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New York Mets Offseason Review: Position Players

Francisco Lindor Mets Review

Heading into this offseason, the New York Mets had a number of glaring weaknesses to address. Poor defense and a lack of clutch hitting plagued the team throughout all of 2020. Luckily, new owner Steve Cohen came in and promised to fix these issues. Jump ahead to today and there’s no question that the offseason spending spree has been massive, becoming one of the most eventful winters in team history. While there do remain some holes and questionable decisions, for the most part the position players acquired by the Mets look poised to put the team over the top in 2021.

Catcher

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The first major acquisition made by the team was signing catcher James McCann to a four-year, $40 million contract. This move came as a shock, as the Mets were expected to be frontrunners for top free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto. Ultimately, the team decided that waiting on Realmuto and getting into a prolonged bidding war with other teams wasn’t worth it when they had so many other moves to make.

Enter McCann, the consensus second best free agent catcher and significant upgrade over Wilson Ramos. He is coming off the two best seasons of his career, slashing .276/.334/.474 with a 114 OPS+ and 25 homeruns from 2019-2020. Defensively, he’s also been much better as of late. Since 2019 he’s put up 10 DRS and finished in the 88th percentile in pitch framing in 2020. The only real concern here is that McCann was flat out awful in his first five seasons. In that time, he was one of the all-around worst catchers in the league, especially when it came to framing. If he can continue to produce like he has recently, however, then none of this should be a concern. If he doesn’t, well at least he’ll be better than Ramos.

Infield

Francisco Lindor. Enough said.

In all seriousness, the blockbuster trade the Mets made for Lindor in January has the potential to shape this franchise for years to come. Arguably the best shortstop in the league, Lindor is a gamechanger with a bat and a glove. He might be the best shortstop the Mets have ever had, and he hasn’t even played a game yet. While 2020 was something of a down year for Lindor, he still produced an above average 102 OPS+. If the four-time All-Star can return to his usual level of production and turn in another MVP-worthy season, his talent alone could carry the Mets into the postseason. Plus, if the Mets extend him through the next decade, they might just secure themselves their next Hall of Famer.

Beyond Lindor, the team also made a series of important depth signings all over the infield. Jose Martinez will look the break camp as the team’s third first basemen. While the veteran has struggled since a strong first couple of seasons, a good spring could convince the Mets to carry him on the 26-man roster. While he’s also spent half of his career in the outfield, that area is pretty packed as of now and his defense there has been atrocious so don’t expect to see Martinez catching any fly balls.

Similarly, veterans Jonathan Villar, Jose Peraza and Brandon Drury are all in the same boat as Martinez. Each will compete to see some time at second, third, short, and possibly the outfield this year. Villar will probably be on the opening day roster on account of his major league contract, while the other two are non-roster invitees fighting for a roster spot. Though none of them should be anything more than bench players, they all have enough upside and versatility to make a somewhat meaningful contribution in 2021.

Outfield

Unfortunately, the outfield is the one place the Mets arguably didn’t do enough this offseason. While center field was one of the biggest concerns for the Mets, the team hasn’t changed things there too drastically. This can likely be chalked up to the lack of a designated hitter in the national league in 2021. With the defensively inept duo of Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith being too valuable offensively to relegate to the bench, the Mets  had their hands somewhat tied.

That’s not to say the team made no moves at all. Albert Almora and Kevin Pillar both look to be valuable bench players/defensive substitutions. The two righties will likely see most, if not all of their time come in center field. While a platoon with Nimmo is possible, both may prove too ineffective at the plate to justify the playing time.

Pillar makes a diving catch with the Blue Jays. (Image Courtesy of Sportsnet)

That said, both have the potential to breakout offensively. Almora is just 26 and a former top prospect. He was mostly acceptable in his first two seasons, slashing .292/.330/.448 with a 100 OPS+ from 2016-17. Likewise, Pillar is coming off the best season of his career where he slashed .288/.336/.462 with a 107 OPS+. Even if neither of them turns the corner with the bat, their defensive value is enough to give the Mets one of the deeper outfields in the league.

Missed Opportunities

In addition to not signing Realmuto, there are a few other omissions this offseason. Not signing top center field free agent George Springer is probably the biggest miss for the Mets. A seemingly perfect match for a team in need of a center fielder who could hit and field, the Mets did offer him a $120 million contract, but were promptly outbid by the Toronto Blue Jays and their $150 million offer.

The second best available center fielder, Jackie Bradley Jr., is also a surprising exclusion from the Mets. Though he hasn’t actually signed yet, the defensive wizard was reportedly on the Mets’ radar for most of the winter. As mentioned before, however, the lack of a DH this year, coupled with JBJ’s less than stellar bat likely played a role in the team pursuing backups like Almora and Pillar instead.

Lastly, there were several high profile third basemen available to the Mets this year. Chief among them was Colorado Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado. Easily the best third baseman in the game since his 2013 debut, Arenado ended up being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for peanuts, with the Rockies even eating a large chunk of his monstrous contract. Had the Mets gone after him, it likely would have made them instant World Series favorites. To a lesser extent, Kris Bryant and Kyle Seager were both available as well. While not as impressive as Arenado, both would have been offensive and defensive upgrades over Davis.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, these misses don’t detract from the fact that this was possibly the best offseason in team history. Honestly, Lindor alone makes the whole thing a success. Everything else is just gravy. If the Mets do end up extending Lindor (or Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard) long-term, then the decision to not pursue guys like Realmuto, Springer and Arenado will be a total afterthought. In the end, when combining all these moves with their massive pitching haul, the Mets look primed to make a serious run at the division crown this year.

Featured Image Courtesy of Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

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