Billy Eppler's deal with the Mets could be official by Friday, and a free agent who has skillsets the Mets need
The Mets are progressing on a contract with their new GM. Plus, a look at the outfielder the club could desperately use.
What’s Up with the Mets? 💭
Eppler’s deal with the Mets could be made official by Friday (Newsday)
Jacob DeGrom received one fifth place vote in the 2021 National League Cy Young Award balloting.
Michael Conforto officially declined the $18.4 million qualifying offer - the Mets will receive a compensation pick in the 2022 June amateur draft should he sign with another club.
Noah Syndergaard thanked Met fans by video after his deal with the Angels became official (Instagram)
Starling Marte’s athleticism is a badly needed asset for the Mets roster, for now 📝
It’s easy to look at the Mets’ depth chart and point fingers at areas of need. They need outfielders, they need a lot of starting pitching, they need relief pitching, they need a third baseman, and they need to figure out what to do with their roster albatrosses.
But the Mets need more than to simply buy players to fill these holes. They need to buy skillsets, athleticism, and both balance and flexibility to their roster, which in-turn will allow them to buy wins.
One player who possesses athleticism and can provide said balance and flexibility to their roster is free agent CF Starling Marte.
Marte, 33, is a two-time gold glove award winner who began the 2021 season with the Marlins before he was traded to the A’s ahead of the trade deadline in July. Marte posted a combined 4.7 bWAR while slashing a .310/.383/.458 line between the two clubs with a 132 OPS+ overall.
Marte produced a .762 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2021, in-line with his lifetime mark.
But it’s Marte’s speed and base running which could offer the greatest value for the Mets with his presence in the lineup.
He has swiped 296 bases over the course of his career with a 77.9% success rate. He is also a quality baserunner, producing 43.5 FanGraphs BsR over the course of his career with a league-high 47 stolen bases and 12.3 BsR in 2021.
That’s not at all to say Marte’s baserunning skills will age well, especially during a long-term contract as he enters his age-33 season. The good news is, he isn’t among the fastest in the league right now yet he still managed to lead the league in stolen bases and produce a 90.3% success rate in 2021, demonstrating his awareness on the bases matters more than his overall speed.
Make no mistake - Marte is far from the perfect player, and shouldn’t be considered a centerpiece of the design of their roster. He is still primarily a centerfielder although he had -4 DRS at that position in 2021. At 33-years-old, there’s a legitimate question of whether or not he can remain in centerfield on a regular basis over the next few years.
Still, signing Marte could allow Brandon Nimmo to shift to a corner outfield spot where he could prove more valuable, stay fresher and potentially healthier over the course of the season. Marte could conceivably play a year in centerfield and then shift to a corner outfield spot in subsequent years, especially if he demonstrates further decline at the position.
The Mets could always rotate Nimmo and Marte in and out of centerfield too to limit their exposure at the position too.
MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicts Marte will sign a four-year, $80 million contract. The Mets are among several teams - including the Yankees and Phillies - to show early interest in Marte this winter, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, and is the only real everyday free agent centerfielder available. So, this is far from a slam dunk for the Mets. The back-end of that deal might not be pretty either and he could very well be a role player at that point as well.
In a way, Marte is a reminder of Curtis Granderson when he signed at the same age with the Mets, albeit as a corner outfielder and not an everyday centerfielder. They had to figure out how to maximize what he was at the end of his deal, which might be what Marte’s next team will have to figure out with him.
But for now, Marte’s athleticism and baserunning prowess - a skillset which this club has sorely lacked for a long time - would provide much-needed balance in the middle of the order, and go a long way for a Mets roster that struggled to get on-base and score runs in 2021.
Hot Stove 🔥
Brandon Belt was the only player in MLB to accept the $18.4 million qualifying offer - the remaining 13 players declined.
Justin Verlander agreed to sign a two-year, $50 million deal to return to the Astros with an opt-out after 2022 (multiple reports)
Longtime Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman is leaning towards playing in 2022 (Federal Baseball)
The Mariners - who are expected to be big spenders this winter - have an eye on free agent SS Trevor Story, and could have interest in marquee names from the A’s including Matt Chapman and potentially Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt (Seattle Times)
The Astros’ cheating scandal will not impact a potential pursuit by the Yankees of start shortstop Carlos Correa (NY Post)
Prospect Watch ⚾
Yesterday’s stats in the Arizona Fall & Dominican Winter Leagues
Brett Baty (3B, No. 2 prospect): 1-for-3
Hayden Singer (C, No. 21 prospect): 0-for-2, BB
Wilmer Reyes (2B, unranked): 1-for-3, HR