The Mets got their offseason off to a fast start, acquiring Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano two weeks before the Winter Meetings. The NL East figures to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, however, and the Mets will need to keep adding. With the Winter Meetings starting today, here’s a shopping list, sorted roughly by priority, that Brodie Van Wagenen should try to fill out over the next week:
1 - Another Bat
Robinson Cano helped lengthen the Mets’ projected lineup, but there are still too many holes. Right now, center field (Juan Lagares), shortstop (Amed Rosario), and catcher (Kevin Plawecki) all are well below-average hitters, and having three such positions really dims an offenses potential. We could argue that first base is question mark as well, given Todd Frazier’s poor performance last year and Peter Alonso’s lack of major league experience, but we’ll be at least somewhat optimistic and assume that first base can be filled internally.
With Manny Machado out of the Mets’ price range, center field and catcher are the best spots to add offense. I’ve already talked about Yasmani Grandal as a perfect fit - he’s an excellent offensive catcher with elite defensive skills, and adding him doesn’t block Yoenis Cespedes in an ideal world where the Cuban slugger returns in August. J.T. Realmuto would work for similar reasons, though the Marlins’ asking price is high and it’d be sub-optimal to give up talent to acquire a catcher when an equal or better option is available in free agency.
The outfield market is thinner, but there are options. A.J. Pollock has been frequently connected to the Mets, and he’d bring plus center field defense and an above average right-handed bat to the lineup, albeit with serious injury concerns. We also learned that the Mets have inquired on Yasiel Puig, who seems to have worn out his welcome with the Dodgers despite being a good right-handed bat with above average defense.
Whatever position the addition comes at, the Mets need at least one more big bat, and that should be at the top of the shopping list.
2 - Significant bullpen additions
Edwin Diaz gives the Mets an elite closer, and they have a good fireman in Seth Lugo and another reliever who has shown flashes of brilliance in Robert Gsellman. Beyond that, however, the Mets’ relief corp is thin, and the team should look to add at least one major relief asset at the Winter Meetings, along with some depth options and a LOOGY type.
The market is rich with free agent relievers at this point of the offseason. Passing over Craig Kimbrel and his lofty demands, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Jeurys Familia, and Joakim Soria would all be great additions as setup men. It seems within the Mets’ budget to add two of these arms, but even one would provide an excellent eighth inning accompaniment to Diaz.
Digging deeper into the free agent pool, there are a plethora of solid, second or third tier arms. Zach Britton, Cody Allen, and Kelvin Herrera are former stars who have declined a bit, but could be good bounce-back bets. Other lesser-known guys like Tony Sipp, Tony Barnette, and Jesse Chavez had really good years in 2018. Carson Smith would be a great gamble on health. Old “friend” Oliver Perez has become an elite LOOGY and should be affordable due to his age.
There are plenty of options, and picking which relievers are the best bets going forward is very much a guessing game. The Mets should still look to add three arms to their bullpen and create a deep group that can finish what the rotation starts.
3 - Offensive depth
Beyond the big bat item at the top of our list, the Mets will also need some offensive depth (assuming they don’t have the budget space to add significant pieces at both catcher and center field). A lower tier catcher, such as Martin Maldonado, would be a useful addition at the right price if the Mets choose to add a big time outfielder. Conversely, if the Mets choose to make a big splash at catcher, their major league roster will still have only three outfielders (Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo), and a couple reserve options would be needed.
Adam Jones or Avisail Garcia would be interesting fits, as right-handed, bench-caliber outfield bats that serve as a foil to a very left-hand-heavy lineup, but both probably get more elsewhere to be starters. Brandon Guyer or Melky Cabrera would fit as more traditional bench bats that should be affordable. Old friend Curtis Granderson is an imperfect fit as a lefty, but showed he can still hit last year. Other guys like Peter Bourjos, Matt Szczur, and Eric Young Jr. would make sense on minor league deals, as would many minor league free agents.
4 - Starting pitching depth
This need should arguably be above offensive depth, but it’s relegated to the fourth spot in this list due to money. Starting pitchers are expensive, and even most depth options would put a serious dent in what’s left of the Mets’ offseson budget. Given that restriction, it’s best to try to fill other holes, where the same amount of money buys you more ‘value.’
That said, this need shouldn’t be neglected entirely. Someone like Trevor Cahill should be available on a two year deal at a reasonable price, and would probably be amenable to some time in the bullpen throughout the season if the Mets top four starters are healthy. Lance Lynn might be a sneaky value buy as he moves further away from his Tommy John procedure. Matt Shoemaker would be a good health gamble, as would Nathan Karns, and both have arsenals that could play up in the bullpen if they’re not needed or are not working in the rotation.