An Early Look at the Mets Off-Season Strategy

As the 2021 season enters its final stretch, we can somewhat see what the New York Mets need to do come November. The Mets are still in playoff contention, but their hopes continue to trickle away daily. In an effort to bring some positivity/excitement, let’s make an early evaluation on what the Mets should do this off-season.

Evaluating Pending Mets Free Agents

Marcus Stroman: Re-sign. Not just re-sign, extend. Stroman is 31 years old and has proven invaluable to the Mets. I am sure he will be receiving many offers this off-season, but what he has done with the Mets in 2021 is enough to earn him a lengthy deal from Steve Cohen. I anticipate he gets a four-five year deal worth $15-18 million a year at the very least.

Michael Conforto: Re-sign, under one condition: It is a one year contract. After the season Conforto had, you cannot sign him more than three years, and he isn’t going to want that. Conforto, 29, is going to want a one-year deal or a six or seven-year deal. If the Mets offer him a one year contract in the neighborhood of $15 million, he really can’t decline it. This allows him to have another season to reset his market value to then get the major contract he desires. He will be 30 years old next off-season, giving him the ability to still land a five-year contract somewhere.

Javier Baez: Re-sign, under one condition: It is for two or three years. Considering that the Mets didn’t trade Ronny Mauricio at the deadline, I think it is best to pin him into second base in the future. Therefore, you can ink Baez to a short-term deal to fill that spot for the next couple seasons. The Mets will not be able to sign anybody that is significantly better than Baez at second base for three years. Baez is unlikely to be offered a contract for more than three years because of how much of a crapshoot he is at the plate. He has said that he would play second base for the Mets alongside Lindor, and I think the Mets should take him up on that.

Dellin Betances: Let him walk.

Jeurys Familia: Depends on the end of the 2021 season. He has been going through a real rough patch in August, after having a really great first half. Familia, 32, is at the end of a three-year deal that he inked before the 2019 season. If he settles down and has a good rest of the year, he is a prime one-year contract candidate. If he struggles, let him walk.

Noah Syndergaard: We all want Noah Syndergaard to succeed when he comes back from Tommy John surgery. The issue is, we do not know what pitcher he will be in 2022 when he is fully healthy again. I would not want to give him more than a one or two-year contract. The Mets would be taking a huge risk in extending Syndergaard for more than three years because of the uncertainty of his elbow, and his past injury history. Like Conforto, Syndergaard will likely not get nearly as much money this year as he would if he took a one-year contract and hit the market again next fall.

Jonathan Villar: Re-sign him. Why the heck now? Villar has been a savior for the Mets in 2021, and would be a great bench piece for them come 2022. Only issue is, some team may be willing to give Villar a two or three-year deal to be a starter. The Mets would likely not want to go more than one-year as a bench player. Because of this, Villar would likely take the deal with more security.

Aaron Loup: Throw the bank at him. In all seriousness, the Mets really need to keep Aaron Loup. Loup, 34, is having the best season of his Major League career. His age probably entails a two or three-year deal, and likely not for more than $7 or $8 million. For the season he had, and the difficulty of finding a great lefty arm in the bullpen, there is no reason not to bring him back.

Rich Hill: Don’t sign him. Unless Hill will accept a minors deal, there is no reason for the Mets to bring Hill back.

Jerad Eickhoff: Let him walk.

Cameron Maybin: Drop him off at a train station.

Positional Evaluation

Starting Pitching: Assuming the Mets ink Stroman, the rotation would be complete for the 2022 season. It would look something like this: deGrom, Stroman, Walker, Carrasco, Syndergaard and Peterson. The Mets may feel inclined to look for another starter in the place of Peterson. If they would like to trade him for prospects, they could glance at the very old starting pitcher free agent market, or take a look at potential trade targets. However, because they already have six starters, I don’t think it is necessary to look at starting pitching this off-season, other than depth pieces.

Relief Pitching: The relief market this off-season is going to be plentiful, but not very talented. The best arms available will be Jansen, Hand, Raisel Iglesias, Archie Bradley, Daniel Hudson, Corey Knebel and Mychal Givens. In a normal year, these guys wouldn’t make much more than $8-10 million, but this year they will likely be asking for more because they are the best out there. I don’t think it is necessary to go after one, unless Familia walks. Even at that, the Mets may throw David Peterson and Trevor Williams into the bullpen.

Catcher: McCann is there for a few years, and Nido is too.

First Base: Pete Alonso.

Second Base: I previously mentioned that the Mets should sign Javier Baez to a two or three-year contract to play second base. That then means that Jeff McNeil is an odd-man out. I think the best thing for the Mets to do is trade him to boost the farm system. McNeil is a good player, but he has a few years left in his contract, has been really inconsistent, and is at the end of his peak value. Baez is very inconsistent too, but would you rather have Baez or McNeil at second base for the next few years?

Baseball Savant
Baseball Savant

The top photo is Jeff McNeil in 2021, the second photo is Javier Baez in 2021. Those numbers are percentiles compared to the rest of the league. The higher the number, and the more red, the better. Baez has more categories that are better than McNeil. On top of that, I think Baez has more upside, especially being alongside Francisco Lindor. Those two could fire each other up and make the other play better.

Shortstop: Francisco Lindor.

Third Base: The Mets have many options here, and I believe this is going to be the most active position for the Mets this off-season. The third base market is severely thin, but Kris Bryant headlines the group. I believe the Mets will aggressively pursue him. Bryant, 30, is coming off a bounce-back year with the Cubs/Giants, and can fit into the infield with his former Cubs teammate Javier Baez. (All the Mets need is Carlos Santana and they will have the entire 2016 World Series infield.) However, maybe the Mets don’t need to focus on a third baseman to play third base. Trevor Story and Carlos Correa, shortstops, could slide over to third base. Do not forget about the current Mets third baseman, who will be under contract until 2025, J.D. Davis. Davis is a really good bet for the Mets in this situation too. At his best, he could hit .290 with 30 home runs. The issue is, he has been riddled with injuries the past two seasons. Because of this, there are many questions about his ability to stay healthy.

The wild card in the third base deck is Brett Baty. Baty is the Mets top third base prospect, and likely will be up in 2023 or 2024. He is going to be the Mets third baseman of the future. That being said, you can’t really block his position much past 2024. Unless the player the Mets sign can move over to another infield position that isn’t shortstop, they are going to have to settle on a three-year contract. The issue with that is that Bryant, Story and Correa are all superstars, who will likely land contracts of at least five years in length. The most likely situation is that they keep Davis, and don’t sign anyone. However, that won’t stop the Mets from engaging in plenty of contract negotiations.

Left Field: Dom Smith may have had a rough year, but he deserves another season or two to re-establish himself as a superstar.

Center Field: Brandon Nimmo established himself in 2021 as the Mets center-fielder of the future. This was further instated when the Mets traded their top center field prospect, Pete Crow-Armstrong. Nimmo had a great year in 2021. However, he is entering the last year of his contract. The priority here is to give Nimmo a contract extension in the Spring.

Right Field: Going to copy and paste what I said about Michael Conforto, then will go into other options. Re-sign, under one condition: It is a one year contract. After the season Conforto had, you cannot sign him more than three years, and he isn’t going to want that. Conforto, 29, is going to want a one-year deal or a six or seven-year deal. If the Mets offer him a one year contract in the neighborhood of $15 million, he really can’t decline it. This allows him to have another season to reset his market value to then get the major contract he desires. If Conforto does not re-sign, the Mets can hope that Nicholas Castellanos of the Reds declines his option, and becomes a free agent. Other than that, right field is very thin, with Avisail Garcia being the next best choice.

Most of these things can be completely washed away with one potentially new rule: the universal DH. Until then, we proceed as if it will not exist.

It will be interesting to see where the Mets go this off-season. Their best bet may be to explore the trade market more than the free agent market. The only issue with that is the Mets lack of tradable prospects.

The 2021-22 off-season is going to be filled with the Mets being involved in many talks, as expected. Which talks will lead to deals?

Wendell Cruz – USA Today

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