Mets pursuing an outfielder not named Brandon Nimmo, but Nimmo should be their target
The Mets are in on Andrew Benintendi's market and are searching for more starting pitching after inking Justin Verlander to a two-year deal
What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
The Mets agreed to sign future hall of famer Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86 million contract (story)
The Mets are pursuing OF Andrew Benintendi in free agency (New York Post), although the Yankees are concerned Benintendi wasn’t enamored with New York in 2022 (Star Ledger)
The Mets, Cubs and Orioles are, “among the teams to watch” in the Jameson Taillon market (MLB.com)
Carlos Rodón has been looking to sign a six-year contract in excess of $30 million per year (New York Post)
The Yankees have kept tabs on Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto, but haven’t gained traction in either of their free agencies (Star Ledger)
Where would the Mets go without Brandon Nimmo?✍🏻
The Mets still have plenty of work to do on their pitching staff. They certainly need one more starter after reportedly signing Justin Verlander to a two-year contract, and arguably two depending on one’s opinion on David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and any other depth signings the Mets might make for the back of the rotation.
Then there’s the bullpen, which is always an adventure for the Mets.
But we are starting to contemplate a world where the Mets don’t retain Brandon Nimmo right now, simply because the Mets have clearly been prioritizing their starting rotation above anything else lately.
This is not at all meant to suggest the Mets will or won’t sign Nimmo back to a long-term deal (they should’ve thought about a long-term extension a couple of years ago, for what it’s worth). But it’s important to consider the consequences of Nimmo potentially signing elsewhere, something we really haven’t talked a lot about here over the early part of the off-season:
Who would be playing center field if Nimmo departs?
There’s a lot of chatter the Mets are fully prepared to either move Starling Marte back to his original position there, or come up with a system in which Marte shares the position with perhaps Mark Canha.
Having Marte in center field on a full-time basis - in his age-34 season and beyond - is less than ideal. The wear and tear of the position is tough enough for players in their prime. And remember - they signed Marte and immediately moved him to right field, allowing Nimmo to not only have the position full-time, but flourish in it at that.
It’s also worth mentioning Marte is coming off core muscle surgery, further complicating a move back to center field at this stage of his career.
Marte and Canha are most definitely fine there on occasion, and maybe they can shuttle them back and forth from a corner spot, but it’s hard to see that formula working out well on a regular basis.
Who would hit leadoff for the Mets?
Simply put, the Mets don’t really have anyone who fits the mold. Folks have suggested Jeff McNeil would slot into that role, but he swings at a lot of first pitch strikes, so he really doesn’t profile as such. Canha actually profiles better as a leadoff hitter if for no other reason that he sees so many pitches in his plate appearances. Personally, I’d rather see him get reps in the two-spot in the lineup, whether Nimmo is a Met or not.
For context, McNeil saw 3.51 pitches per plate appearance in 2022, the lowest rate among qualified hitters on the Mets roster in 2022.
Who had the most? Nimmo at 4.13 pitches per plate appearance. Canha was second at 4.1.
Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (link is above), the Mets have begun a pursuit of 28-year-old free agent OF Andrew Benintendi. He had a very good year in 2022 although he struggled after he was acquired by the Yankees at the trade deadline, posting 3.2 bWAR while hitting .304/.373/.399 with 23 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 51 RBI with the Royals and Yankees. He excelled against right-handed pitchers to the tune of .318/.428/.812 while he was less effective against southpaws at .269/.347/.328.
From my seat, he profiles as a right-handed version of Canha, although Canha had reverse splits in 2022 and generally struggled against left-handed pitching (as was the case with most of the Mets this past season). Benintendi would certainly serve as an upgrade to Tyler Naquin in that utility outfield role, and would be a more athletic player to Daniel Vogelbach, who the Mets could try and trade if they sign Benintendi or another player of his ilk.
But Benintendi is certainly not the answer to either of the aforementioned problems Nimmo’s departure would create. He would just another corner outfielder (albeit, a good one defensively) on a roster full of corner outfielders and no center fielder. They would still need to find a center fielder and they would still need to find a capable leadoff hitter. Perhaps they could sign Kevin Kiermaier, a three-time gold glove award winner who was let go by the Rays after the 2022 season. But his offense profiles as below average and with the Mets needing to generate more offense from their catchers and designated hitters, they’d be hard pressed to take on a third question mark in their lineup.
They could pursue a trade for Bryan Reynolds, a star hitter with the Pirates who has reportedly requested a trade, but an offense-first center fielder who probably profiles more as a corner outfielder long-term. However, the Mets have shown a recent reluctance to trade their key prospects, and for fair reasons (although at some point, risk is a part of the game, right?). Reynolds won’t be a free agent until 2026, so the pieces necessary to swing a deal could be too big of a pill for the Mets to swallow right now.
They could also sign Aaron Judge. But, well, you know…
The easy answer to all of this is to simply re-sign Nimmo.
Hot Stove 🔥
Former Met and Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello has announced his retirement from baseball
The Phillies and Trea Turner are in agreement on an 11-year, $300 million contract (ESPN)
The Dodgers announced they officially signed Clayton Kershaw to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $20 million (MLB.com)
The Yankees announced they signed GM Brian Cashman to a new, four-year contract
The Twins intend to meet again with Scott Boras regarding Carlos Correa (SKOR North Radio)
The Cubs, Astros, Cardinals, Padres, Guardians and Twins are all possible destinations for Christian Vázquez (Athletic)
The Astros have their eye on three left-handed hitters - Andrew Benintendi, Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto (Athletic)
It's a bit of a mystery why the Metsecutives decided to take Jake Mangum off the 40-man and allow him to be in the Rule 5 draft pool. Magnum has tools and has done well in his ascent through the system. Hard to imagine why he has not been a top-30 prospect. Nonetheless, he plays great defense, has speed and rakes from both sides of the plate. Not sure about his arm. Seemed like the perfect low-cost 4th OF and potential replacement for Nimmo or others in the near future. Kiermaier is not the answer. In a division with the Braves and Phillies, there needs to be someone with offensive prowess patrolling CF. Would the Pirates take Mauricio, Vientos & Matt Allen for Bryan Reynolds? Not a bad haul. Reynolds more than meets the offensive criteria, although he's certainly not the defensive player Kiermaier is. Or what about Cedric Mullins for a package of prospects? None of these centerfielders are really leadoff material. Bienentendi is more of the leadoff type, but not really a CF. The answer seems to keep coming back to Nimmo and hope they retain Magnum for the 4th OF slot.