If these Mets ever had a 'core,' it’s about to be blown up

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Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo in Cincinnati July 2021
Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo in Cincinnati July 2021

If the Mets of the past few years ever had a “core,” they don’t anymore -- and by next season, any semblance of what seemed to identify the team from 2019 to 2021 will be in large part gone.

What we’re saying is, prepare for massive changes to the team’s roster and culture, with little regard for what seemed promising during an ill-fated playoff run late in the 2019 season. No one around here is attached to that distant time.

Over the past several weeks, as we’ve talked to sources up and down the organization, three main themes emerge:

1) Quiet optimism that the baseball operations department is heading in the right direction, despite the public perception otherwise.

2) Uncertainty about who will lead the department in a few months.

3) A strong sense that the roster will look extremely different next season. Everyone is expecting significant turnover.

The third point is admittedly general. Without a president of baseball operations, it’s impossible to say exactly who will be gone.

But as a general rule, the Mets do not expect to operate with the idea that whatever happened for a few months in a lost ‘19 season was compelling enough to preserve, or even really think about.

Team president Sandy Alderson seemed to say as much at his end-of-season news conference Wednesday, when he said that if the team had a core, it was already “eroding.”

He meant the potential for Michael Conforto, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard to leave via free agency. He name-checked Brandon Nimmo in stating that the center fielder would not be under control for much longer. He might as well have added that the team is far from attached to J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith.

New York Mets pinch hitter Michael Conforto (30) hits a three run home run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
New York Mets pinch hitter Michael Conforto (30) hits a three run home run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.

Alderson also noted that the notion of a core need not be attached to the current crop of players, because the organization is tightly focused on a sustainable model of drafting and development. The farm system is not currently strong, but Alderson intends for that to change.

"We need to continue to grow our own players," he said.

When you look closely at that exciting but failed run two years ago, you realize that the team is already dramatically different. The Wilpon and Katz families owned it then. Brodie Van Wagenen, Allard Baird, and Omar Minaya ran its front office. Mickey Callaway was the manager, and Phil Regan the pitching coach.

Next year will bring new baseball ops leadership, likely a new manager and coaches -- and greater turnover in players than we have seen in a while.

Again, the Mets have yet to work out who among Stroman, Conforto, Syndergaard, McNeil et. al will be elsewhere.

But we know enough now to at least tell you to buy a program on Opening Day next year. You’ll need it to identify the new-look team.