Taijuan Walker still hopes to be ready for opening day, Mets add bullpen depth, and Jeff McNeil's renewed opportunity
Taijuan Walker (knee) and Carlos Carrasco (minor elbow surgery) are throwing bullpens at camp
What’s Up with the Mets? 🌴
RHP Taijuan Walker is a week or two behind the other starting pitchers after undergoing minor knee surgery in January. He could still be ready for Opening Day but told reporters he didn’t want to put a timetable on his status.
RHP Carlos Carrasco’s fastball has been clocked at 92 mph at camp, which he believes puts him ahead of schedule. He underwent off-season surgery to remove bone fragments from his right elbow.
The Mets added to their bullpen depth on Tuesday, signing LHP Mike Montgomery to a minor league contract (FanSided)
RHP Jake Reed - who is looking to win a spot in the Mets bullpen out of camp - is dealing with an oblique strain.
Mets manager Buck Showalter told reporters on Tuesday Jeff McNeil will be the club’s primary second baseman.
The Mets are comfortable with their in-house options, which is why they are not currently pursuing additional lineup pieces (SNY)
Having faith in a Jeff McNeil rebound 📝
It was a rough year in 2021 for Jeff McNeil. In more ways than one.
Aside from underperforming his career line (.251/.319/.360, 1.7 bWAR) and his emotions were on full display on the field at times (this has always been a work-in-progress for him and something the club has endeavored to improve), McNeil was involved in an in-game skirmish in the tunnel leading from the dugout to the clubhouse with teammate Francisco Lindor during the season.
In addition, McNeil suffered through a hamstring injury which sidelined him for five weeks in May and June, unquestionably contributing to his sagging offense and helped to compile several reasons why the Mets were reportedly shopping him in trades both before and after the lockout.
Indeed, it was a season to forget for McNeil.
But there’s reason to hope and expect McNeil will enjoy a rebound season in 2022, assuming he can keep his legs health for a full season.
In a report for Sports Illustrated, Pat Ragazzo said McNeil would often tinker with his swing and mechanics in an effort to break out of his season-long slump, but intends to keep to a simpler approach throughout the ebbs and flows of a season.
McNeil is just looking for a fresh start, putting both the trade buzz and the poor season behind him.
"I just kind of put it behind me," McNeil explained to Ragazzo. "(I) came into spring training with a fresh mind and feeling good. I'm in a positive place."
Indeed, hope springs eternal for all players this time of year, and even a progressive spring for McNeil won’t guarantee a return to form for him when the bell rings on April 7. But what McNeil does have going for him if he expects a rebound is a track record - his .319/.383/.501 line and 9.8 bWAR between 2018-2020 is hard to ignore and certainly suggests that at age-29, he can produce somewhere in-between his 2021 low and 2018-highs at worst, or return to that elite level, if not exceed it at-best.
In addition to his track record, the Mets have endeavored to not only deepen and lengthen their starting lineup, but transform the culture from within by adding quality clubhouse pieces in Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte specifically and a more assertive dugout staff led by Buck Showalter. That can help keep McNeil in strength when he struggles, something which was clearly not in place the way it needed to be in 2021.
All of that said, it’s a big year for McNeil. He’s getting a renewed opportunity to prove he can be that elite player, and while that history demonstrates that potential, the Mets have a variety of options and pieces to maneuver around the diamond if he does struggle, especially out of the gate. And that renewed opportunity could be lost.
Keeping his head straight will be his primary key.
Hot Stove 🔥
1B Anthony Rizzo will join the Yankees on a two-year, $32 million deal (USA Today)
The Phillies will sign OF Kyle Schwarber (Heyman)
Yankees INF Luke Voit expects to be traded with the club bringing Rizzo back (Daily News)
The Blue Jays and A’s are finalizing a trade that will send 3B Matt Chapman to Toronto (MLB.com)
The A’s are also discussing a deal involving LHP Sean Manaea with the White Sox (Heyman)
Japanese free agent Seiya Suzuki has agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract with the Cubs (ESPN)
The Braves announced they extended the contract of newly acquired 1B Matt Olson, signing him to an eight-year, $160 million deal.
The Braves also announced they had a deal to bring in former Met RHP Collin McHugh.
INF Brad Miller will join the Rangers, although terms of his deal are not known (MLB Drops)
Former Met INF/OF José Martínez will play for the Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League in 2022. He missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury after colliding with an umpire in a Grapefruit League game last spring.