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Justin Verlander (and Sandy Alcantara) received their Cy Young awards—which inexplicably came with a typo (GameDayMLB)
Provided the club’s top five starting pitchers get through spring training healthy, David Peterson and Tylor Megill will likely head to AAA to remain stretched out as rotation depth (NY Post)
14 days until Mets pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie! ⚾️🌴
A look at the Mets biggest questions entering spring training ✍🏻
The Mets report to Port St. Lucie in two weeks to officially kickoff the 2023 campaign, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve reached the point in the off-season where it’s unlikely a dramatic shoe has yet to be dropped.
We more or less know what New York has as it heads south, and at least on paper this team should be every bit as good as the group that won 101 games last season. There aren’t a lot of jobs open on this roster assuming everyone stays healthy, either.
The question is whether or not they’ve done enough to push themselves past the first round of the playoffs—although it’s fair to say that answer will also be contingent upon the club doing more at the deadline than they did last summer.
From where I’m sitting right now though just days before the calendar flipping to February, here are the three most pressing talking points I see surrounding this Mets team.
1. What’s up with Darin Ruf?
Since Steve Cohen took the reins, the Mets have become a team that certainly has no issue with the whole addition by subtraction thing. The cases of Robinson Canó and James McCann come to mind immediately.
So what exactly is going on with Darin Ruf and why is he in the market for a winter rental in Port St. Lucie?
After coming to New York last summer to replace J.D. Davis as the Mets’ right handed DH, Ruf managed just 10 hits in 66 at-bats without a single home run, and he was unplayable down the stretch. New York projects to have right handed hitting Starling Marte and Mark Canha starting in the corner outfield positions, and of course, everyone’s favorite Polar Bear, Pete Alonso at first base. Throw in newcomer Tommy Pham as someone who can play outfield and DH and the Mets obviously have plenty of better right handed options than Ruf at all of the positions he can play. New York could cut him today and only have to eat $3 million, and considering they’ve swallowed significantly larger sums just to get nonperforming players off the team, I’m legitimately stunned Ruf is still occupying a roster spot.
2. What’s the plan with Francisco Álvarez?
This is going to be a daily topic that has the potential to dominate conversations throughout spring training, and to be completely frank, I’m not sure the Mets know the answer to this yet. Reading the tea leaves it would appear New York would like to start their uber prospect in the minor leagues working on his catching and furthering his knowledge on handling a pitching staff. Signing Omar Narváez to partner with Tomás Nido at the big league level and retaining Michael Pérez as organizational catching depth, while also bringing in Pham as a right handed DH option gives them that luxury.
But what happens if Álvarez has a monster spring both at the plate and behind it? The Mets have done a tremendous job of late in fielding the best team possible regardless of contracts or complications. If Álvarez proves he’s far and above the best catcher in camp in Port St. Lucie, I have to believe they’d adjust their initial thoughts accordingly.
3. Who’s the second lefty in the bullpen?
A year ago the Mets entered the regular season with the left handed relief duo of Joely Rodriguez and Chasen Shreve, and it’s fair to say that pair didn’t really work out. Shreve was cut midway through the season, and while Rodriguez was a likable Met who delivered some big outings (albeit infrequently), his consistency was an issue. He’s now in Boston and the Mets feel Brooks Raley, whom they acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, will be an improvement.
But in today’s game, having a second southpaw is imperative, especially in a highly competitive division loaded with dangerous left handed sluggers like Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Matt Olson. So the question is who is that guy, and is he currently on the roster? In house the Mets options are awfully thin. David Peterson pitched in relief a little bit last season, but he is a starter, and New York would be better served keeping him in Triple-A as the first man to be called up should a rotation need arise. Then there’s Joey Lucchesi who had moments as a Met in 2021 before undergoing Tommy John surgery, He too, though, is a natural starter, and after having not pitched in the big leagues in nearly two full years, I’d be of the opinion that having him in the minors as well to start the season would be beneficially. Beyond that, a minor league invite like T. J. McFarland could conceivably put themselves on the map. However, given what I’ve just outlined, it’s obvious why the Mets have been so linked to veteran free-agents Andrew Chafin and Zack Britton, and I would still not discount one of them winding up in Queens, eventually. They could also look to make a late spring trade as other teams look to trim their rosters down.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Phillies signed utility infielder Josh Harrison to a one year contract (Heyman)
The Yankees avoided arbitration with infielder Gleyber Torres (Sherman)
San Francisco added to their catching equation by bringing in veteran Roberto Perez (MassLive)