Mets manager Terry Collins: “If we play up to expectations… we’ll be playing in October.”

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It’s been a while since the Mets were in a position to hurl pre-season smack talk. Carlos Beltran was the last to fire a volley before the 2008 season to then-Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who had the previous season declared the Phillies the “team to beat”. Beltran said, “So this year, to Jimmy Rollins, we are the team to beat.” Obviously, things didn’t go as planned. The Mets haven’t been to the post-season since losing the 2006 NLCS to the Cardinals.

Mets manager Terry Collins delivered the closest thing to pre-season smack talk as the Mets have had in a while, saying that if the Mets play up to expectations, “we’ll be playing in October.” Via ESPN’s Adam Rubin:

Regardless, he indicated Saturday that he believes the Mets are a playoff team.

“Absolutely,” Collins said. “We’ve got to go play. But when you look at the back of the baseball cards on the 25 guys or 27 guys we think have legitimate chances, they’re pretty impressive. The addition of Michael Cuddyer, the addition of John Mayberry on that bench, the rotation — just because we haven’t been a playoff team in the past doesn’t mean we don’t have good pitching. We have very, very good pitching. So we should match up against a lot of teams.

“Now we’ve just got to go play. It’s all about execution. As we’ve seen in the past, there are teams that were world champs and the next year they’re in last place. And there are teams that were in last place that the next year they’re in the playoffs. If we play up to expectations and what we think are the caliber of players we have, we’ll be playing in October.”

Though the Nationals have gotten better with the additions of Max Scherzer, Yunel Escobar, and Casey Janssen, the NL East isn’t exactly strong, so an argument can be made that the Mets are the second-best team in the division going into spring training. During the off-season, the Mets brought in Michael Cuddyer, one of few transactions made to bolster a roster that went 79-83 in 2014.

Cubs acquire Martín Maldonado from the Royals

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Last night Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was placed on the injured list with a strained muscle in his right foot. That injury inspired the Cubs to go out and get another catcher. They acquired Martín Maldonado in a trade with Kansas City in exchange for lefty Mike Montgomery, in a deal that was announced after the Cubs loss to the Reds.

Maldonado, 32, was a Gold Glove winner in 2017 with the Angels. At the moment he’s hitting .227 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 74 games. Obviously, though, defense is his calling card, as he’s a .220 career hitter with 57 homers and 210 RBIs in 686 games.

Montgomery, 30, is 1-2 with a 5.67 ERA in 20 relief appearances for the Cubs this year. He’s heading back to where his pro career began. He was drafted by Kanas City in 2008, though he was traded away in the James Shields/Wade David/Wil Myers deal in 2012. He made his big league debut for Seattle in 2015. Dayton Moore said last night that the Royals plan to use Montgomery in the rotation as a replacement for Homer Bailey, who was dealt to Oakland on Sunday.