Starling Marte (left), Pete Alonso (center) and Edwin Diaz (right). Edit by Liam McGuire, Comeback Media

With Opening Day on the horizon, Citi Field is buzzing with anticipation as the New York Mets gear up for another playoff push. Mets fans haven’t celebrated a postseason victory in eight years, and the hunger for October baseball is intense in Queens.

In their offseason moves, the Mets prioritized financial flexibility for the future. They strategically targeted veterans on one-year deals while exploring other options. This approach positions them to shed salary after 2024, setting the stage for a potential big splash in 2025. Despite this focus on the future, the Mets remain committed to competing now and expect to make a strong showing in 2024.

With that in mind, here are the five most important Mets for the 2024 MLB season:

Starling Marte

Sure, some might consider it obvious, but Starling Marte’s importance to the Mets lineup is undeniable. A healthy Marte elevates the entire offense, which has seen minimal changes in recent seasons. However, last year’s injury struggles raise concerns. Marte’s well-known speed appeared to diminish, suggesting a potential decline. But he’s seemingly back healthy, ready to be an everyday contributor. It’s hard to envision him playing a full 162-game slate, but getting even a fraction of his production from 2022 would have to be considered a win.

2022 saw Marte on 101-win Mets team slash .292/.347/.468 with 16 home runs, 63 RBIs, and an .814 OPS. It was a savvy singing by then-general manager Billy Eppler, as Marte and Brandon Nimmo were a formidable 1-2 punch in one of the most potent offenses in the National League. But Marte, who played in 118 games, suffered a fractured finger in September, which sidelined him and significantly impacted the Mets’ offense. The team went 14-10 in his absence after boasting a strong 85-51 record. While they finished the season well at 101-61, they ultimately lost the division lead they once held.

The offseason would see Marte undergo double groin surgery that just completely derailed his 2023 campaign. He was never quite comfortable at the plate, and his defense struggled as a result. He slashed .248/.301/.324 with five home runs, 28 RBIs, and a .625 OPS. Both were career lows for Marte in his age-34 season, and while he was still hitting the ball relatively hard, he wasn’t hitting for power. It was clear from the beginning that something was off, and the Mets’ No. 2 spot became a weak point with his inconsistent lineup presence. While several factors contributed to New York’s struggles in 2023, Marte’s decline was significant.

Despite approaching the later stages of his career and facing legitimate age and injury concerns, the Mets remain optimistic about Marte’s potential in 2024. While heavily relying on him as the everyday No. 2 hitter might not be the most prudent strategy, his bat remains crucial for the team’s success. While replicating his 2022 performance might be unrealistic, even a fraction of that impact would significantly benefit the Mets.

Luis Severino

At 30, the Mets turn to Luis Severino, hoping he can recapture the potential that made him a top American League starter with the Yankees. With Kodai Senga injured, Severino finds himself thrust into the role of New York’s No. 1 starter, likely even taking the Opening Day nod.

While Severino presents himself as a nice bounce-back candidate, expecting him to immediately regain his past stardom due solely to a change of scenery might be unrealistic.

Limited to just 18 innings from 2019-2021 due to injuries, Severino has yet to regain his prior form. He struggled in 2023, posting a career-worst 6.65 ERA in 19 starts (89.1 innings) with a 4-8 record.

Despite showing flashes of effectiveness late in the season, Severino’s oblique injury cut short his momentum. Some former Yankees have publicly expressed doubts about his health in 2023, which might contribute to his inflated ERA nearing 7. But those struggles allowed the Mets to sign him for a modest $13 million this offseason, a potentially significant bargain if he can recapture his earlier effectiveness.

And he’s looked the part this spring.

Severino blazed through Spring Training, boasting a lights-out 1.29 ERA in four starts. He remained unflappable, racking up 12 strikeouts while surrendering a measly two runs and nine hits across five appearances. While Spring Training results aren’t guarantees for the regular season grind, his performance is a welcome sign for the Mets, a team desperately needing another dependable starter. This is especially true given Kodai Senga’s absence and the potential for a dominant 1-2 punch upon his return.

The Mets don’t necessarily need Severino to be an ace, but consistent performance is crucial. His one-year deal allows flexibility if he falters. However, contending for a Wild Card berth hinges on him significantly outperforming last year.

Based on Spring Training, he might deliver.

Edwin Díaz

When Edwin Díaz tore his patellar tendon celebrating a Puerto Rican victory in the World Baseball Classic, a dark cloud seemed to settle over the Mets’ season. While attributing a team’s fate to one player might seem dramatic, Díaz’s absence was a significant blow. New York’s shaky starting pitching and a bullpen desperately needing more than a trio of reliable arms would have greatly benefited from his presence. While Díaz’s injury wouldn’t have guaranteed a playoff berth, it certainly would have transformed the Mets’ bullpen picture. After all, having arguably the league’s best closer at your disposal is an irreplaceable advantage.

A year removed from that fateful March day, Díaz showcased his dominance upon returning to the mound in Spring Training, striking out the side.

With a clean bill of health, Díaz has all the potential to reclaim his throne as one of baseball’s elite closers. His dominant 2022 season certainly bolsters that claim. For the Mets, his healthy return is crucial in solidifying a bullpen that sorely missed his presence in 2023. Last season, the Mets’ relievers floundered with a 4.48 ERA — third-worst in the National League.

In contrast, Díaz was a rock in 2022, boasting a stellar 1.31 ERA in 62 innings. His strikeout prowess was equally impressive, racking up 118 strikeouts over those 62 innings, maintaining a strikeout rate exceeding 50%. This dominance earned him a historic nine-figure deal that winter when he re-signed with New York.

The Mets’ success in 2024 hinges on their ability to bridge the gap to Díaz and create more situations where Narco ignites the Citi Field crowd.

Pete Alonso

Mets heartthrob Pete Alonso embodies the spirit of New York baseball. Despite entering a contract year, he’s expressed his desire to stay. His love for the city and his monstrous power — leading MLB in home runs over the last five years — make him a fan favorite.

But he’s also a Scott Boras client and free agency is likely on the horizon, which mirrors Brandon Nimmo’s situation. Mets owner Steve Cohen acknowledges this, expressing his hope for a 55-homer season from Alonso. This creates a delightful dilemma: a great season makes re-signing him even harder.

Another great outcome for Alonso, who slashed .217/.318/.504 with 46 home runs and 118 RBIs last season, his third 40-HR year in New York, would be to return to form. It sounds a bit silly to say that the team’s foremost power hitter needs to improve after hitting 46 home runs a season prior, but the Mets offense hinges on his bat. While he led the team in homers (46) and RBIs (118) last season, a drop in batting average (.271 to .217) and a rise in strikeouts raise concerns. These numbers fall short for a player of Alonso’s elite power, and even he’d be the first one to acknowledge the need to improve.

But simultaneously, the Mets’ lineup finally offers Alonso the protection he’s craved. Landing J.D. Martinez, a fellow power hitter, addresses a longstanding weakness behind Alonso in the batting order. This could lead to more favorable pitching matchups for Alonso, potentially boosting his average alongside his home run totals. Alonso lobbied for Martinez’s signing, which could significantly enhance the Mets’ hopes in 2024.

And if Alonso can recapture his 2022 form, he’ll be a key factor in the Mets’ Wild Card chase.

Brett Baty

Whether he’s deserving or not, the Mets are giving Brett Baty every chance to be the team’s everyday third baseman. The moment appeared too big for the former top prospect, who had mastered the Triple-A level. At times, Baty looked like he belonged, but there would be long stretches of poor defense and driving the baseball into the ground. There’s no reason the Mets were ever going to give up on Baty, but Joey Wendle and Zack Short aren’t exactly going to be stepping on his toes for playing time. This is his job to lose.

We also have to remember that, in addition to Baty, just about every Mets player not named Francisco Lindor severely underperformed at the plate in 2023. It wasn’t just Baty, and perhaps he was just trying to do much and stick around, as he eventually was sent down to the minor leagues for a tune-up and did – for the most part — look like a much better player.

Last season, Baty posted just a .598 OPS in 398 plate appearances. He slashed .212/.275/.323 with just nine home runs and 34 RBIs. Not only did he underdeliver at the plate, but according to FanGraphs’ defensive metrics, the Mets were the worst defensive team at third base, where Baty saw the bulk of his time.

The Mets don’t expect Baty to be a superstar like David Wright, but they do need him to develop into a reliable everyday player. His defense needs improvement, and he’ll need to become a more consistent contributor offensively. If Baty can solidify third base defensively and provide steady offense, the Mets will have addressed a significant need in their lineup.

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.