Wednesday, January 26 2022
Starling Marte, Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman Mets treated art 2021

Starling Marte, Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman Mets treated art 2021

As the Mets reshape their roster this offseason with an eye on contending in 2022, they have some serious holes to fill. And most of those holes will likely be filled through free agency.

The above, which was already obvious before the offseason, was made even more clear when team president Sandy Alderson said during the GM Meetings that the Mets would prefer to add reinforcements via free agency than trades.

That approach makes sense, with New York’s farm system still top-heavy and so many of their core players on the big league team coming off down seasons that lowered their value.

What kind of players should the Mets be going after?

Adding starting pitching — especially guys who can pitch near the top of the rotation — should be near the top of the list.

The Mets should also be looking to shake up a lineup that struggled badly in 2021, with potential needs in the outfield, third base, and second base.

Here are the top 10 free agents the Mets should be targeting, ranked from No. 10 to No. 1…

No. 10: RHP Justin Verlander

Verlander would be a lot higher on this list if he weren’t attached to a qualifying offer.

But since Verlander is attached to the QO, it means that the Mets would have to forfeit their second overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft to sign him. That pick is unusually high at No. 14 this year because of their failure to sign Kumar Rocker after selecting him in the 2021 draft, which resulted in the compensation pick they received at No. 11 for 2022.

Oct 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals in the second inning in game six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park.Oct 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals in the second inning in game six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park.

Oct 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals in the second inning in game six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park.

Because of that, signing Verlander (or any other external free agent attached to a QO, such as Carlos Correa and Nick Castellanos) is something the Mets are not inclined to do.

If that mindset changes, going after Verlander could make sense. But the Mets would be losing an incredibly valuable pick by signing him.

No. 9: RHP Jon Gray

The Colorado Rockies did not trade Gray at the deadline this past season, and their refusal to extend a qualifying offer to him means that they will now lose him for nothing.

And the Rockies’ loss could be another team’s gain, with Gray an enigmatic but still very talented pitcher entering his age-30 season.

But for those blaming the Coors Field effect on Gray’s up-and-down seven-year career (all with the Rockies), a look at his home/road splits doesn’t show a lot of variance between his performance at home and on the road.

No. 8: LHP Carlos Rodon

Rodon’s stock was up before a left shoulder issue hampered him late in the season and led to a dip in velocity.

The above means there should be a red flag attached to him. But if Rodon’s medicals check out, he will be one of the most intriguing starting pitchers on the market.

Rodon came into his own in 2021 during what was his age-28 season, posting a 2.37 ERA (2.65 FIP) and 0.95 WHIP with 185 strikeouts (a career-best 12.6 per 9) in 132.2 innings over 24 starts.

Reading the writing on the wall, it seems likely that the Mets and Conforto will not reunite.

He has rejected the qualifying offer and has hit the free agent market seeking a massive contract — a demand agent Scott Boras said would not change after Conforto’s down 2021 season.

Sep 30, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto (30) hits an RBI single during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.Sep 30, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto (30) hits an RBI single during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.

Sep 30, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto (30) hits an RBI single during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.

With Conforto seemingly primed for a bounce back year in 2022 and with his being a known entity for the Mets — and a strong clubhouse presence — New York should monitor his market and pounce if the price doesn’t get out of hand.

It should also be noted here that Noah Syndergaard — the other player the Mets extended the QO to — would be high on this list if not for the expectation that he was going to accept the QO.

No. 6: RHP Kevin Gausman

Gausman, who was one of the best stories on a San Francisco Giants team that came out of nowhere to win the NL West in 2021, is also one of the best pitchers on the market.

He followed up a strong 2020 (3.62 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with a career-high 11.9 K/9) with a tremendous 2021, posting a 2.81 ERA (3.00 FIP) and 1.04 WHIP with 227 strikeouts in 192 innings over 33 starts.

Entering his age-31 season, there is a chance Gausman gets four years or more on the open market. And most of his advanced stats suggest that what he did in 2021 was not a fluke.

No. 5: OF Starling Marte

With the Mets potentially losing Conforto this offseason and with Brandon Nimmo a free agent following the 2022 season, they have a situation developing in the outfield.

Marte could be a near-perfect solution in center field, but his age (33) means that the Mets should be aiming to keep any deal to no longer than three years.

And if the Mets are able to grab Marte, they would be adding not only Marte’s dynamic bat but a serious injection of speed into their lineup.

Stroman was the Mets’ only reliable starting pitcher in 2021, and he was also one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Bringing him back should be a no-brainer, but Stroman has made it known that he is seeking a deal that could pay him roughly $125 million over five years.

Aug 17, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park.Aug 17, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park.

Aug 17, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park.

Whether the market will develop in a way that makes Stroman cost that much remains to be seen. And the fact that Eduardo Rodriguez will be paid about $15 million annually after signing a five-year deal with the Detroit Tigers might suggest that Stroman won’t get close to $25 million annually.

The above could make a reunion more palatable for the Mets.

Alderson’s effusive praise of Baez during the GM Meetings, coupled with Andy Martino’s reporting on the Mets’ interest in bringing Baez back, makes it seem likely that the Mets and Baez will be able to work something out.

As you can see by his placement on this list, Baez is among the best fits for the Mets, and the fact that he endeared himself during his two months with the team in 2021 only helps.

Sep 14, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Javier Baez (23) follows through on a game tying solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning at Citi Field.Sep 14, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Javier Baez (23) follows through on a game tying solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning at Citi Field.

Sep 14, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Javier Baez (23) follows through on a game tying solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning at Citi Field.

With Baez, the Mets would be getting a player who impacts the game with his bat, speed, defense, and instincts. And the presence of four other star middle infielders on the free agent market might keep Baez’s price from becoming astronomical.

No. 2: INF/OF Kris Bryant

Bryant is ranked ahead of Baez because of his positional versatility, which is exactly what the Mets need.

If the Mets add Bryant, he could be their answer at third base or either corner outfield spot. He could also fill in at first base in the event that help there is needed, and can play center field in a pinch.

Bryant’s versatility could also allow the Mets to have more options with two of their top prospects who are on the cusp of the majors.

Mark Vientos and Brett Baty are both natural third basemen who got some corner outfield exposure in 2021. They could be DH options for the Mets if the NL adds it, and could also be options at third (with Bryant in the outfield) or left field (with Bryant in right field or at third).

No. 1: RHP Max Scherzer

The uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard and the potential departure of Stroman means finding a top of the rotation pitcher should be the Mets’ top priority.

And while Scherzer is 37 years old, he remains one of the best pitchers in the sport and the only true ace who is on the market and is not attached to a qualifying offer.

Aug 26, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Petco Park.Aug 26, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Petco Park.

Aug 26, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Petco Park.

Whether Scherzer would come to the Mets (or Yankees) is an open question after he refused to consider a trade to New York during the 2021 trade deadline.

But Boras recently told Martino that Scherzer will base his decision on “winning, not geography.”

If Scherzer really is willing to pitch in New York, the Mets’ main offseason goal should be making that happen.

Adding Scherzer would give the Mets the best 1-2 punch in baseball if deGrom is healthy. And in the event deGrom is not healthy, Scherzer would be able to replace him at the top of the rotation.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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