How can the Mets address their lineup problems in 2024?
A look at a couple of DH and outfield options that fit for the Mets
What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
Bartolo Colón and Robinson Canó headline the Baseball United showcase which is centered around an effort to drum up interest in baseball in the Middle East (Baseball United)
Ron Hodges, a member of the 1973 NL Champion Mets, passed away this week at the age of 74 (Mets)
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What about the Mets offense? ✍️
All the talk in recent weeks has centered around the Mets pitching staff, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and how the Mets can restore credibility to the starting rotation specifically.
There’s no question the rotation and the bullpen have to be David Stearns top priority and as Justin wrote yesterday, Yamamoto is an essential starting point for both their short and long-term goals.
But we really haven’t discussed what the Mets needs are offensively. I think it’s easy to cherry pick one player or another and debate whether or not there’s a fit. However, the Mets have a general need that spans beyond addressing this position or that, or improving their defense in one position or another.
The Mets in 2023 had an athleticism problem. They had a roster that was not equipped to adjust to a game which had adjusted beyond their skillset, that which included speed and agility on both sides of the ball. The poster boy for all of these problems was Daniel Vogelbach, a one-dimensional player in an evolved game that simply didn’t support players of his ilk. From the very beginning Max Scherzer regularly complained about the pitch clock, which spoke to the club’s agility and inability to adjust to the speed of the game, perhaps more than the rules itself.
Now, Rome wasn’t built in a day, there’s a lot of dead money being paid in 2024 to players and their now former manager, and while the 40-man roster is down to 28 players, there is still around $230-240 million on the books in total.
In other words, the Mets need to attack the low hanging fruit, that which is their pitching staff which is in need of 2-3 starting pitchers plus depth and more or less 3-4 multi-faceted relievers.
That means the offense could look more or less the same plus a couple of parts.
What could those parts look like?
Well, before I get into that, lets talk about third base.
According to FanGraphs, the Mets produced -1.3 fWAR at third. They were the only team with a negative fWAR in the NL at the position and it was by far the worst in the NL. We know the story there - the Mets traded away a non-productive Eduardo Escobar, gave the job the Brett Baty who struggled there on both sides of the ball to a concerning degree, they looked at Mark Vientos there who didn’t show much progression, and so the merry-go-round of bad went around from game 1 through 162 at the position.
So, what do they do from here?
My assumption is, not very much unless a cost-efficient opportunity which doesn’t include dealing prospects. Given the state of the Mets and the amount of resources required to improve the pitching staff, they might as well extend the opportunity to Baty and Vientos again. They will need to be patient, but they will also need to see Baty not just improve, but mature and show he can handle this pressure cooker he’s been thrusted into. It’s probably not the worst thing in the world, either, as the club has a lot invested in Baty in particular and they need to exhaust him as an option.
But, the clock has to now be ticking on Baty, especially with Vientos showing some maturity at the plate late in the year and Ronny Mauricio breathing down both of their backs all year long.
Speaking of Mauricio, I think a lot of what the Mets do offensively hinges on what they think of this kid.
He played 26 big games in September and showed flashes of his prospect-ability. He has power, he has speed, he’s a switch hitter with a big frame.
But he also really doesn’t have a position on the field, which has been his story for a few years now.
Unless Francisco Lindor gets hurt, Mauricio isn’t playing shortstop. But I do wonder if they’ll give him a chance to show his stuff at second base in camp, and let Jeff McNeil patrol left field full-time if that works out. All the Mets need is for Mauricio to be a competent second baseman at a minimum. If he can get comfortable enough there and his bat continues to mature, the Mets may have themselves another prize among their graduated prospects (the other being Francisco Álvarez).
Let’s assume this is the case, since it’s November and we really don’t know what’s going to happen anyway.
That means the Mets still need a corner outfielder since they can’t depend on Starling Marte being a full-time player right now, and a designated hitter.
Well, Shohei Ohtani is that obvious designated hitter, right? The Mets certainly have the Benjamin’s to outbid any of the competition, but it doesn’t seem like this is the mutual fit we once envisioned when it became clear Ohtani was definitely walking from Anaheim.
It could still work out of course, but realistically, the Mets probably need to consider shorter-term options for the roster spot. The four alternatives that stand out to me are:
The better fits are Turner and Martínez. For Turner, it would be a homecoming and his career coming full circle. He is still a productive player, is a positive influence, he can cycle in at third base as-needed, especially with so much uncertainty there among the incumbents, and he knows New York.
Martínez is coming off a big bounce back year in LA, is a little younger and therefore may come at a little higher cost than Turner. But he’s a prototypical DH who would serve strictly in that role as long as he’s healthy. He did miss more than a month in 2023 with a groin injury, but he still produced 103 RBI in just 113 games in 2023. He would unquestionably serve as quality protection behind Pete Alonso, that which he simply did not have in 2023.
Note - there are other options!
As for corner outfielders, there are a few options for the Mets to consider. Here are the standouts among free agents:
I put Kiermaier on this list because his defense is always hard to ignore, and his ability to improve the club in the run prevention category would vastly improve the club, with anything he provides offensively serving as a bonus. The Mets would likely have to shift Brandon Nimmo to a corner outfield spot for this to work, which might be a two-pronged improvement for the club if they went this route. It makes logistical sense for the Mets considering McNeil is more of a utility outfielder and as I said before, who knows what Starling Marte can provide them going forward.
Hernandez would give them a more well-rounded upgrade on both sides of the ball. He’s a consistent extra-base, middle-of-the-order threat and a plus defender in right field, serving as an ideal candidate to solve the club’s equation in the outfield. He’s mostly a right fielder although he can play left and also slot into the DH spot as well. The question is, would he play left field if Marte is able to be a regular? That’s not a question for me.
Note - there are other options!
All of this will start to take some sort of shape in the coming weeks. The Winter Meetings are just over a week away, and that’s where the magic happens in baseball.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Rangers are hoping to retain Jordan Montgomery this winter (New York Post)
The Twins are still hoping to retain Kenta Maeda (New York Post)
Former Met Noah Syndergaard is garnering interest as a bounce back candidate (FanSided)