HR, 2.1 bWAR), since they’re only responsible for the major-league minimum on his deal (the Braves are paying the rest, don’t ask).

I don’t expect the Mets to contend, and neither does anyone else, really. But if those starters suddenly put together 100 percent healthy seasons, you never know.

The Cubs and Mets will meet seven times this year: May 31 through June 3 at Citi Field, and August 27-29 at Wrigley Field.