The Mets Offseason Is Going…Well?

“Mickey Callaway, Toru Murata” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Keith Allison

The World Series has yet to conclude, but the Mets have already made a splash this offseason by changing Triple-A affiliates and finding a new skipper.

Almost a year after an offseason in which the Mets (literally) did not sign one Major League free agent to their roster, it appears the organization has made two powerful moves that will help restore the club’s competitiveness.

The first move was the $18 million purchase of the Syracuse Chiefs, who will become the AAA affiliate of the Mets at the conclusion of the 2018 season. The Chiefs are currently the Triple-A affiliate of the rival Washington Nationals.

This move will drastically impact baseball operations for the Mets, alleviating some key problems the Mets encountered during the Las Vegas 51’s tenure as their AAA affiliate. After next season, the Mets will no longer have to shuffle players back and forth from the East and West Coasts when they wish to make a roster decision, a point of contention for many following the organization. Additionally, the conditions of the Pacific Coast League are very conducive to hitting, which can make it tough to evaluate talent without some hesitation.

The Mets’ purchase of the Chiefs indicates that the organization is committed to winning. It is typically unlike the Mets to spend any worthwhile sum of money, giving fans a reason for optimism moving forward.

Another reason for hope? Mickey Callaway, the Amazins’ new 42-year-old manager. After joining the Indians’ organization in 2010, Callaway was named the pitching coach of the big league club under Terry Francona in 2013. Callaway was integral in putting together and developing an Indians staff that has made the postseason in each of the last two years.

In his introductory press conference, Callaway referred to the Mets as, “…one of the greatest franchises in the world.”

He then went on the insist that the Mets were fully capable of contending and competing with anyone in baseball. And maybe he’s right.

After all, the Mets do still have pieces in place to win immediately, assuming that the front office continues the joyous momentum of the offseason thus far.

The Mets have two star outfielders in Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, and rumors have already begun circulating that Jay Bruce is open to a return to Queens.

Prized prospects Amed Rosario and Dom Smith are potentially the symbols of a bright present and an even brighter future in New York.

And most important are the tattered remains of what was once the most lethal pitching staff in baseball, with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Jeurys Familia heading a group that has been ravaged by injuries in recent memory. When healthy, this group can still be as good as any. Perhaps Callaway’s experience in dealing with an elite pitching staff will help him keep this one on the right track.

It’s important to note that Callaway comes from the Terry Francona coaching tree, something to be extremely proud of in a time of intense managerial movement. Francona has given nothing but glowing reports on Callaway, indicating that he feels Callaway is wise beyond his years and will flourish as a big league manager. During last year’s World Series, Francona praised Callaway for maintaining a stoic demeanor.

The Mets clearly thought highly of Callaway to give him the position. He was not favored by any means to win the job but wowed the front office and ownership after only one interview. According to General Manager Sandy Alderson, Callaway’s vision for the team is consistent with the rest of the organization’s. Still though, Callaway represents change.

This is especially true when considering that there are only two other former pitching coaches serving as Major League managers right now, Bud Black of the Colorado Rockies and Bryan Price of the Cincinnati Reds.

By all accounts, Callaway is an outside the box thinker. He will need to be in order to run a team that is infamous for disastrous public relations incidents and poor communication.

But above all, Callaway’s most important job will be implementing and maintain a culture that lends itself to success. With the Mets, who have never qualified for the postseason in three consecutive seasons, this will not be an easy task.

Callaway seems to appreciate what it means to represent New York, another key trait for a Mets manager. His predecessor, Terry Collins, often struggled in dealing with the largest media market in the United States. Callaway will not. He is strong, both in the way he carries himself and in his convictions. He is determined to get the job done. And he is ambitious, as indicated by his own suggestion that he could even serve as a general manager or president of baseball operations one day.

Callaway will be tasked with turning around a franchise that at best can be described as mediocre. In a sea of dysfunction, he aims to be the rock. And if the Mets continue along the path they have set this offseason, he will be that rock for a very long time.

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