The Mets, who are already viewed as serious World Series contenders after announcing their presence on the free agent market with authority in November, will almost certainly make more impactful moves when the MLB lockout ends.
With that in mind, I would love to not have to preface so many articles with a mention of when the lockout ends, and I’m sure every baseball fan on the planet would love to stop worrying about when the lockout will end.
But there has been movement — albeit incremental — lately, and the frequency with which MLB and the MLBPA have been meeting provides a glimmer of hope that they’re not crazy enough to let something that began on Dec. 2 impact the scheduled March 31 start of the regular season.
And when the lockout ends (sorry, last time), the Mets — whose payroll is already around $270 million and will be well past whatever the luxury tax threshold turns out to be when the new CBA is agreed to — really have no reason to stop spending.
Whether they focus on the free agent market, the trade market, or both, New York still has needs to fill in the starting rotation and the bullpen, and could also add an infielder, outfielder, and/or designated hitter.
Here are 10 players the Mets could pursue to fill out what they hope will be a championship roster…
The Mets’ biggest need is for a starting pitcher who can be a No. 2 and be relied on to toss 180 or so innings. That kind of pitcher isn’t on the free agent market, so the Mets would have to swing a trade to acquire someone who fills that need. Enter Castillo?
Castillo, 29, would be a perfect fit, but it’s unclear what he will cost via trade or if the Cincinnati Reds will make him available. He has two years remaining of team control, so he’ll almost certainly require one of the Mets’ top prospects not named Francisco Alvarez or Brett Baty, and more. Even if the Reds dangle Castillo, it’s fair to wonder if the Reds and Mets match up well on a potential deal.
The Oakland Athletics are entering another rebuild, but their rebuilds are never full teardowns. So it’s plausible the Mets would be able to get Manaea (who is projected to earn $10.2 million this season before hitting free agency after the year) for a package led by a relatively inexpensive major league player with several years of team control left.
Depending on what the A’s want, that could mean a package headlined by someone like J.D. Davis, who projects to make $2.5 million this season and has three years of control remaining.
Like Manaea, the 32-year-old Bassitt — who will make roughly $9 million this season — is set for free agency after the 2022 season. He’s been fantastic over the last four seasons, with a 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 8.7 K/9. That means he’ll likely cost a bit more than Manaea, who has been more uneven.
The third of three A’s starting pitchers who could be available, the 28-year-old Montas will make about $5.2 million in 2022 and be arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2023. That, along with the fact that he just finished 6th in American League Cy Young voting after a stellar 2022 season, will make him more expensive to acquire than Bassitt and Manaea.
The Bryant-to-the-Mets stuff won’t go away until Bryant signs somewhere else, and part of that is because the Mets need one more big bat and would benefit from that player being able to play all over the diamond.
The Mets had interest in Bryant at last year’s trade deadline and again earlier this offseason, so the Bryant-Mets connection is there. And if Steve Cohen and the Mets have one or two more big signings in them this offseason, the players who make the most sense are Bryant and…
Suzuki, 27, was posted by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball in November, and will have 20 days to sign with an MLB team when free agency resumes. While the Mets have a full outfield at the moment (with Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, and Mark Canha), SNY’s Andy Martino recently reported that one team source cautioned not to rule out a pursuit of Suzuki. And there are lots of reasons why they should still be interested in the outfielder.
If the Mets sign Suzuki, they can theoretically use Canha at DH (the belief is that it will be added in the NL as part of the new CBA) or go with a rotation there. Suzuki is a serious talent with a good approach at the plate who hits for power and can impact the game on both sides of the ball. And he’ll be a lot less expensive than Bryant.
In a world where the Mets don’t sign Bryant or Suzuki, making Cruz the big bat acquired could make sense. Strictly a DH at this point in his career, Cruz can still mash. And it’s likely that he can be had on a one-year deal, which would allow the Mets to be flexible with the DH spot going forward.
If the end of Rodon’s 2021 season wasn’t marred by a left shoulder injury, he would’ve been one of the most sought after starting pitchers on the free agent market.
But when you couple Rodon’s 2021 shoulder trouble with the fact that he also had shoulder issues in 2017, 2018, and 2020, signing him becomes a tricky proposition — especially for a Mets team that needs more certainty in the rotation.
Of all the starting pitchers on the free agent market, Kikuchi could be one of the best fits. Per Martino, the Mets expressed interest in Kikuchi earlier this offseason. The 30-year-old had an uneven season in 2021. Still, his first half earned him an All-Star nod, and he would come with some upside.
The back end of the Mets’ bullpen is in pretty good shape, and handedness is not as important as it once was in the age of crossover relievers and three-batter rules for relievers. But the left-handed Chafin could still make a lot of sense for the Mets, who lost Aaron Loup to the Los Angeles Angels earlier in the offseason.
Source: Yahoo Sports