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Finding a bat for the Mets among remaining free agents

The Mets will probably be fine without adding a bat, but there’s always room for improvement.

2022 World Series Workout Day Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With the Twins having officially signed Carlos Correa, the near-perfect lineup that the Mets would have had at their disposal with the 28-year-old infielder in the fold is no longer a possibility. With a career .279/.357/.479 line and a 130 wRC+, Correa hasn’t ever been on the Mike Trout/Juan Soto tier among hitters, but he’s been very, very good. And the Mets can’t come close to replacing what he would have offered their lineup by signing a free agent hitter now, but let’s take a quick look to see if they might still be able to find a useful bat that can complement what they already have on their roster.

Even if the Mets don’t make any additional moves, their lineup should be good. Roster Resource currently lists their projected starting lineup like this:

  1. Brandon Nimmo - CF
  2. Starling Marte - RF
  3. Francisco Lindor - SS
  4. Pete Alonso - 1B
  5. Jeff McNeil - 2B
  6. Daniel Vogelbach - DH
  7. Mark Canha - LF
  8. Eduardo Escobar - 3B
  9. Omar Narváez - C

Had the Mets wound up signing Correa, Escobar would have been bumped to the bench, with a seemingly endless possibility of options for the first through sixth spots in the lineup. And Vogelbach and Canha would have been the most likely seventh and eighth hitters in that lineup.

The above lineup is still capable of scoring a bunch of runs, even if it’s slightly lacking in power. And it’s worth noting that while Escobar started the season rather poorly in 2022, he ended the year with a respectable 106 wRC+ and hit 20 home runs along the way. Where things get a bit dicey is on the Mets’ projected bench:

  • Tomás Nido
  • Darin Ruf
  • Luis Guillorme
  • Khalil Lee

At least that’s how Roster Resource sees it, though it’s hard to imagine the team will carry Lee on its Opening Day roster given his major strikeout problem, which remained an issue at the minor league level last year. Of that quartet, Guillorme inspires the most confidence both in the field and at the plate. He’s up to a 101 wRC+ for his career, and he hit .273/.351/.340 with a 106 wRC+ last year.

Objectively, Ruf is—or at least was—the best hitter of the bunch based on his performance over the past few years, but you’d be forgiven for not believing that to be the case if you watched him rack up a 24 wRC+ in 74 plate appearances with the Mets after joining the team via trade during the 2022 season. Before that, he had put together a 142 wRC+ in a platoon role with the Giants over the course of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, and he managed a 104 wRC+ in 388 plate appearances for them last year before the trade. Entering his age-36 season, it is possible that he is toast.

And at this point, Nido is pretty clearly established as a decent enough hitter for a catcher, a position where offense is a rarity. There’s a pretty good argument to be for the inclusion of Francisco Álvarez—fellow catcher and one of the top prospects in all of baseball—on the Opening Day roster over Lee if no other moves are made, even if that would leave the Mets with three catchers and a likely DH platoon role for Álvarez if everyone is healthy.

If the Mets decide to sign at least one more position player, though, getting someone who can play the outfield would be ideal, and there are some decent options left on the market.

Top outfielders by 2022 wRC+

Having logged 146 games in left field with the Padres last year, Jurickson Profar is primarily an outfielder at the moment despite having played all over the diamond earlier in his career. And he put up a 110 wRC+ with 15 home runs and a .243/.331/.391 line in 658 plate appearances and is a switch hitter. He owns a career 94 wRC+ but has been decidedly better over the past few years than he was in his first few seasons in the big leagues.

David Peralta spent his entire major league career with the Diamondbacks until they traded him to the Rays at the deadline last year, and he has a 111 wRC+ for his career. The 35-year-old had a 104 wRC+ in 2022, and it’s worth noting that the last time he was well above average at the plate was in his 2018 season. He’s been above league average since then, though, but the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter may be a slight disadvantage here. Like Profar, he logged all of his outfield innings last year in left field.

Coming off a World Series championship as a member of the Astros, Trey Mancini had been with the Orioles for his whole major league career until the 2022 trade deadline. Having beaten cancer to return to the field in 2021, Mancini has a 104 wRC+ over the past two seasons and a 111 wRC+ for his career. The 30-year-old is a right-handed hitter, and while he made more appearances as a designated hitter than in the field, he did log innings at first base and in left field and right field.

Like Mancini, Andrew McCutchen was more often a DH last year than he was an outfielder, but he did log a chunk of innings in both corner outfield spots with three appearances in center, all of which came as a member of the Brewers. Once one of the best hitters in baseball, McCutchen has hovered around the 100 wRC+ mark over the past three seasons, which itself was a notch down from his performance at the plate from 2017 and 2019 and a major dropoff from the early seasons of his career. The 36-year-old is a right-handed hitter and put up a .237/.316/.384 line with 17 home runs and a 98 wRC+ last year, and the Mets were recently reported to have been considering him.

With fellow trade deadline additions Vogelbach and Ruf having made bigger impressions, Tyler Naquin wound up being a relatively forgotten player from the Mets’ last couple months of the season. A left-handed hitter, he managed just a 93 wRC+ in 334 plate appearances with the Reds and Mets last year and has a 101 wRC+ for his major league career.

Raimel Tapia cracked all three major top prospect lists heading into the 2017 season, but he’s racked up just an 80 wRC+ in his time in the big leagues over the past seven seasons. He hit .265/.292/.380 with seven home runs and a 90 wRC+ for the Blue Jays in 2022 and was non-tendered following the season. The 28-year-old is a left-handed hitter and logged appearances at all three outfield positions last year.

Brian Anderson is still just 29 years old and is a familiar face to Mets fans, as he spent the past six seasons with the Marlins. From 2018 through 2020, he had a cumulative 115 wRC+ with 42 home runs, but his production and playing time have both been markedly lower over the past two years. He had a 98 wRC+ in 2021 and followed it up with a 90 wRC+ in 2022. Still, he’s logged a good amount of innings in the outfield and has plenty of experience at third base.

It wasn’t that long ago that Tommy Pham was hitting well above the league average on an annual basis, but since the start of the 2020 season, the 35-year-old has hit .231/.324/.372 with a 94 wRC+. Last year, he had an 89 wRC+ between his time with Reds and the Red Sox. He’s played left field in the vast majority of his big league innings, but he has played some center field, too, with his most recent appearances there having come in 2021.

It might be inevitable that Adam Duvall ends up back in Atlanta before too long, as he’s been traded there twice during his major league career. Duvall played all three outfield positions last year, and he’s a right-handed hitter with real power, as evidenced by his .253 isolated slugging over the past few seasons.

There are other decent bats out there, too, but it makes sense to prioritize the outfield, even after the Mets’ signing of the speedy Tim Locastro to a minor league deal earlier this week.