The New York Mets, who won 101 regular-season games last season and now have the largest payroll in Major League Baseball, are set to open their season on Thursday night at the low-budget Miami Marlins.
New York's payroll -- including luxury tax -- stands at $375.3 million, according to Spotrac.com, while Miami's payroll ranks 24th in the league at $110.2 million.
That's a huge disparity, and New York's starting pitcher on Thursday, Max Scherzer, will make $43.3 million in 2023.
"The atmosphere is crazy at every venue," Scherzer said when asked about pitching on Opening Day. "It's really fun to get the ball in that situation."
Even so, Miami will be a legitimate threat to win on Thursday because the Marlins are starting fellow right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who was a unanimous selection last year as the first Cy Young Award winner in franchise history.
Alcantara, 27, led the majors last year in innings pitched, and his six complete games were more than any other major league team.
Armed with a 98 mph fastball, a sinker that goes just as fast before dipping and a wipeout slider, Alcantara went 14-9 with a 2.28 ERA in 2022. In 14 career appearances against the Mets, he is 3-5 with a 2.97 ERA.
Scherzer, 38, is an eight-time All-Star with three Cy Young Awards in his trophy case. He made his Mets debut last season, going 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA. Against the Marlins, he is 15-5 with a 2.94 ERA in 26 starts.
The only team Scherzer has beaten more than the Marlins is the Philadelphia Phillies (16-5).
New York, however, has had a rough spring, losing two-time All-Star closer Edwin Diaz for the season due to a knee injury sustained while celebrating a World Baseball Classic win for Puerto Rico.
The Mets will miss his 99 mph fastball, his devastating slider and the 32 saves he produced in each of the past two years.
Given his loss, one of the most important Mets is David Robertson, who figures to be their new closer. He has 157 career saves, and he had a 2.40 combined ERA last year with the Chicago Cubs and Phillies.
New York's other injury loss this spring revolves around fifth starter Jose Quintana, who will be replaced by fellow lefty David Peterson. Quintana is set to return in July, and the Mets shouldn't experience much, if any, drop-off with Peterson (3.83 ERA last year).
Miami's biggest addition is second baseman Luis Arraez, who won a batting title last year for the Minnesota Twins (.316 average). He is set to bat leadoff for the Marlins.
The Marlins, who led the majors last season in one-run losses with 40, have also reworked their bullpen, adding closer Matt Barnes and lefty A.J. Puk. Barnes' career numbers include 47 saves and a 4.07 ERA. Puk, who turns 28 next month, was brilliant last season with Oakland, posting a 3.12 ERA in 62 relief appearances.
However, there are some defensive questions for Miami as middle infielder Jean Segura has moved to third base, and second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. has shifted to center field. Those are new positions for each.
"I think there is a lot of talent on this club," Marlins general manager Kim Ng said. "We want to get out of the gate quickly."
--Field Level Media