The New York Mets have had a relatively quiet offseason, save for a truly bizarre and unforeseen situation that resulted in multiple managerial searches over the course of three months. In terms of improving a roster that fell short of a playoff berth, the team has added two back-of-the-rotation starters, one relief pitcher coming off an injury-plagued 2019, resigned a reliever who spent the last two months with the team, and traded for a back-up center fielder known primarily for his defense.
While the Mets made all of the aforementioned moves before Christmas, Brodie Van Wagenen has brought in two potential depth pieces to compete for a spot on the bench in recent weeks. In signing Eduardo Nunez and Matt Adams to minor-league contracts with spring training invites, Van Wagenen shows that he is keenly aware of the team’s lack of bench depth heading into 2020. It’s an astute observation for the second-year general manager, but I would argue that neither move does enough to plug the gaping black hole that currently exists.
As things stand now, the Mets would likely enter 2020 with Tomas Nido (career 35 wRC+, .514 OPS, -0.6 fWAR) or Rene Rivera (career 70 wRC+, .626 OPS, 8.4 fWAR) as their reserve catcher, Jake Marisnick (career 79 wRC+, .660 OPS, 6.1 fWAR) as their lone dependable defender in the outfielder, Luis Guillorme (career 69 wRC+, .600 OPS, 0.0 fWAR) as the likeliest option to get reps up the middle, and Dominic Smith (career 98 wRC+, .745 OPS, -0.2 fWAR) as their best offensive option off the bench. A lot rides on both Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes, but it is impossible to rely upon either at this time given their recent injury history. The Mets should still be looking to add to their bench, because they are not really covered in any of their starters miss significant time.
Enter Brock Holt, who is still available and would solve a number of problems for the Mets. For one thing, he would immediately become the most established offensive option off the bench. Holt has played the last seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, where he was elected to the All Star team in 2015. The left-handed hitting Holt wouldn’t offer much in terms of power, registering just 23 home runs in 639 career games, but his numbers overall more than make up for it.
After an injury-plagued first two months to his 2019 season, he finished last season batting .297/.369/.402 with a 103 wRC+ and a 1.3 fWAR in 87 games after slashing .277/.362/.411 with a 109 wRC+ and a 1.4 fWAR in 109 games in 2018. He set the best marks of his career in OPS (.774) and ISO (.139) in 2018, and came close to those numbers again last year. He has also registered at least 300 plate appearances in four of the last six seasons, and fell just five short last year despite the injuries, which shows he can be trusted to give you at-bats when needed.
Compare those numbers to Nunez and Adams, who are likely the two players who would earn that fifth bench spot if Lowrie and Cespedes aren’t healthy enough to crack the Opening Day roster, and the choice seems clear. Let’s first look at the Nunez, who spent last season with Boston. The 32-year-old slashed .228/.243/.305 with a 35 wRC+ and a -1.0 fWAR in 60 games in 2019 after hitting .265/.289/.388 with a 78 wRC+ and a -0.3 WAR in 2018. Like Holt, Nunez’s versatility makes him appealing, but his offensive numbers pale in comparison to his Bostonian teammate.
Then there’s Adams, who has a better offensive line than Nunez. The 32-year-old first baseman hit .226/.276/.465 with an 84 wRC+ and a -0.1 fWAR in 111 games last season for the Washington Nationals and posting a .239/.309/.477 slash line with a 107 wRC+ and a 0.8 fWAR in 121 games split between the Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018. His power is enticing, but his lack of experience anywhere other than first base and left field could make him a bit redundant for a team that already has Smith on their bench.
Holt’s offense should be an easy sell, but his ability to play multiple infield and outfield positions makes him even more of a solid signing. Last season, Holt played every position for the Red Sox aside from pitcher, catcher, and center field (which he last played in 2015). He spent most of his time at second base, which makes sense for a team that will likely need to give Robinson Cano a lot of rest in order to keep him fresh throughout the year and with Jeff McNeil expected to primarily play third base in 2020. He also plays shortstop, which nobody else on the bench other than Guillorme can say.
In addition to the infield, he has a lot of experience patrolling the corner outfield spots, which makes him a better option defensively than Smith, McNeil, or J.D. Davis in those spots. Aside from Marisnick, the team doesn’t have an experienced defender, and the former Astros outfielder will primarily serve as a center field reserve. The team will likely roll into Opening Day with a starting outfield of Davis, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto, which leaves them with just Marisnick as a back-up plan if Cespedes isn’t ready to start the year. Holt is a much more versatile option rather than praying for Adams or Smith to suitably hold down the fort in left field.
It does not appear the Mets will do much more than add NRIs to compete for during spring training at this point in time. Van Wagenen has touted his additions in terms of pitching, boasting that the Mets have “probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball,” while exclaiming after the Dellin Betances signing that his club could have “one of the best bullpens in baseball.” For someone as boastful as Brodie, he hasn’t yet made such a statement about the team’s bench, which shows he’s not quite as confident there as he is with his pitching additions.
Van Wagenen could make a sensible signing and bring in Holt to give himself something to point to when people question the team’s bench depth. Holt isn’t likely to cost a lot, plays almost every position that the team is looking for in a back-up, and can hit in a pinch when needed. The question shouldn’t be, “Should the Mets sign Holt?”, but rather, “What are the Mets waiting for?”