By Michael Sutter
For the first time in many years, both Mets and Yankees fans approach the 2016 MLB season expecting their teams to be contenders.
The Yankees have improved their club in several ways since 2015, most notably with the acquisitions of Cubs second baseman Starlin Castro and Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. They also traded fan favorite catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Twins for center fielder Aaron Hicks.
With Chapman, the Yankees bullpen is expected to be among the league’s best. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller proved themselves as a deadly combination last season. The Yankees also acquired young second baseman Starlin Castro. Castro is a considerable upgrade over Stephen Drew, who hit an underwhelming .201 last season.
The biggest uncertainty of the Yankees’ season is with starting pitching. Their rotation, comprised of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Luis Severino, is potentially great. Injuries and age may be their downfall. Sabathia will be 36 years old in July while Tanaka and Pineda have spent significant time on the disabled list in past years.
On the other side of the East River, the New York Mets are preparing to begin a 2016 season that is full of promise and hope. After a heartbreaking loss in last year’s World Series, the Mets are hungry for a championship.
The Mets’ rotation has been described by many as the best in the league. Their pitching staff is composed of four young studs and a wily veteran: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon.
Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard have all proven themselves as elite pitchers. Colon has defied the odds by pitching effectively at age 42. Matz is the youngest pitcher on the team at age 24. In his short time in the majors, Matz has shown flashes of brilliance. Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler will return to the team in July following his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
The biggest offseason development for the New York Mets was the signing of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets traded for Cespedes at the deadline last season and he provided a much-needed spark for the offense. Cespedes carried the team through August and September, lifting them to a division title. Unfortunately, he virtually disappeared in the playoffs.
The Mets traded for Pirates second baseman Neil Walker to replace NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy. The Mets also signed free agent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. In general, the team is as good if not better than it was last season.
Pitchers and catchers reported to training camp on February 17 for the Mets and February 18 for the Yankees. The Mets open in Kansas City on April 3 and the Yankees open at home on April 4.