With a few more weeks of losing baseball, the Mets will likely fully pull the plug on the 2017 season and start playing for next year and beyond. Aside from making any trades, the Mets will use the next couple of months to evaluate what they have going forward. Here are five key questions the Mets must get an answer to before they approach an offseason in which they should have around $70 million to spend:
1) What is Brandon Nimmo?
With Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce set to hit free agency after the season, the Mets will be in the market for another outfielder. Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto should man the corners, leaving the team set on filling the gap in the center of the outfield.
Before the Mets address that position, they need to use the next few months to figure out what Brandon Nimmo can bring to the team. In a limited sample this year, he’s held his own (.350/.458/.400 in 24 PA). Can he keep that up for three more months, and can he be either the full-time starter in center or part of a platoon there? If the Mets go the free agent route instead (Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gomez, etc.), that should block Nimmo from a starting role for at least three seasons, so the Mets need to decide now what they have in the former first-rounder.
2) What happens with David Wright?
The Mets are in a tough position, as it seems everyone involved quietly believes Wright is done, but unless the former superstar retires, they always have to consider the possibility that they might be on the hook for that money. It makes the offseason budget very tricky to plan for. The unknown financial commitment has surely stopped them from making a long-term commitment to a new player at third base.
Player-wise, the Mets could probably get by for another year rotating the likes of Wilmer Flores, TJ Rivera and even Asdrubal Cabrera at third base, but with a guy like Mike Moustakas about to hit the free agent market, the Mets could gain some lineup stability by pursuing him. In the end, a resolution needs to be made to the Wright situation, whether that’s a buyout, deferred contract, or retirement.
3) What do you do with Asdrubal Cabrera?
There’s only one place you almost certainly won’t see Cabrera next season — playing shortstop for the Mets. However, that’s the only easy part of the equation. The Mets need to decide whether to trade him, pick up his option if they don’t trade him, and find him a position if they pick up his option.
If the right deal comes around, the Mets will probably send him packing, but if not, it seems hard to believe they’d decline a relatively cheap $8.5 million option for 2018 even after last month’s gripes about moving positions. Whether it’s at second base or shortstop, he’s the perfect one-year stopgap till they figure out a long-term plan, and with Bruce and Grandson likely gone, he’ll be a much-needed veteran in the clubhouse.
4) What do you do at catcher?
This might be the Mets’ trickiest question of all. The club has made every attempt possible to have Travis d’Arnaud win the job, but his .226/.287/.459 line in 2017 plus shaky defense means that he’s anything but a sure thing as he enters his 29-year-old season in 2018. To make matters more uncertain, their top catching prospect Tomas Nido isn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball in Double-A (.246/.282/.382 in 245 PA).
In an overall down year for free agency, there is actually pretty good depth at catcher (Alex Avila, Wellington Castillo, Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Wieters), which could allow the Mets to upgrade without breaking the bank. Still, giving any catcher anything more than a two-year deal would not only be giving up d’Arnaud but also be blocking Nido. Are the Mets willing to do that?
5) Do you wait to spend the money?
The question the Mets must ask themselves is how much of that near $70 million they want to spend in the upcoming offseason. That’s because this year’s free agent class is among the weakest in recent memory, while next year’s class features the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy, Andrew Miller, and more. If the Mets wants to make a play for any of those superstars, they have to be careful about how much money they tie up this year.