After an underwhelming 2021 season, the New York Mets are expected to be very active this offseason. While New York was strong in some areas last year, there were some glaring holes that need to be addressed.
In this blog, I will take a look at the five areas that I believe need to be dealt with the most this offseason. While the Mets have many staff and front office positions that need to be filled, I am strictly looking at on-the-field positions that should be addressed.
1. A Two Starter
The Mets have solid starting pitching depth going into 2022. Thankfully, ace Jacob deGrom is expected to be ready for Spring Training, after missing the entire second half due to a shoulder injury. He headlines a starting pitching staff that also includes Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, Tylor Megill, and David Peterson.
While these five starters are all viable rotation options, they clearly lack a number two starter. deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet, but there is a significant drop-off after him. Walker was an All-Star last season but struggled mightily in the second half.
The second half saw Marcus Stroman become the de facto ace for New York, as he had an incredible season. He led the league with 33 starts and had a 3.02 ERA over 179 innings pitched. This terrific season will be sure to attract a ton of attention to the 30-year-old this offseason, as he is now a free agent.
Bringing Stroman back would be a clear solution to fix these two starter issues going into 2022, as his success, leadership, and competitiveness have taken the hearts of countless Mets fans.
If New York is unable to retain Stroman, Kevin Gausman and Carlos Rodon are two other great options to plug into the top of the rotation. Gausman had a career year, posting a 2.81 ERA over 192 innings pitched for the San Francisco Giants. Rodon missed time last season due to injury, making just 24 starts. However, he had an incredible 2.37 ERA over 132.2 innings pitched, as well as a memorable no-hitter against Cleveland.
While there are other notable arms on the free-agent market, Stroman, Gausman, and Rodon are the three that stand out the most to me and seem the most attainable to fill that number two starter void.
2. Late-Inning Relievers
In 2021, the Mets bullpen was surely a strong point. While some of their relievers struggled in big spots throughout the season, it was great to see basically the entire bullpen staff stay healthy. As of now, the Mets bullpen staff going into next season includes Trevor Williams, Drew Smith, Miguel Castro, Trevor May, Seth Lugo, and Edwin Diaz. This is a formidable bullpen, but they need to bring in a couple of high-leverage relievers.
They also lack a left-handed reliever, which makes filling that void a necessity this offseason. Last season, lefty Aaron Loup was tremendous for New York, posting a 0.95 ERA over 65 appearances. He seems like the clear option to sign this offseason, and he has stated his desire to come back to Queens in 2022.
Luckily, the free-agent market is strong with viable late-inning relievers. Other top options for the Mets would be Andrew Chafin, Kendall Graveman, and Ryan Tepera. All three had good seasons in 2021 and would provide stability in New York’s bullpen. A possible reunion with Collin McHugh is another possibility, as he blossomed in his six seasons with the Houston Astros.
If the Mets could bring in a lefty in Loup or Chafin, and bring in one of the other three aforementioned relievers in Graveman, Tepera, or McHugh, the Mets’ bullpen would be in a good spot going into next season.
3. A Marquee Outfielder
Going into this offseason, it is clear that the Mets need to bring in a marquee free-agent outfielder. Currently, they only have two true outfielders in Brandon Nimmo and Dom Smith. While the Mets extended a qualifying offer to Michael Conforto, it is highly unlikely he will accept it.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Mets have shown interest in free-agent outfielder Starling Marte. In my opinion, he would be the best fit for New York. He’s coming off arguably the best season of his career in 2021, swiping 47 bases, and posting a .310/.383/.841 slash line in 120 games combined, between the Miami Marlins and Oakland A’s.
Another option to fill the outfield void is Kris Bryant. While it will certainly be costly to acquire Bryant, he is a former NL MVP winner and is coming off his fourth career All-Star Game selection, in 2021. If the Mets were to sign Marte, it is highly likely that Nimmo would slide to a corner outfield position, and Starling would become the centerfielder.
Bryant would likely become the Mets’ left fielder if he were to go to Flushing, and Nimmo would stay in center field. The Mets may also look to bring Bryant in to play third base, but in the long run, it is likely that Bryant will be an outfielder if they were to sign him.
Marte and Bryant seem like the two most clear options for the Mets this offseason, but it is possible that Conforto could come back on a multi-year deal. Other options for New York could include Nick Castellanos, Chris Taylor, Jorge Soler, and Eddie Rosario. However, I don’t foresee any of these four signings with the Mets this offseason.
It is also a possibility that the Mets just stick with what they already have, and keep Jeff McNeil in a corner outfield position. Regardless, it is clear that the Mets could use a big-name free-agent outfielder to excite the fan base, and Marte or Bryant would do the trick.
4. Third Baseman
Out of all the areas of need for the Mets this offseason, the hot corner presents arguably the most interesting situation. With the likely return of the second baseman Robinson Cano in 2022, it is possible that Jeff McNeil will slide over to third base full-time. This would surely be the case if the Mets bring Javy Baez back. However, the Mets still have JD Davis as an option for a third baseman. After an injury-ridden 2021 campaign and his history of being a poor defender, many analysts believe JD will be traded.
The Mets may look to test the free-agent market to fill this position, and there are a few options that I believe are possible. Veteran Kyle Seager will likely play for a new team, after spending 11 seasons in Seattle. While he only hit .212 in 2021, he hit 35 home runs and drove in 101 RBIs. It is possible he takes a short-term deal in Queens, as the Mets reportedly talked to the Mariners about Seager last offseason, as well as last season’s trade deadline.
In 2021, Jonathan Villar stepped up for the Mets in a big way down the stretch and held his own at the hot corner. In 142 games, he had 113 hits and 18 home runs. It is quite possible that they will bring back Villar, but I am not sure if both sides will be able to agree on the length of a contract. Eduardo Escobar is another possibility, as the 32-year-old is coming off his first All-Star Game selection last season.
As I stated before, third base is an interesting spot for the Mets. They have two top prospects in their minor league system in Mark Vientos and Brett Baty. Vientos split time in AA and AAA last season, and it is likely he could get called up at some point next year.
Baty is coming off a great 2021 season, as he played well in split time between high-A ball and AA. He was also selected last week to play in the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game and went 1-3 with a double. This dynamic of Vientos and Baty will likely prevent the Mets from signing a free agent third baseman long-term.
5. Second Baseman
Going into next season, Jeff McNeil and Robinson Cano are currently their two options to play second base. While both have had great success in prior seasons, there are significant question marks surrounding both players. McNeil is coming off a horrendous 2021 season, posting an abysmal .251/.319/.679 slash line and Cano was suspended all of last season, due to a violation of the MLB drug policy. With these concerns in mind, it is possible that neither player will be the Opening Day second baseman next season.
Though Javy Baez became an enemy of countless Mets fans because of the “thumbs-down” controversy last summer, he quickly won the hearts of the Flushing faithful with his incredible second-half. Over 47 games in Queens, he posted a .299/.371/.886 slash, and looked like 2018 NL MVP runner-up Javy Baez. His free-agent market will likely be large, as he is entering his age-29 season. Steve Cohen and the Mets must do all they can to bring Javy back, as he and Lindor provided a glimpse of how exciting that middle infield could be for years to come.
Marcus Semien is another big free agent name that comes to mind. He played in all 162 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last season and was named an AL MVP finalist. He slugged 45 home runs, drove in 102 RBIs, and posted a .873 OPS. Though it is a long shot that the Mets will sign Semien, it is more than likely that New York will be interested in Marcus. While he would be a terrific addition, Baez seems more attainable at this point in the offseason.