Matt Harvey's injury threw a wrench in all that, and it will have a major impact on the Mets' ability to compete this summer. But with pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training on Saturday, there is more optimism surrounding the Mets than there has been in years.
That's in large part to their three major additions: outfielders Chris Young and Curtis Granderson, and starting pitcher Bartolo Colon. In Granderson and Young, the Mets feel they have two strong defensive outfielders who can hit balls over the fence with regularity -- something the Mets have lacked in years past. In Colon, they feel they have someone capable of softening the blow of losing Harvey to Tommy John surgery.
As the rest of the roster trickles into Port St. Lucie, Fla., the Mets will see plenty of familiar faces as well. Some, such as David Wright, are constants. Some, such as Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, have plenty of questions still surrounding their careers.
How it all jells together ultimately will determine whether the Mets compete seriously for a playoff spot for the first time since 2008 or go home unhappy for a sixth straight season.
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Nationals, Feb. 28 at 1:10 p.m. ET
Home vs. Nationals, March 31 at 1:10 p.m. ET
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Who will play first base … and what will happen to the loser of that competition?
The Mets must defuse an awkward situation early in camp, after spending the bulk of their winter openly shopping Davis. They did not wind up trading him, meaning Davis and Lucas Duda will be in Port St. Lucie fighting for the same job. After massaging Davis' ego, the Mets must figure out what to do with whoever loses that competition -- either a bench role or a stint at Triple-A Las Vegas beckons, assuming a trade doesn't finally happen at some point in spring.
2. Who will be Noah Syndergaard's placeholder in the rotation?
That may be a cynical or blunt way to phrase it, but if all goes well for the Mets, their fifth starter will stick around only until Syndergaard is ready to debut in June. Injuries happen, of course, and whichever pitcher wins the job is a good bet to log significant innings over the course of the summer. But for now, the Mets offer no guarantees as Jenrry Mejia, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan battle for the job. Give Mejia the early edge, simply because he is on the 40-man roster while the others are not.
3. How will the Mets configure their outfield?
Unlike last spring, when the team struggled to employ a big league-caliber outfield, the 2014 Mets feature a pair of slugging veterans with strong defensive skills in Young and Granderson. Now it's just a matter of determining whether Juan Lagares earns the center-field job on the merits of his historic defensive rookie season or if Eric Young wins a starting gig after leading the NL in stolen bases and being a finalist for a Gold Glove Award.
74-88, third in the NL East
Projected batting order
1. LF Eric Young:
.249 BA, .310 OBP, .336 SLG, 2 HR, 32 RBI in 2013
2. 2B Daniel Murphy:
.286 BA, .319 OBP, .415 SLG, 13 HR, 78 RBI in 2013
3. 3B David Wright:
.307 BA, .390 OBP, .514 SLG, 18 HR, 58 RBI in 2013
4. OF Curtis Granderson:
.229 BA, .317 OBP, .407 SLG, 7 HR, 15 RBI in 2013
5. OF Chris Young:
.200 BA, .280 OBP, .379 SLG, 12 HR, 40 RBI in 2013
6. 1B Ike Davis:
.205 BA, .326 OBP, .334 SLG, 9 HR, 33 RBI in 2013
7. C Travis d'Arnaud:
.202 BA, .286 OBP, .263 SLG, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 2013
8. SS Ruben Tejada:
.202 BA, .259 OBP, .260 SLG, 0 HR, 10 RBI in 2013
1. LHP Jon Niese, 8-8, 3.71 ERA in 2013
2. RHP Bartolo Colon, 18-6, 2.65 ERA in 2013
3. RHP Dillon Gee, 12-11, 3.62 ERA in 2013
4. RHP Zack Wheeler, 7-5, 3.42 ERA in 2013
5. RHP Jenrry Mejia, 1-2, 2.30 ERA in 2013
Closer: Bobby Parnell, 22/26 saves, 2.16 ERA in 2013
RH setup man: Kyle Farnsworth, 4.70 ERA in 2013
LH setup man: Scott Rice, 3.71 ERA in 2013
The new guys
OF Granderson: The Mets' biggest free-agent splash in years, Granderson is coming off an injury-riddled final season with the Yankees. That, combined with Citi Field's homer-dampening effects, has prompted questions as to his expected production. But the Mets love Granderson's power potential, as well as the veteran leadership he should provide.
OF Chris Young: Once one of the brightest young players in baseball, Young's star has dimmed due to injuries and struggles at the plate. The Mets know that, at the very least, Young can give them strong defense at any outfield position. They're hoping he also will rediscover the power stroke that saw him average 23 homers per season from 2007-11.
RHP Colon: Needing someone to replace Harvey's innings, the Mets inked Colon to a two-year, $20 million deal. Though he is 40 years old and owns a lengthy injury history, Colon is coming off one of his best years ever. The Mets know he won't be able to match Harvey's flash, but they do hope he can replace most of Harvey's wins.
RHP Farnsworth: The Mets inked Farnsworth late in the winter to compete for a bullpen job. Provided he is healthy, the right-hander should give the team the type of veteran presence they lost when LaTroy Hawkins signed on to be the Rockies' closer after the season.
Prospects to watch
RHP Syndergaard: Every bit as highly touted as Harvey and Wheeler, Syndergaard should reach the Majors by midsummer -- likely in June, around the time Wheeler made his debut last year. Syndergaard's best weapons are his power fastball and hammer curve, and the Mets expect him to be a mainstay in their rotation for many years to come.
RHP Rafael Montero: A dark horse to win the fifth starter's job out of Spring Training, Montero will most likely start the season at Las Vegas. Assuming he remains as successful as he has been since signing as a 20-year-old international free agent in 2011, Montero could become a fixture in the rotation by season's end.
INF Wilmer Flores: It's hard to believe Flores is still just 22 years old, considering how long he has been on the prospect radar. This could be a breakout year for Flores, who made huge strides last year in his conversion to second base. The Mets could even try him back at his natural position of shortstop, giving them a ready-made alternative should Tejada falter.
On the rebound
RHP Parnell: Parnell insists he is fully healthy after undergoing surgery to replace a herniated disc in his neck, and the Mets are proceeding under the assumption that he will be their Opening Day closer. If so, that's one less headache for them in camp, considering the strong year Parnell submitted in 2013.
1B Davis: Ego bruise aside, Davis' most significant early obstacle will be avoiding the slow start he has endured each of the past two seasons. Another massive season-opening slump could seal Davis' fate in New York, meaning he must succeed early if he is going to remain a pivotal player for the Mets.
C d'Arnaud: Last year was supposed to be d'Arnaud's coming-out party, but a broken foot and offensive slump turned it into a lost season for one of the game's top catching prospects. The lineup will take on a different look altogether, if d'Arnaud begins to realize his true potential in 2014.
RHP Mejia: Mejia has been teasing Mets fans with his abilities since way back in 2010, when he first cracked the Majors as a high-octane 20-year-old reliever. Now 24 and coming off elbow surgery, Mejia will receive every chance to win the fifth starter's job over Lannan, Matsuzaka and a host of prospects.
RHP Hawkins: Rejuvenated all over again at age 41, Hawkins gave the Mets 70 2/3 brilliant innings last season, even filling in at closer for Parnell down the stretch. His reward was a two-year deal from the Rockies, who were willing to commit to Hawkins in a way the Mets were not.