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The bottom of the Mets’ roster has been a problem, so far

It is still very early in the season, but a shaky start should have the Mets looking inward.

San Diego Padres v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

At the time of this writing, the Mets are 7-6. While it is hardly a disaster, and they are coming off a rather nice series win against the Padres, it certainly has not been good, either. The big bats: Pete Alonso (159 wRC+), Francisco Lindor (124 wRC+), Brandon Nimmo (120 wRC+), Jeff McNeil (112 wRC+), and Starling Marte (111 wRC+) have all been above league average, largely do to their ability to get on base (or, in Alonso’s case, hit six home runs). All of those guys will be fine, and we really should not be worrying about them, even if they have been inconsistent.

The bottom of the roster, though, is cause for concern even in this minuscule sample size.

Way back on December 13th of last year, when we were young and foolish and did not have dreams of Carlos Correa: New York Met, I wrote an article saying that the Mets were going to need big contributions from Brett Baty and Francisco Álvarez if they wanted to lengthen the lineup. The Mets seem to disagree.

Not long after that article was published — December 21st to be exact — the Mets came to an agreement with Carlos Correa in the wee hours of the morning, with owner Steve Cohen specifically stating that the team was a bat short. However, Correa’s physical did not go as planned, and he wound up back in Minnesota. And the Mets wound up a bat short, yet again.

Now, normally, this would mean the Mets would promote their major league ready, top 20-ish third base prospect in Brett Baty. Instead, general manager Billy Eppler discussed nonsensical “developmental goals” for the young third baseman, despite his major league debut coming last year. So, if he is to be believed, we will not see Baty anytime soon.

Francisco Álvarez is currently with the big club due to the injury to Omar Narváez, but it is clear that Buck Showalter does not see him as an everyday starter at this time, based on his words, and how he has been deploying him as a traditional backup catcher at this juncture.

The Mets, however, do not have the luxury to do this based on roster construction. Outside of the main quintet of bats, the Mets’ offense is fairly thin. Eduardo Escobar looks absolutely cooked, coming off a poor World Baseball Classic performance by hitting .103/.143/.205 (-6 wRC+) to begin the campaign. Tomás Nido, the now everyday catcher, is hitting .125/.120/.125, good for a -36 wRC+—you don’t have to get your eyes checked, both of those are negative. It is hard for any team to survive two complete black holes like this, and the Mets’ offense is not an exception.

The rest of the lineup has been just okay. Mark Canha is a good, not great hitter, who should be closer to your seventh best hitter than your fifth best. Daniel Vogelbach is excellent against righties (128 career wRC+), but should never take an at bat against a lefty (40 career wRC+). Tommy Pham is growing into the inverse of that (115 wRC+ against lefties, 81 against righties in 2022). Luis Guillorme is an exquisite defender but has basically been a singles hitter (career .330 slugging), which is useful, but is not the bat the Mets seek. Tim Locastro is valuable as a speedster off the bench, especially with the new rules seeing bases get stolen at levels seemingly at will, but he is going to give you basically nothing as a hitter (career 81 wRC+).

That diatribe was meant to say: Steve Cohen was right when he told the New York Post in December that the Mets were a bat short. We are seeing it already, through 12 games, and it undoubtedly has cost them some wins. They also, however, seem to have no desire to fix the issue.

The answers are right there for them. Brett Baty should have broken camp as the everyday third baseman. Francisco Álvarez was ostensibly blocked by the Mets when they handed both Narváez and Nido two-year deals this offseason, but a two month injury to Narváez should have installed Álvarez as the everyday starter and part-time designated hitter, instead of the Patrick Mahomes to Nido’s Alex Smith, in Buck’s words.

Teams around the league are doing what the Mets refuse to. Jordan Walker broke camp with St. Louis, even if they have to shoehorn him into a position he is not terribly familiar with, and it is paying dividends already (.326/.370/.512, 137 wRC+). Anthony Volpe has struggled thus far, but the Yankees are letting him get acclimated to the bigs while the season is young. The Braves last year caught up to and surpassed the Mets, in large part due to Spencer Strider, Michael Harris, and Austin Riley, and the two of the three barely played at Triple-A — Strider threw one singular inning at that level, Michael Harris never saw it (and only had 196 plate appearances in Double-A before his call-up). Austin Riley saw a decent amount of time in Triple-A (518 plate appearances), but the Braves have shown a desire to be aggressive with their young players.

The Mets are clearly a team still in transition from the Stone Age-level front office brought to us by the Wilpons, and it shows in their decision making from time to time. While money does paper over a lot of these issues, and chances are the 2023 New York Mets will still be good regardless of these issues due to their payroll, the lack of modernity from the Mets has shown itself with the back-end of the roster, especially offensively.