Even before the New York Mets season ended, fans and I’m sure the front office, were already discussing what the team could do to turn it around in 2018. Before looking at specific players to add, you must decide which positions you think the team needs the upgrade at the most.
It’s obvious the Mets need pitching, whether it’s two or three bullpen arms or a reliever and a veteran starter. Bottom line, we can all agree the Mets pitching depth needs to be significantly deeper going into the 2018 season.
Now that the Mets have their coaching staff and know they need pitching help, which position should be the biggest priority to upgrade at this offseason?
Part of this question was answered when they decided to pick up the 2018 option on veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera for $8.5 million at the start of November. The Mets figure to use Cabrera mostly at third base next season (at least for now) after he’s proven he can no longer play shortstop and his lack of range limits him at second base.
Next you move to second base, where the Mets have a hole after getting solid value for nearly two years off their trade of Jon Niese to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Neil Walker. The Mets had eight different players man second base in 2017 and have no perfect fit for the spot in 2018.
The Mets best two options at second are Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera, both of whom finished the season on the disabled list. Both hit slightly above league average last season (Flores 106 wRC+, Rivera 103 wRC+) and played slightly below average defense at second (Flores -1 DRS/2.5 UZR150, Rivera 0 DRS/0.3 UZR150).
Beyond those two players, the Mets also have Phillip Evans, Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds, all of whom played second base in the big leagues for New York this past season. They also have defensive wizard Luis Guillorme who was recently added to the 40-man roster and is expected to start the 2018 season in Triple-A. Guillorme played 72 games at second base compared to 58 at shortstop, as the Mets believe Amed Rosario is the long-term answer at short.
The Mets have already shown interest in trading for Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler who is one of many names being floated around as trade targets in a robust market.
Right next to second you have first base where 22-year-old Dominic Smith finished out last season as the starter but disappointed with the bat (73 wRC+) and with the glove (-7 DRS,-2.8 UZR/150). Of course, Smith was just getting his first taste of the big leagues and did hammer nine home runs in 167 at-bats.
You can also argue that first base is the best spot defensively for both Flores and Rivera where you can hide the lack of range each guy has. Next on the farm for the Mets at first is former second round pick Peter Alonso that has mashed his way through the minors thus far hitting .297/.364/.539 with 23 home runs in 123 games.
Alonso finished the year at Double-A Binghamton and is likely to start his 2018 season there, but the Mets shouldn’t be afraid to be aggressive with the 2016 draft pick. The biggest question mark remaining for the young slugger is whether he can improve on what has been sub par defense to this point at first base.
Michael Conforto ended the season on the disabled list and is coming back from surgery to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder. Conforto was in the middle of a breakout season in which he was one of the best hitters in the National League. He was hitting .279/.384/.555 with 20 doubles, 27 home runs, 68 RBI and 146 wRC+ when he got injured.
It was recently reported that Conforto will start swinging in January and is hoping to be a full-go for Spring Training. Despite the good news, the Mets are low on depth when it comes to right and center field. Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo and Conforto are the only four outfielders currently on the Mets 40-man roster.
The Mets don’t have much in the way of outfield talent in the high levels that could help immediately, meaning the Mets would be risking a lot on the health of Conforto as well as the health of Lagares and continued success for Nimmo.
Jay Bruce is a name that has already been mentioned as a fit for the Mets given his ability to play first base and right field. The Mets also expressed interest in free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain during the GM meetings but at this point, that seams like a long shot.
It’s easy to see why the Mets could go any number of different ways this offseason with four different positions they might see as a need and that’s leaving out third base.
The Mets clearly don’t have the resources to improve substantially at all of the aforementioned positions. Thus the question becomes do they spend big on a player one player or do they try to spread it around on a few lesser players? If they do spend big, what position should they focus those resources on?