The New York Mets should be World Series contenders in 2020, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take every opportunity to improve.
Heading into the 2020 campaign, the New York Mets are in an excellent spot. They have one of the best offenses in the National League and their starting rotation is arguably near the top of the majors. Their bullpen—after struggling last year—also projects to be one of baseball’s best.
That’s why Baseball Prospectus‘ PECOTA system believes the Mets will stand atop the NL East. In fact, PECOTA projects the Mets to finish with the second-best record in the NL (88-74), behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Historically, there’s only one thing that’s halted teams who are projected to do that well, and that’s injuries. A lack of depth can kill contending teams while a good one can propel them forward.
Given that the Mets have had a long injury history, it makes sense that setbacks would be a major worry. The organization has additionally done an awful job building the depth necessary to weather an injury-riddled season.
Luckily, for them, there are still a number of quality depth options on the open market.
Once upon a time, Collin McHugh was a prospect in the Mets farm system. He made his debut with the team in 2012 and was dealt to the Colorado Rockies in 2013 for Eric Young Jr.
McHugh struggled mightily in Colorado and was designated for assignment after the season. He then broke out with the Houston Astros in 2014 and was a solid starter up until he became a full-time reliever in 2018.
He transitioned to that new role with great success, posting a 1.99 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 11.7 K/9, and 2.6 BB/9 during the 2018 campaign.
The right-hander didn’t produce as highly in 2019 though. McHugh began the season in a starting role and recorded a 6.37 ERA before Houston moved him back to the pen.
He was strong thereafter, pitching to a 2.67 ERA, 10.7 K/9, and 4.3 BB/9.
So why is McHugh still on the market if he’s a solid reliever?
Well, he missed the end of last season and the playoffs due to an elbow injury. He didn’t need surgery, but those types of injuries make you hold your breath, especially with pitchers.
The Mets should jump all over McHugh. Their bullpen needs as much depth as possible and he would provide that even after last season’s setback. If he’s willing to take a minor-league deal (or possibly even a cheap major-league one), there’s no reason not to consider him.
The Mets need more depth in the rotation moving forward. If a starter succumbs to injury, they only have two replacement options: either go to the loser of the Michael Wacha-Steven Matz battle or call up prospect David Peterson.
It’s definitely an issue for this ballclub right now, but right-hander Andrew Cashner could be the resolution. He can step up in the rotation as well as come out of the bullpen. Cashner has thrown at least 150 innings in each of the last three seasons.
He’s a fine starting pitcher, but seems to perform at a higher level in relief. In 2019, Cashner recorded a 3.86 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 8.1 K/9, and 4.6 BB/9 out of the pen. While in the rotation, he pitched to a 4.83 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 6.2 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9.
A minor-league deal would be perfect for Cashner right now. He’s older and can’t find a spot on a team. Taking a contract of that nature and working as Triple-A starter until a spot opens up makes a ton of sense.
For the sake of their pitching depth, the Mets should consider making a move for Cashner.
It’s astonishing that Brock Holt hasn’t found a job yet. At 31 years old, he’s one of the best utility bench players in the majors and is still hitting at a high level.
Holt’s a perfect fit for the 26th spot on the Mets roster. He played first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field in 2019. Holt can perform relatively well from essentially anywhere on the field.
That alone makes him an extremely attractive bench option. Add that to his offensive ability and it’s strange how he’s not with a ballclub right now.
Holt has hit .286/.366/.407 over the last two seasons and has posted a 103 wRC+ and 109 wRC+ in 2019 and 2018, respectively. He’s also recorded an fWAR of over one in each of the last two years despite having a significantly low number of plate appearances in either campaign. Holt posted a 1.3 fWAR in just 295 plate appearances in 2019.
The Mets are desperate for a super-utility man on their bench. Holt is someone that could fill that void, even if it takes a major-league deal.
Arodys Vizcaíno is the perfect example of how volatile the relief-pitching market can be. He’s just 29-years-old and has never finished with a FIP over four (minimum 30.0 innings pitched).
He’s coming off a torn labrum though, a setback that ended his 2019 campaign after just four complete innings.
Shoulder injuries are one of the scariest things for MLB pitchers; just ask Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. The latter was arguably the best pitcher in the majors before he tore his labrum in 2017, and he’s struggled to reach that potential once again.
It should be different for Vizcaíno—not because he’s special, but because he’d be coming out of the bullpen. His workload and health can thus be monitored.
It should only take a minor-league deal to reel Vizcaíno to Queens. Given that price and the current state of their bullpen depth, the Mets should be throwing themselves at the right-hander.