The Mets are expected to spend big this winter after taking a step forward as an organization in 2022. The ultimate prize wasn’t achieved, but 101 regular-season wins and a trip to the postseason for the first time in eight years is nothing to scoff at. But could they be going cheap at a crucial roster spot for next season?
First baseman Jose Abreu — someone I wanted the Mets to pursue as a designated hitter — recently signed a three-year, $60 million deal with the Houston Astros. In the immediate aftermath of this news breaking, SNY’s Andy Martino said this:
Abreu made some sense for Mets at DH, but their expectation is to go internal there. https://t.co/WOVYeH5ClU
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) November 28, 2022
Based on what the Mets’ current roster consists of, this could be any combination of Mark Vientos, Daniel Vogelbach, Darin Ruf, and Francisco Alvarez. Ronny Mauricio — who is tearing it up in winter ball — could also be an option for New York.
And, depending on how third baseman Brett Baty fits into the 2023 picture, maybe a veteran (like Eduardo Escobar) could collect some DH at-bats.
The designated hitter spot was a pain in manager Buck Showalter’s side all of this past season. It was such a problem that Billy Eppler acquired Vogelbach and Ruf ahead of the trade deadline in August to platoon. Vogey was mostly solid, posting a 144 wRC+ and 1.0 fWAR in 183 plate appearances. Ruf, on the other hand, wasn’t so good. He posted just a 24 wRC+ in 74 plate appearances, managing to compile -0.9 fWAR in the process.
If there’s one thing the Mets could really use in the lineup, it’s a little more thump. They were one of the league’s most effective offenses in 2022, but their lack of home-run power led to bouts of inconsistency. Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor need some help, ya know.
New York is focused on re-signing Brandon Nimmo to fill its current void in center field and at the top of the lineup. If they do, the Mets will have virtually the same offense as last year. He’s a popular commodity on the open market, though, so if they don’t, it’ll lead them to investigate external alternatives.
We’ve seen this movie before with the Mets. They thought a combination of J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith would be enough last season. It wasn’t. And while Vogelbach was a net positive, it was negated by Ruf’s lack of production.
We know Mets owner Steve Cohen isn’t afraid to spend money. New York will be doing that to fill open spots in the rotation, the bullpen, and the outfield. Even for someone with (almost) bottomless pockets full of cash, there needs to be a limit. It’s looking like DH is where the line is getting drawn right now.
The Mets did win 100 games with a lackluster solution at DH. Clearly, they’re OK with giving it another try for at least half the season. The hope will be that one of New York’s top prospects, whether it be Vientos, Alvarez, Baty, or someone else, will provide the extra pop many think this lineup needs. But if that doesn’t happen, Eppler and Co. will be right back in the same spot they were last summer. And that’s a situation people are surely not still salty about (narrator: they probably are).
It’s not the worst of problems to have if you’re the Mets. But if they begin 2023 with only internal options and it doesn’t work out, many will look back to the options available this winter — like Abreu, Josh Bell, and J.D. Martinez, to name a few — and see the opportunities New York missed out on.