The Mets used the winter meetings and the days that followed to reorganize the pitching staff and shore up the outfield. The club’s projected wage bill will be around $350 million and, with luxury tax penalties, it will exceed $400 million.
But the Mets aren’t done yet. They can’t stop now given the lack of depth in the outfield, and there’s still a case to be made for adding another home run hitter to the roster.
The return of Brandon Nimmo solved the center field problem, but the Mets still have only three outfielders under contract for next season. Jeff McNeil might be considered the fourth, but he’s an infielder first and foremost. This leaves no room for error or injury.
The club had hoped Jake Mangum would compete for that fifth outfield spot in spring training after being traded in the Rule 5 draft last week, but shortly after the draft was completed he was sent to the Miami Marlins as a player to be. later commercially named Jeff Brigham-Elieser Hernandez.
The Mets could kill two birds with one stone by bringing in a powerful outfielder. However, they’re much more likely to bring in a defensive outfielder and tackle the inside power with top prospect Francisco Alvarez.
After the season ended, general manager Billy Eppler kind of took issue with whether or not the Mets needed more power in the lineup. It’s clear he considers on-base percentage a priority and noted the club’s strong on-base numbers in 2022. The Mets had the second-highest on-base percentage in the league last season (.332), second only to the 111 victories. Los Angeles Dodgers and the sixth highest OPS (.744).
But the lineup has only hit 117 home runs, tied for 15th with the Baltimore Orioles. Statistics have shown that the teams that hit the most home runs tend to do best in the playoffs.
Asked about the lack of home runs during the Winter Meetings, Eppler continued to insist on offensive balance.
“If the overall production is there, that’s what ultimately matters,” Eppler said last week in San Diego. “You can place arguments, should you try to hit the three-pointer? I prefer ways to beat teams, whether you beat them by contact, maybe you beat them by a basic speed and running element, or you can beat them by power. I like to kind of serve all of those if possible and really create a balance because you never know who you’re going to be up against on a particular day and the venues you’re going to play in can change.
“Sometimes certain features can be improved in certain sites or they can be toned down in certain sites. I think balance is kind of the way I like to travel the most.
Whether it’s balance or power, the Mets have options.
They could sign free agent slugger JD Martinez. Having not played in the outfield at all in 2022, the 35-year-old Martinez is primarily a DH at this point in his career, but could still spell someone like Mark Canha in left field on occasion. It would be similar to how the Yankees use Giancarlo Stanton.
If the club want to rejuvenate, they could see what Michael Conforto left in the tank. Conforto didn’t play last season, failing to sign last winter and injuring his right shoulder during off-season training in January. The Mets’ first pick in the 2014 MLB Draft underwent his second shoulder surgery last year, this time on his throwing shoulder. Conforto had already had surgery on his left shoulder in 2017 after dislocating it during a fight at the end of the season.
The current DH tandem is made up of Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf. The former has good numbers against righties but not lefties and the latter was acquired to hit lefties but posted dismal numbers after being traded to the Mets. The club could look to offload Ruf for help on the field and use Alvarez as their main DH against the left-handed thrower.
But for what it’s worth, Martinez, a right-handed hitter, has a career average of .306 against lefties and a .957 OPS with 87 homers. It might not be a bad idea to sign him to a one-year contract while Alvarez continues to develop.
There’s also the possibility of trading receiver James McCann and maybe even right-handed starter Carlos Carrasco in search of outside help. David Peterson and Tylor Megill could compete for the No. 5 starting spot in spring training. But Eppler appreciates the initial pitching depth, knowing injuries will take their toll throughout the season, so trading McCann makes more sense.
The only argument for keeping McCann might be that he’s used to working with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, having played with them on the Detroit Tigers. It’s best to bring Alvarez slowly to the seeker side to avoid overloading their most important young prospect at the big league level.
But if trading McCann and eating some of the remaining $24 million on his contract is what it takes, then the Mets might be up for it.
There are several ways the Mets can approach the last two items on their to-do list this winter. Winter has already been busy and it will only get worse.
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