Mets showing interest in a lefty reliever, and where do the Mets go from here?
There are multiple right-handed bats still available in free agency along with several left-handed relievers who can help bolster their roster for 2023
What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
The Twins landed Carlos Correa on a six-year, $200 million guaranteed contract with escalators that can take it to ten years, $270 million (story)
The Mets are showing interest in signing LHP Zack Britton (New York Post)
What can the Mets do to bolster their roster now? ✍🏻
Before we get into what’s next for the Mets, it’s worth mentioning that despite losing out on what turned out to be the strangest free agency in the history of the sport, the Mets have already had one hell of an off-season to-date.
For all those spewing out those, “same ol’ Mets” claims and are outraged Steve Cohen got outbid by the middle-market Twins (that’s not what this ultimately came down to), and believe the Mets aren’t all-in and are punting the 2023 season, let me remind you of the following:
They offered Carlos Correa a 12 year, $315 million contract pending a physical. He failed that physical, just as he did in San Francisco
While they didn’t retain Jacob deGrom (he made it clear in the end he didn’t want to stay in New York), they replaced him with Justin Verlander
They now have the two highest salaries in the sport on their roster
They gave the biggest contract in MLB history to a reliever when they retained Edwin Díaz
They took a leap of faith on Kodai Senga and signed José Quintana, replacing Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt with less expensive and equal, if not potentially better alternatives
They have retained Adam Ottavino and brought in David Robertston
Do they have flaws? Absolutely. Do they have work to do? Absolutely.
Do you really think they’re done?
So, we are here today to end the wallowing and this amazing self pity some folks have over losing out to the Twins in the Correa derby and to start looking forward. They still need a bat, they still need a reliever. These are available to them through a couple of avenues.
Before I go down those rabbit holes though, it’s worth mentioning the Mets reportedly signed Tim Locastro to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp. This has the potential to be a very under-the-radar good move for the Mets, as he addresses two things the Mets didn’t do particularly well offensively in 2022:
He is one of the fastest people in the game
With that speed, he is an above average baserunner
Of course, Locastro is not a primary piece, but if he makes the club he adds an element to the roster they sorely need depth-wise in their outfield.
So, back to our primary topic - where do the Mets go from here? The top tier in free agency is off the shelf now, so the Mets will be forced to look in the middle to bottom tiers to fill their needs in that marketplace.
We spoke about Adam Duvall yesterday and how his right-handed power bat could have big upside for them if the price is right. He is represented by CAA Sports so the Mets could get a tiny break from the Boras Corporation there and try to work out incentive-laden deal here.
There’s also Andrew McCutchen, who has more or less produced a league average OPS+ over the last few years and saw his power dip overall in 2022 during his age-35 season. He may profile more as a designated hitter now but he’s still capable of playing occasionally in all three outfield positions, and if used in a, “less is more” situation could be very valuable to a roster as his career winds down.
Trey Mancini is another free agent the Mets could consider. Aside from his inspirational story, he’s still just 30 years old and while he struggled after his trade to the Astros last season which in-turn watered down his final line in 2022, he did produce a 113 OPS+ in 92 games with the Orioles before the deal. He’s capable as a corner outfielder as well as his natural position at first base, but it remains to be seen if Mancini is still looking for a starting role out there, that which he wouldn’t be able to find out of the gate with the Mets.
Then there’s always the trade market for the Mets to explore, but we should probably table that conversation for the trade deadline and whether or not players like Shohei Ohtani and Manny Machado are available. They continue to show almost no willingness to move their prized prospects right now, and nor should they since there probably isn’t anyone available worth taking that leap of faith for. Even in July, it’s hard for me to see the Mets moving big prospects for players who can become free agents and players who the Mets are clearly well positioned to sign and pay only cash currency for, but it’s all about the needs of the roster at that time and where all of the stakeholders are in their respective races come July.
That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, of course. Especially after they unquestionably fumbled last year’s trade deadline (they can defend their strategy all they want - it was a miss).
They’re going to need to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time, and by that I mean be players in the trade market, protect the prospects needing protection, and attempt to win championships all at the same time.
But for the moment anyway, their stance on their big prospects will keep them out of the Bryan Reynolds game this winter, so that’s probably not a conversation worth having.
On the bullpen side, the Mets still need to fill out the middle innings and play the matchup game a little better. They will have you know David Robertston’s cutter is brutal on left-handed hitters, and that along with Brooks Raley can be the matchup formula they need.
But I always remind myself of what the Braves do down in the bullpen. They can throw one left-handed reliever after the next and it always neutralizes the Mets, as it is designed to do. So in turn, the Mets should consider bringing in a big left-handed reliever themselves. There’s Andrew Chafin, Zack Britton, Brad Hand, Matt Moore, and now Will Smith still available. You can read about some of those options in our December 18 newsletter here.
As for Smith, he had a rough go of it with Atlanta before he was traded to the Astros last summer, mostly due to his 5.1 walks-per-nine innings and a small uptick in home runs allowed. But his command returned when he landed in Houston and things were better down the stretch for him, as he pitched to a 3.27 ERA with 24 strikeouts against only four walks in 22 innings. He still struggled against right-handed hitters in Houston and wasn’t particularly great against them before the trade either and overall, right-handed hitters had an .854 OPS against him versus a .637 OPS from left-handed hitters in 2022. But he still has an excellent slider which led him to an elite chase rate last season, so there is upside for anyone who inks Smith and there’s definitely projected value if used properly.
The point of all of this is, there’s work for the Mets to do and plenty of free agent options available to them to fill their needs. Correa was an unfortunate miss for them, it’s disappointing and deflates an otherwise successful off-season for them. But there are pieces still out there that can help complete their championship puzzle - they just need to find the right combination.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Red Sox announced Trevor Story underwent a modified Tommy John Surgery on his elbow - there is no timetable yet for his return (Boston Globe)
Don Mattingly has been named an adviser to the Nashville Stars Group, an organization formed for the possibility of expansion in Major League Baseball (official release)