Now that baseball will be scheduled for a 60-game season in 2020, we can resume our time-honored tradition of arguing about athletes on the Internet. It’s unclear how a shortened season will affect the Mets—or any team, for that matter—but we can at least make some inferences about which players will benefit and which players will suffer from such a short season.
Rick Porcello/Michael Wacha
When the Mets signed Porcello and Wacha to one-year deals in the offseason, many concluded the team signed two players to fill one spot on the rotation. Some spring training chatter suggested the Mets might experiment with a six-man rotation or that a three-player committee with Steven Matz was brewing.
And then Noah Syndergaard tore his UCL, requiring Tommy John surgery and knocking him out of the 2020 season and likely part of 2021. A lost season might have meant no clear opportunity for Porcello and Wacha, but now the shortened schedule presents the two an audition for the future.
Porcello has a more impressive resume than Wacha, but Wacha is two years younger and has shown more consistency despite his injury-hampered seasons, but both should get an equal chance to make starts on a regular basis now.
Part of the agreement for the upcoming season includes a universal designated hitter, and even if the Mets don’t have a clear DH on the roster, they have a lot of intriguing options. Penciling in Céspedes as the team’s DH seems premature considering it will have been two years since he last played in a major league game by the time the 2020 season begins.
With Robinson Canó, Pete Alonso, and Wilson Ramos all having valuable bats and capable backups, it’s likely the team will try several different designated hitters throughout the season. But if Céspedes can summon the power that has made him one the franchise’s best-ever trade acquisitions, seeing plate appearances without taking the field presents a valuable opportunity.
The new Mets manager is already playing with house money. Everybody in the clubhouse speaks highly of him, he has inherited a talented roster, and he comes from baseball royalty. And after being chosen as the replacement after the Mets and Carlos Beltrán split, Rojas comes in with high praise and low expectations. The 60-game season only magnifies this.
Barring a clubhouse insurrection, Rojas faces a no-lose situation. If he does well, then he has a case to stay long term. If he doesn’t do well, he can attribute the team’s failures to the unprecedented nature of a 60-game season. After all, how can any manager expect to manage well under these apocalyptic conditions?
For what it’s worth, Rojas isn’t any less risky a hire than Beltrán was. He only has four years of managerial experience, coaching Leones of the Dominican league in 2015 and having stints with the St. Lucie Mets and Binghamton Rumble Ponies. He only spent one year on the big league coaching staff, spending 2019 as the club’s quality control coach. And he’s only one year older than Canó. But he has a relatively consequence-free year to prove his worth.
There’s no getting around that Canó wasn’t good last season. Despite playing in over 100 games, Canó saw career-lows in RBI and batting average and had his second-worst season of bWAR at 0.3. The Mets also have very good infield options, and it might not make much sense to keep Jeff McNeil away from the full time job at second base for much longer. With the results of every game in a 60-game season being magnified, he might not rack up playing time if he starts cold.
2020 gives deGrom the opportunity to win a third-straight Cy Young Award, something only Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux have ever accomplished. With a full season of work, deGrom may have had a real chance at the mark, but with a shortened season, everything is just more random.
Through his first four starts in 2018, deGrom went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA, nearly a run-and-a-half more than he would finish the year with. Through his first five starts in 2019, he went 2-3 with a 4.85 ERA, nearly two-and-a-half more runs than he would finish the year with. If he were to start slow this year, with his first month of starts representing nearly half of his total starts in 2020, it would be difficult to make a late push toward winning the award.
Tomas Nido/René Rivera/Ali Sanchez
60 games in 66 days is going to be a lot for Wilson Ramos. Maybe he can tough it out, but knees are fickle things, and like any catcher, he’ll need some rest. Nido played quite a bit as a backup catcher last season, and the Mets could turn to Rivera. We might even see playing time for prospect Ali Sanchez, who currently sits on the 40-man roster.