As the hot stove begins to warm up, there is not a team more eager to put 2017 behind them than the New York Mets. With World Series aspirations, they ended up dismantled by injuries finishing 70-92, fourth in the NL East. Terry Collins stepped down after seven seasons, and now the page turns to new skipper Mickey Callaway.
The Mets have glaring needs all over the diamond, which makes this offseason crucial for General Manager Sandy Alderson to get the team back on a winning track. For a team with a reputation of not always willing to spend in a big market such as New York, the Mets will be able to spend this winter if they so choose. High priced veterans such as Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Neil Walker, Jay Bruce, and Curtis Granderson were traded during the season, and their 2017 annual salaries combined for roughly $60 million.
The last few months of the season turned into evaluating young prospects, including one of the top prospects in baseball, Amed Rosario. Getting more dynamic and athletic seem to be a priority for the Mets, but with the way the rotation is set, knowing their time together is running out, winning in the present is still the mindset.
Here is how the Mets should approach the offseason.
1. Determine whether Travis d’Arnaud is the catcher going forward.
When d’Arnaud was one of the top prospects along with Noah Syndergaard in the R.A. Dickey trade, the Mets felt that they had their catcher of the future. He has shown flashes, but for the most part of his tenure, he has been average. Injuries have affected d’Arnaud, where his ability to stay on the field is his greatest weakness.
This past season was d’Arnaud’s best at the plate driving in career highs with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs in 112 games. The Mets would take those numbers from d’Arnaud, but only if he can stay on the field to produce. His numbers behind the plate are below average, throwing out 17 percent of baserunners in 2017. d’Arnaud’s most memorable moments defensively were in the 2015 World Series, when the Royals had seven stolen bases in five games.
Alderson did tell the media that he would be content having d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki as his two catchers, but that will be difficult to sell to the fanbase. Jonathan Lucroy has been on the Mets’ radar in the past, but it would be interesting to see if Lucroy would leave a situation like the Rockies where he has thrived for the Mets who are filled with uncertainty. Alex Avila and Welington Castillo are other player they could target who are coming off strong 2017 campaigns.
2. Sign/Trade for a center fielder.
Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto are two locks to have starting jobs in the outfield with Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo as internal options for that final spot. Conforto has played center field rarely, but corner outfield is his primary position, and he is also coming off major shoulder surgery.
Lagares is a Gold Glove winning center fielder, but is not known for his offense. A career .257 hitter, finding a left-handed center fielder to platoon with Lagares would be a smart upgrade. Lagares also has been hit with injuries throughout his big-league career playing 94 and 79 games respectively over the past two seasons.
On the free agent market, someone like Jarrod Dyson or Jon Jay are players that the Mets could target. They are both cost-effective and could be options to hit leadoff in the lineup. Also, Dyson and Jay have World Series rings to their resume, so they can share their experiences on a younger team such as the Mets.
3. Sign/Trade for a second baseman.
Second base was another position of instability for the Mets, especially when Neil Walker was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Jose Reyes did a serviceable job last season batting .246 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs, but it remains to be seen whether the Mets decide to bring him back.
Reyes has been fully embraced in his second-term with the team, and has been able to revive his career after the domestic violence incident. The Mets still want to win right away so even the 35-year-old Reyes should be an option to return. Another in-house candidate is Wilmer Flores, but he could still be viewed as someone who only plays against lefties.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post speculated Jason Kipnis as a fit which seems logical since Kipnis has been bounced out of second base in Cleveland for MVP finalist Jose Ramirez. The Mets have a clear hole at second base and it will be intriguing to find out whether that is solved with a familiar face or not.
4. Never enough starting pitching.
2017 was the first year that Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler were all going to be healthy in the same year. That derailed quickly, and instead 12 different pitchers made at least one start. Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and Rafael Montero were other pitchers who made a good amount of starts. Lugo was effective, Montero continues to be known as the prospect that never was, and Gsellman had tension that was made public with Alderson.
In the original rotation, Wheeler, Harvey, and Matz seem to be the wildcards whether they can get the ball every fifth day. They have all dealt with arm injuries, and Harvey’s issues have reached further than that going AWOL this year. Each one has high hopes, but it still is a question if they can do it on a consistent basis.
Going into 2017, the Mets would have been thought of as the team that can handle any injuries to their rotation, but that was farther from the truth. They have been linked to free agent Ubaldo Jimenez, and any veteran who can be durable from April to September fits their need.
5. High quality bullpen arm
Fixing the bullpen is the area of the roster that I expect the Mets to be most active in free agency. Relievers continue to be more important, as seen come postseason time. The back end of Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins seems to be a strong point, but with money to spend, even more help should be on the way.
Other than those three, and Hansel Robles, there does not appear to be any other certainties in the bullpen. Ramos has closed in his career with the Marlins, but even Ramos struggled posting an ERA near 5 with the Mets, so that becomes a concern if he can handle the eighth inning duties. Addison Reed, who is no longer on the team, and Blevins were the only relievers who had an ERA under 3.50.
Another left-hander that Callaway can use to matchup with other than Blevins should be at the top of the list. Mike Minor, Jake McGee, and Tony Watson are solid choices that the Mets can get on a multi-year deal worth nine million annually.
The Mets are definitely in the retooling phase, not the rebuilding phase and addressing these needs will lead to contention in 2018.