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Non-tendered players the Mets should target

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Love me non-tenders.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

With baseball’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligilble players having passed yesterday, a slew of players were non-tendered by their now-former teams. Let’s take a quick look at some players from that group who could help the Mets in 2020.

Position Players

C - Elias Diaz
C - Josh Phegley
C - Kevan Smith
C - Kevin Plawecki
C - John Ryan Murphy
C - Caleb Joseph
C - Luke Maile
IF - Jose Peraza
IF - Charlie Culberson
IF - Cesar Hernandez
CF - Kevin Pillar

Almost any available catcher should be of interest to the Mets. Wilson Ramos’s defense is somewhere between poor and awful and his injury history is lengthy, while Tomas Nido has been totally inept at the plate. Ali Sanchez was added to the 40-man roster recently, but he only has 350 plate appearances in the upper minors and has Billy Hamilton level power. None of these non-tendered catchers are particularly good, but that’s to be expected, and with the Mets’ paper-thin depth chart, one of these players could be a useful backup option.

Elias Diaz, Kevan Smith, Josh Phegley are bat-first catchers, all ranking near the bottom of the league in catcher defense according to Baseball Prospectus. Diaz didn’t hit either in 2019, posting a paltry 61 wRC+ after running a 112 mark in 2018. Former Met Kevin Plawecki, Caleb Joseph, and John Ryan Murphy all put up a similar level of offense to Diaz but with middle-of-the-pack defense that makes them more viable. Maile has consistently rated as an elite defender, but he posted an impossibly-bad 14 wRC+ last season.

In terms of other position players, Kevin Pillar is the most notable. A 2019 “MVP candidate,” Pillar’s game has been essentially unchanged for the last five years: some speed, some pop, elite defense, average offense against lefties, and struggles against righties. In many ways, he’s a healthier version of what Juan Lagares was supposed to be. With the Mets in need of outfield depth and reportedly in the market for a right-handed, defensively-minded complement to Brandon Nimmo in center, Pillar would make a lot of sense.

Finally, the Mets are also in need of some additional bench depth, and there are number of interesting options. Cesar Hernandez will likely be given a chance to start somewhere, but he would be a very nice option with good on-base skills off the bench. Peraza’s bat is suspect, but his speed would be useful and he can play both middle infield spots. Culberson is a useful Swiss Army Knife, appearing at every position except pitcher and catcher over the past two seasons and running a solid offensive line for a bench player.

Pitchers

SP - Kevin Gausman
SP - Aaron Sanchez
SP - Taijuan Walker
SP - Jimmy Nelson
SP - Tyler Anderson
RP - Blake Treinen
RP - Junior Guerra

The pitching side of things is much more interesting, with the Mets needing help both at the back of the rotation and in the bullpen, with Kevin Gausman and Blake Treinen the real highlights. Gausman had a rough year after three solid seasons, struggling mightily as a starter for the Braves before landing with the Reds. He was excellent in relief, however, and was a solid starter from 2016-18. He’d be intriguing as a fifth starter who sees relatively limited innings, or as a flexible, multi-inning reliever or opener—basically, the sort of modern pitching tool many smart teams are leveraging to great success. Treinen, meanwhile, had a stupendous 2018 with a 0.78 ERA in 80.1 innings before being limited by injuries in 2019 and would be a prime bounceback candidate as a potential relief ace.

Elsewhere, there are a bevvy of injured starters that would work as reclamation projects. Aaron Sanchez and Taijuan Walker have both failed to deliver on their hype as top prospects and are both dealing with shoulder injuries, often a death knell for pitchers. Both have also shown flashes, however, and could be useful bets as either starters or relievers. Jimmy Nelson is another similar bet, as he’s failed to return to his breakout 2017 form since suffering a major shoulder injury. He was one of the better pitchers in baseball that season, however, and will enter 2020 almost two-and-a-half years removed from his injury.

Lastly, there are a couple safer but lower upside options. Tyler Anderson was a slightly below league average pitcher for several seasons in Colorado (~110 DRA-) before a knee injury derailed his 2019. He could be a useful fifth starter type that should be affordable. Meanwhile, Junior Guerra was a useful reliever for the Brewers last season after being a useful starter for them in 2018. He’d make for a useful addition as a middle-reliever/swingman type—think Carlos Torres from a couple years ago.