The New York Mets have several options to improve their team in 2020, but some of their holes fit as bigger needs than others.
New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen suffered through an up-and-down first season. His biggest move, acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz for a package that was headlined by Jarred Kelenic, didn’t quite work out. Age caught up to Cano and Diaz put forth forgettable season.
However, the team still finished 86-76 and were led by a core as good as any in the majors, featuring two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, rookie of the year and 2019 home run king Pete Alonso, bullpen ace Seth Lugo, utility knife Jeff McNeil, and the perennially underrated Michael Conforto.
The team finished three games out of the second wild-card spot with the best record among NL teams who missed the playoffs. The team is clearly solid, but also clearly needs more pieces to be true contenders. So with those needs in mind, we rank the team’s greatest offseason needs.
Honorable Mention: Manager
As the 2019 season went on, it became clear that manager Mickey Callaway was in over his head as a manager. His decision making, which was bad in 2018, didn’t improve in his second season at the helm. His bullpen usage was questionable, as he used his top dogs even in games that were already more or less decided, and he seemed to struggle to figure out how much rest his relievers required.
For those reasons, Callaway was fired at the end of the season and finding a new manager became the biggest need that the team had. But, the team has addressed the position by hiring former center fielder Carlos Beltran to serve as their new manager.
While it’s still to be determined if the first-time manager will be the correct decision (ESNY’s own Rich Coutinho believes he is), the team has made their decision and found their new manager. The next steps are to make the final additions to the roster to give him the best shot to lead them to the playoffs.
3: Starting Pitcher
Starting pitcher is an interesting situation for the Mets. Their top-four is as good as any in the majors, with deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman all representing very strong starters.
However, Zack Wheeler‘s free agency has created a hole in the fifth starter spot, and the team has very little depth that is major league ready to fill in. The team does not have a particularly enticing in-house option.
The team could move one of Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman to the rotation, but that would weaken a bullpen that struggled last season. The team could also turn to Walker Lockett to serve as the fifth starter, but his 8.84 career ERA suggests that they’d be better served looking outside of the organization for their fifth starter.
While the team could be interested in bringing Wheeler back, they might get priced out of his market. Additionally, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg are unlikely to be players that the team will pay up for.
The team will likely play in the middle tier of free-agent starters. A few names that could fit well with the team are players like Julio Teheran, Alex Wood or Tanner Roark—all players who can provide quality innings but aren’t the top flight pitchers who will break the bank. While the team should be willing to spend money this offseason, that money can be better invested in other areas.
2: Center Fielder
Lack of talent isn’t an issue for the Mets outfield. With Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and Dom Smith on the roster, there are plenty of strong outfielders that can be placed in the lineup (and that doesn’t even include Yoenis Cespedes who might be able to return to action in 2020).
However, none of them are center fielders. In fact, the only true center fielder that the team had on their roster was Juan Lagares, who saw his option declined by the team this offseason. While Nimmo and Conforto have both played center field for the team, each of them struggled mightily at the position and are better suited to play the corners.
The free-agent market in center field is pretty barren as well, with the two most enticing options as Adam Jones, who is 34 and better suited to a corner-outfield position at this age, and recently non-tendered Kevin Pillar, who is a great defensive outfielder but struggles offensively, with a career slash of .261/.296/.405.
Neither is an enticing option to be an everyday starter on a team with contention hopes. That means that the team will need to look to the trade market, with two realistic options that stand out.
The Boston Red Sox could move an outfielder to clear money and get under the luxury tax threshold, and while Mookie Betts would be ideal, it’s debatable if the Mets have the prospects to get a deal done or the desire to trade assets for a player who seems intent on becoming a free agent at the end of the season.
However, Jackie Bradley Jr. could be an ideal fit. He isn’t the greatest offensive player, but unlike Pillar, he is a passable option. He has a career slash of .236/.317/.409. He’s a perennial gold glove candidate who won the award in 2018.
Another option that should be very enticing is Starling Marte of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Marte has been linked to the Mets recently with the Pirates rebuilding, and he spoke to Hector Gomez of Diportivo Z. about joining the team how excited he would be to play for a contending team.
Starling Marte about possible trade to the Mets: “The Mets are in position to do that (ready to compete right now on a World Series) and it will be an honor to play with them. If it doesn’t happen, I will keep working hard and giving my team all I have.” (2/2) https://t.co/Bxa2ggobrw
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) November 28, 2019
Marte is under team control through 2021 assuming his option gets picked up after the 2020 season, which it should be. He has a career slash of .287/.341/.452. Acquiring Marte would allow the team to shift Nimmo and Conforto to the corners with McNeil moving to third base regularly.
1: Bullpen Help
The bullpen was the team’s undoing last season, as their struggles cost the team numerous games. The only two relievers that the team had that were consistently reliable were Lugo and Justin Wilson. Their 4.96 bullpen ERA was better than only the Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins.
The outlook shouldn’t be as bleak for 2020 with the current personnel, with Diaz and Jeurys Familia both reasonable bounce-back candidates. However, even if they return to form, the team needs to add more depth and another high leverage piece.
Adding another reliever will give Beltran more options late in games, letting him keep his top pitchers fresher. Having more options will allow them to keep their bullpen fresh down the stretch run and into the playoffs.
With Will Smith off the board, the top reliever is off the board, but there are still several options on the market. Former New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances is a free agent, as is recently Blake Treinen. Former team farmhand and Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh is also on the market and could work out of the bullpen for the team.
Adding one or more of them would help the team immensely in 2020 as they attempt to return to the playoffs.