The Mets have issues. How can they fix them before 2022?
Let’s be honest: the playoffs aren’t coming to Citi Field in a couple weeks. This season hasn’t gone the way many had hoped, and the disappointing second half leaves more questions than answers when considering the future of the team.
It’s pretty clear the New York Mets have plenty of issues to address once the 2021 regular season comes to an end.
So do all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put the Mets back together again? Let’s put together an action plan for this winter’s shopping list.
The elephant in the room is the need for a new president of baseball operations. Sandy Alderson reportedly doesn’t want to be as involved in the day-to-day details (so why is he here?) and the club has had a complete gong show of a front office since before Steve Cohen bought the team a little more than one year ago.
The Mets are going to reportedly swing big in their search.
Mets are aiming very high for their open Baseball President job, so their short list is very short: Bille Beane, Theo Epstein, David Stearns (and maybe one or two others).
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 19, 2021
However, a significant question was asked last week: how will Cohen’s twitter habit impact the search for a new top executive?
The Mets need to solve their front office situation before heading into the market looking to fix the team. Beane, Epstein and/or Stearns would be magnificent additions. But are any of those three interested in fixing the Mets?
Let’s think outside the box to potentially bring a person back into the baseball fold.
How about Paul DePodesta?
After 20 years in MLB, in which he was the only executive in the league to win division titles as part of five different organizations, DePodesta moved on to football. He has served as Cleveland Browns’ Chief Strategy Officer since January 5, 2016.
Let’s go into this discussion under the assumption that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement puts the designated hitter in both leagues. The Players wanted it last year but the Owners got greedy and tried to force expanded playoffs into the mix.
The DH in the NL would be huge for the Mets. That gives the opportunity to put one of Dom Smith or Pete Alonso at first base and keep the other bat in the lineup without forcing Smith to play left field.
Free agency holds two of the biggest decisions the Mets will face: Michael Conforto and Javier Báez. Will either be back?
Another intriguing name to consider coming back is Jonathan Villar, who has been a serviceable player in a number of roles this season as injuries plagued the Mets.
What are the clear areas of need for the Mets? And how could those questions find answers?
Kris Bryant‘s name has been on the mind of Mets fans for a year. Should the Mets make a play for him when he hits the market this winter?
I would say no. Two of the Mets’ top prospects — Brett Baty and Mark Vientos — both can play third base (though one of them may find himself in left field).
Vientos was drafted two years before Baty but he’s still a month younger. He’s had a nice season, climbing to AAA this year and might be the first of the two to get a crack at the job next spring. However, eventually Baty will probably be the guy who takes that job for the long-term.
JD Davis might be able to hold it down if either Vientos or Baty needs “some extra time” at the beginning of the season, too.
If the Mets can solve their third base issue internally, that saves a lot of money for other problems. And they should make every effort to do that; they have plenty of other issues to address.
The Báez question now comes into focus. And this is an expensive question. The Mets paid dearly for El Mago; Pete Crow-Armstrong was supposed to be their everyday centerfielder starting in a couple years.
Let’s keep in mind Báez is great friends with Francisco Lindor, the Mets’ $341 million man. The two obviously have tremendous chemistry and love playing together.
But do you give Báez $150-200 million to play second base?
Do you commit $500 million just to your middle infield?
Báez has shown the ability to carry the team offensively. He’s also pissed off a majority of the fan base. El Mago has been exactly what Cubs fans said the Mets were getting: for good or bad, one of the most watchable players in the game.
But the price tag is too much. With other issues looming, it’s hard to justify throwing that much coin at the middle infield.
The Mets also have Jeff McNeil, who has shown the ability to be a solid bat. Bringing back Villar and pairing him with McNeil — the original plan this year — may be the more cost efficient play.
Oh, and Robinson Canó is still out there making $24 million, too.
So… how do you feel about Conforto? Do the Mets bring him back? And how do they fill in left if/when Smith moves to first/DH full-time?
Oh, and Brandon Nimmo has one more year before he hits UFA status, too.
So the outfield is totally up for grabs this winter. Which, by the way, make trading PCA more questionable.
If the Mets want to add speed to the top of the lineup in center or right, Starling Marte would be a really nice addition. But, at 33, he’s on the older side. Would a short-term deal make sense for Marte?
A couple interesting options for left field could be Kyle Schwarber and Eddie Rosario. Both left long-time homes in Chicago and Minnesota, respectively, before the 2021 season and were subsequently traded. Schwarber has been dynamite this season at the plate; Rosario has played well in Atlanta as well.
Jorge Soler and Nick Castellanos could both be on the market as well.
Also keep in mind Vientos and Khalil Lee could be in play from inside the organization to help the outfield situation.
If the Mets want to bring in a game-changing bat in the outfield, and we assume one of Conforto/Nimmo is still here, chasing Marte and one of Schwarber, Rosario, Soler or Castellanos could be a strong overhaul.
There are a few names who could fill multiple holes for the Mets that could be strong additions.
Chris Taylor of the Dodgers could play a solid second base and left field; he could give them some center as well.
The same can be said for Leury García of the White Sox. He’s a nice player who could be an affordable piece in the mold that Villar cast this season.
We’ll come back to discuss the pitching future of the organization in a follow-up piece. Solving the issues around the pitchers and in the lineup in an affordable manner will make chasing arms to fill out a competitive rotation more easily doable.
Let’s go with the assumption the Mets sign at least one big bat for their outfield (focusing on Marte) and stay in-house to start the season with Davis/Vientos/Baty at third and McNeil/Cano at second.
What could their lineup look like on Opening Day? (Bold italics are free agent additions; italics indicate free agents staying.)
- Starling Marte, CF (bats: R)
2. Michael Conforto, RF (L)
3. Francisco Lindor, SS (S)
4. Pete Alonso, 1B/DH (L)
5. James McCann, C (R)
6. Dom Smith, 1B/DH (L)
7. Brandon Nimmo, LF (L)
8. JD Davis/Mark Vientos, 3B (R)
9. Jeff McNeil, 2B (L)
Bench: Leury García (S), Robinson Canó (L), Kevin Pillar (R), Tomás Nido (R), Davis/Vientos (R)
That’s a very left-handed heavy lineup, with the potential addition of Marte being the only right-handed bat joining the mix. Because of that, adding another right-handed power bat could be a strong consideration (Soler?) but could also be an expensive addition at the expense of Conforto leaving.
Obviously trades are also possible, but this lineup isn’t adding a huge payroll commitment with the exceptions of Marte, García and re-signing Conforto.
How does that lineup make you feel about the Mets’ chances in the National League East in 2022?