A lot of things had to come together for the Mets to win their first playoff appearance in six years.

The purchase of the team by Steve and Alex Cohen was the first real domino, as their unfathomable wealth opened the door to aggressive spending, and the comfort of familiarity with the Wilpon family disappeared.

But even after the Mets were purchased by baseball’s richest owners, there was still a team to be assembled. Numerous examples in professional sports have shown that the highest salary does not automatically mean the highest winnings.

General manager Billy Eppler — another big step on the Mets’ ladder to respectability — had a lot of work to do in the offseason. Now, with 94 wins and a playoff berth secured, it’s time to reflect on the 2022 Mets and the set of steps Eppler has taken to fulfill his promise.”kick things into high gear.”

We must start with Max Scherzer, and not only because of him six perfect innings on Monday get the Mets back into the postseason. Scherzer’s acquisition was the most transformative of the Mets’ offseason, turning the franchise from contender hopeful to bona fide challenger.

When healthy, Scherzer is still one of the safest bets in the league, and in addition, his presence in the clubhouse has brought an air of confidence that the club desperately needs. Eppler determined that a player like Scherzer was needed both on and off the field and wasted no time pouncing on him.

“He was a big part of it,” Eppler said during a celebration Monday night at the clubhouse in Milwaukee. “Two hours after getting the job, I was on the phone with [Scherzer’s agent] Scott [Boras]. We talked about a number of his boyfriends, but he knew who I was calling about.

It was a full press. I’m glad we were able to bring him here.”

All Scherzer has done in his first 21 Met starts is a 2.15 ERA and 0.88 WHIP along with a 31.3 K% (third among NL pitchers who have thrown at least 130 innings) and a 4.5 beat replacement (sixth among all NL pitchers).

“He’s very important,” Buck Showalter said of Scherzer. “Max—and the other guys who were drawn in by the parade service and the people who were here—they all came together.”

Those other guys were just as, if not more, important than their Hall of Fame teammates. Scherzer officially became a Met on Dec. 1, the same day as Eduardo Escobar and a day after Starling Marte and Mark Caña signed with the team.

While Escobar had a miserable first half of the season, a trip to the injured list in mid-August appears to have saved him. Through it all, the veteran infielder remained relentlessly positive, endearing himself to his teammates even as he briefly lost playing time to Luis Guillermo.

But since August 30th, Escobar has started like a house on fire, going 25-for-68 (.368) with ten extra-base hits, 13 RBIs and a 1.119 OPS, which is just plain silly. Without Escobar’s timely surge, who knows if the Mets would have been ahead of Atlanta in the New Zealand East?

Escobar’s resurgence also coincided with Marte’s incredibly unfortunate injury. Marte broke his middle finger on his right hand on Sept. 6 and hasn’t played since, but his contributions in the first five months of the season have been as big as his huge biceps. His .468 slugging percentage still ranks second among all Mets, behind only Pete Alonso, while his 18 stolen bases are the most on the team and second in the entire NL East.

As the oldest player at the position in the offseason, Marte has once again reinforced veteran leadership, and after he hopefully makes a triumphant return during the playoffs, the Mets will have him under contract for three more years.

Marte’s teammate in Oakland last season rounds out the 2021 signing class for position players. Mark Canha is much more than an overall fan favorite, owning the fifth-highest slugging percentage among all NL qualified hitters. Perhaps the most overlooked pickup — Canja never made an All-Star team or played in the National League like Marte and Escobar, making him a bit of a mystery in Mets land — he essentially matched Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimo’s value at the plate .

Lindar and Canha woke up Tuesday with identical 127 WRC+, while Nimma is just ahead with 128. Despite being stunning for a good chunk of the season, Canha has been as impressive as the guys playing each day

The last two new faces — not counting the trade deadline crew that didn’t make the same impact — had to wait until after the lockout to arrive in Flushing. Chris Bassitt and Adam Ottavino appeared on March 12 and 14, respectively. Bassitt was traded for two pitchers you’ve never heard of, and Ottavino was a mere four million dollars from Cohen’s free agency vault.

You could argue that both were cornerstones of their position groups, with Bassit leading the pitching rotation, Ottavino one behind Seth Lugo among pitchers used solely as relievers.

The duo didn’t just eat empty innings either, they were stellar. Bassitt is one of the best pitchers in the world in limiting hard contact, and Ottavino is one of eight qualified NL players with an ERA under 2.00. One of the other people with that distinction shares the bullpen with him.

“We’ve got a really good group,” Edwin Diaz said Monday, also sharing what he’s seen since the team’s very first spring practice. “We have to continue to play really good baseball to see if we can win the division.”

If they reach that goal, Eppler’s winter crop deserves a big blue ribbon.

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https://www.readingeagle.com/2022/09/20/mets-offseason-additions-proved-critical-in-getting-back-to-postseason/

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