5 big Mets storylines to watch as 2024 MLB season begins

It can be argued that the 2024 MLB season for the Mets is one of the most intriguing in franchise history.

Consider the following...

The Mets followed up their 101-win 2022 season with perhaps their most disappointing season ever relative to expectations in 2023, as they dealt with a rash of injuries and underperformance, culminating with a sell-off at the trade deadline as New York replenished its farm system with three terrific prospects.

In the aftermath of the incredible high of 2022 and almost impossible to believe low of 2023, the 2024 Mets are not rebuilding -- even though some threw that word around all offseason.

Are the expectations entering this season a good deal lower than they were on the eve of the 2023 season? Yes, obviously.

But the expectation -- from ownership, to David Stearns and the front office, to manager Carlos Mendoza and the players -- is to reach the postseason. And they reinforced their seriousness last week with the signing of J.D. Martinez.

As Stearns has said, the Mets are threading a needle when it comes to trying to be competitive enough to reach the postseason this season while at the same time giving lots of playing time to their younger players -- and clearing the way for more playing time with some of the team's top prospects on the doorstep of the majors.

Beyond the above, there's the return of Edwin Diaz, pending free agent Pete Alonso, and the belief that no matter what happens in 2024, the Mets will dive head-first into the deep end of free agency after the season. 

Edwin Diaz and Carlos Mendoza
Edwin Diaz and Carlos Mendoza / Jim Rassol - USA TODAY Sports

In some ways, this feels a bit like the 2005 season in that it was a calm before the storm.

In other ways, it feels a little like 1984, when the Mets had a solid core and a budding farm system, but still needed a few finishing pieces to make them legitimate World Series contenders.

But 1984 (two playoff teams in each league) and 2005 (four playoff teams in each league) are not totally analogous to 2024 (six playoff teams in each league).

And for the Mets, taking their win total from 75 to around 85 would put them right in the playoff mix.

As they try to get there, here are five big storylines to watch...

Which Starling Marte will the Mets get?

In 2022, Marte was an absolute force who helped the Mets go, slashing .292/.347/.468 with 16 homers, 24 doubles, five triples, and 18 stolen bases while playing excellent defense in right field.

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Bryson Stott (5) is unable to handle the throw allowing New York Mets right fielder Starling Marte (6) to steal second base in the first inning at Citi Field.

And if you want to know why the Mets didn't hang on to win the NL East that season, you can trace it back to the loss of Marte, who was hit in the hand by a pitch on Sept. 6 and missed the rest of the regular season because of it.

From that point on, the Mets (85-50 at the time) went 13-11 in games that mattered and struggled at the plate, culminating with a sweep at the hands of the Braves in Atlanta that killed their division title hopes.

Then came last season, which was a wash for Marte as he played at less than 100 percent following offseason double groin surgery and had the worst year of his career.

Marte played in winter ball this offseason and looked totally healthy during spring training, which could bode well as the Mets hope for the return to form of one of their most important players.

How much does an ace matter?

The Mets entered last season with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander atop the rotation, and it didn't work out. Scherzer underperformed and dealt with a suspension for doctoring the ball, while Verlander missed the first chunk of the year with a shoulder injury.

They'll enter this season with Kodai Senga on the IL (he'll start a throwing program this week), which will test their depth early. Senga could possibly return in May, but the five starters who break camp will be:

Jose Quintana
Luis Severino
Sean Manaea
Adrian Houser
Tylor Megill

There has been lots of hand-wringing about the Mets' rotation, but the inarguable fact is that Quintana (career ERA+ of 110), Severino (113), Manaea (100), and Houser (106), have all been average or better pitchers over the course of their careers.

New York Mets starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) delivers a pitch in spring training.
New York Mets starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) delivers a pitch in spring training. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The rotation has limited upside, with Severino -- whose stuff looked excellent this spring -- the most likely one beyond Senga to profile near the top of it, but it could be sneaky reliable.

Can Brett Baty run with the third base job?

The Mets have a handful of question marks, and Baty is arguably the biggest.

Baty struggled last season to the point where he was sent down to Triple-A to recalibrate both on the field and off. And he hasn't yet shown he can hit the ball in the air enough.

He had a solid showing in spring training, and deservedly won the third base job that always felt like his to lose.

With New York placing an emphasis on youth, Baty should get a long look to see if he can excel with regular playing time.

If Baty doesn't succeed, the Mets could potentially turn to Mark Vientos.

How quickly will the kids rise?

With Drew Gilbert and Luisangel Acuña opening the season at Triple-A Syracuse, the Mets have two of their top prospects a phone call away from the majors.

Drew Gilbert, Jett Williams, Luisangel Acuna, and Christian Scott
Drew Gilbert, Jett Williams, Luisangel Acuna, and Christian Scott / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

Then there's Jett Williams, who will begin the year with Double-A Binghamton but has visions of making his big league debut this year.

It's probably unlikely that Gilbert or Acuña get the call in April if the Mets suffer a key injury or are dealing with ineffectiveness from one of their regular position players, but once the calendar flips to May, all bets are likely off.

It will also be interesting to keep an eye on how the Mets' starting pitching prospects are performing. While they don't have any who profile as aces, they do have some who could be possible No. 2 or No. 3-type starters, including Christian Scott and Blade Tidwell.

Curtain up for Carlos Mendoza

You need to have lots of special traits in order to be a manager in the majors, especially under the bright lights of New York.

For Mendoza, he seems to have already nailed how to deal with reporters (which he'll do twice per day every time the Mets play), how to communicate with his players, and how to relay the vision/messaging of the front office.

But when the Mets open the season against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field, things will begin for real.

Mendoza has plenty of experience in a big league dugout, but this will be his first time at the helm. How he adjusts to player performance (good and bad), executes the Mets' game plans, deploys his relievers, and how adept he is at other in-game X's and O's will all be things to watch.