Having missed out on signing Trevor Bauer, the next course of action for the New York Mets seems unclear. While the team still has a few needs, many of the top players have already been claimed. Luckily, that doesn’t mean there aren’t several viable pieces on the market that could upgrade the team.
At the moment, the starting rotation is mostly set. Jacob deGrom fronts things, followed by Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman and eventually Noah Syndergaard. For now, there are two courses of action the team could take.
The first would be going after another mid-rotation guy. Roughly one step below Bauer, this category includes Sonny Gray, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Rich Hill. Gray and Odorizzi are probably the best of this bunch. As such they will likely be the only ones to command a salary north of $10 million. Gray will also need to be traded for, something the Mets may not have the capital to do. Odorizzi, meanwhile, is coming off a down year plagued by injury, making his long-term prospects a mystery. Indeed all of these guys have struggled with injuries throughout their careers, making each one a high-risk, high-reward option. That said,, if the goal is use them as a bridge until Syndergaard returns from Tommy John and then transfer them to the bullpen, then injuries might not be that big a concern.
On the other hand, if the Mets really wanted to play things safe, they could continue to add cheaper, relatively unknown depth options. Think recent acquisitions Jordan Yamamoto and Joey Lucchesi. These pitchers profile as solid back-end starters that will compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training. Going this route gives the Mets increased flexibility in number of ways. First, these guys come extremely cheap, allowing the Mets to spend more money elsewhere. Second, if they miss out on the starter role, they should be more than useful as effective bullpen pieces, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Third, assuming they have some minor league options left, they will make the perfect emergency starters while otherwise remaining stretched out in AAA.
Regardless of what starting pitching moves the Mets make, the team should have enough money to fill some other holes as well. Center field is the team’s greatest need, what with Brandon Nimmo‘s subpar defense costing the team valuable runs. While George Springer was the top choice, with him off the market the Mets actually have more diverse options to choose from now.
Like with the pitchers, Sandy Alderson has two paths ahead of him. One would be to go after the best remaining center fielder: Jackie Bradley Jr. While his bat is the definition of streaky, he is coming off a career year offensively. Furthermore, with the offense already being bolstered through new arrivals James McCann and Francisco Lindor, JBJ’s bat shouldn’t be too worrying. Besides, the main reason the team is looking for a center fielder in the first place is to improve the defense. JBJ does just that. The Gold Glover has spent most of his career as one of the top-five best defensive center fielders in baseball. His glove would easily be the best the Mets have had since Juan Lagares‘ 2014 Gold Glove season.
Of course, word is that JBJ is looking for a contract longer than four years and worth over $40 million. The Mets may feel such a deal isn’t worth it. In this case, Alderson may feel it more prudent to repeat what the team has done in the past and find a cheaper, right-handed platoon bat to compliment Nimmo instead. Last year this came in the form of Jake Marisnick, who remains unsigned and could be brought back on the low. Kevin Pillar, Michael A. Taylor and Albert Almora also fit into this category. Each one, like Marisnick, a low-cost, plus defender with a below average bat.
Just like the other two positions, the top third basemen-Nolan Arenado-has already been scooped up. The best remaining options here would be Kris Bryant and Kyle Seager. While both would need to be traded for, the asking price won’t be anywhere near that of Arenado or even Gray. Likewise, both would be due a little under $20 million in 2021, giving the Mets some, but not a lot, of cap flexibility. Sure, the argument could be made that both of these guy’s careers are heading in the wrong direction, but that doesn’t change the fact that both would be an upgrade over J.D. Davis.
Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP, while not be the best defender, nevertheless has a good bat. Even though 2020 was a down year for him offensively, Bryant has more than proved in years past that he is a great hitter, slashing .284/.385/.516 with 138 homeruns from 2015-2019. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Seager, who brings a Gold Glove but only slightly above average offense. Granted, his best offensive years easily best Davis’ breakout 2019 season. At 32-years-old, Seager can still clear 20 homeruns with ease and has performed well in the clutch.
The key takeaway here is that missing out on Bauer is not the end of the world for the Mets. There remain plenty of ways New York can further elevate what is already a solid playoff roster.
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