Apparently, I caused quite a little fervor when I suggested that Dominic Smith would be on the New York Mets 25-man roster on Opening Day. Well, I’ve put some thought into it, done a little research, and put together a projected roster that could work and still give the Mets options if the situation changes and again when Michael Conforto is ready to return.
Adrian Gonzalez will, by all accounts, be the Mets first baseman to begin the season. Unless he looks absolutely terrible in spring training and Smith shocks everyone, this much can be counted on. Except for the center field situation, practically the entire Mets starting lineup is written down in Sharpie.
For that reason, I won’t focus too much on the starting eight. What I’m going to do is put together is the Mets starting rotation and what I think would be an effective bench and bullpen drawn from the remaining players on the Mets active 40-man roster.
Following Noah Syndergaard, the rest of the rotation was originally projected to be Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and then Seth Lugo and/or Zack Wheeler. With the addition of Jason Vargas on Friday morning, this complicates things a bit but ultimately gives the Mets another reliable starter.
We should see Wheeler and Vargas competing for the fifth spot with Lugo moving to the bullpen full-time (or until he’s needed in a spot-start). Lugo’s curveball would be deadly in the bullpen, in my opinion. Whoever misses out the final spot in the rotation, whether its Vargas or Wheeler, will likely need to pitch in relief.
With the amount of money the Mets are paying Vargas ($8 million per year), plus manager Mickey Callaway’s comments about the unlikeliness of his team using a six-man rotation this year, it’s more than likely we’ll see Vargas lock up his spot in the rotation early on in Spring Training.
As already discussed here, Wheeler could be a stud-reliever in the making. After making very clear of his intentions to remain a starter earlier in the week, Wheeler backtracked on those comments and projected more of a team-first attitude the following day.
Personally, I can’t wait to see how this all pans out. We can’t be sure exactly how these new developments (Vargas) will affect the rest of the roster, but I’m always willing to speculate.
Mets Projected Bullpen & Bench
Jeurys Familia has the de facto closer spot locked up, barring the occasional mixing-and-matching that Mickey Callaway has previously alluded to. Jerry Blevins is our LOOGY (singular, for now). AJ Ramos will be there, as will Anthony Swarzak. After looking fantastic over the last two months of last season, Rafael Montero could be a long-reliever and make the sporadic spot-relief appearance late in games.
Since he is out of minor league options, the Mets’ hands are pretty much tied when it comes to Montero. They have to either keep him at the major league level or designate him for assignment. After finally showing signs of living up to his hype as a prospect last year, it’s highly unlikely they’d give up on him now. If he should falter though, he could be the first roster casualty of the regular-season.
Hansel Robles is my last addition to the Mets bullpen. It came down to him or Robert Gsellman. I went with Robles simply because of his potential and the early positive feedback coming out of PSL. Though, with Vargas now on board (unless Robles knocks the socks off of everyone in spring training) this may be his roster spot. We shall see.
Now, the reserves. There are a few shoo-in’s here. Kevin Plawecki, Jose Reyes and Brandon Nimmo will without a doubt be on the bench unless there is an injury or someone plays their way into the lineup. Plawecki will back up d’Arnaud. Reyes will spell Rosario at shortstop as well as give Cabrera the occasional breather at second.
Nimmo will serve as the Mets fourth outfielder, being that he can play every outfield position more-than-capably. That leaves two spots open on the bench. Presumably, one would be a utility player who could play both in the infield and the outfield. This would also need to be a player who can come in and clear the bases in a late-game, high-pressure pinch-hitting situation.
The guy who meets all of these criteria is Wilmer Flores. With the work he’ll be getting in the outfield this spring, he should be well-prepared to be an emergency outfielder if needed (hopefully he won’t be).
Since the Mets have brought in Matt den Dekker on a minor league deal, this could throw another monkey wrench into Mickey Callaway‘s decision-making process. The 30-year-old plays the outfield beautifully but hasn’t shown that he can hit at the major league level at any point in his MLB career.
While den Dekker is most definitely the better defensively-suited option as an emergency outfielder for this team, Flores, since he’d only be asked to play the outfield on an emergency basis, gives the Mets a much more offensively-potent and versatile bench. And that leaves us with one roster spot to be filled.
Dominic Smith’s Case For A Roster Spot
I’ve heard the calls for Dominic Smith to start the year in Triple-A, and I see your points. He would never get consistent at-bats in The Show unless Gonzo bombs or gets hurt. I get that. But by sticking Smith in Las Vegas and not giving him the opportunity to at least live the life of a major leaguer, they would be stunting his growth, in my opinion.
Let him come up and see how it’s done. Being in a locker room with actual major league veterans would be nothing like the atmosphere Smith saw towards the end of last season. He’ll get a couple of starts per week, maybe pinch-hit here and there, and soak up all he can from Adrian Gonzalez.
In a perfect world, right when A-Gon breaks down (whether that be in March or September or ever), Smith will be ready-and-raring-to-go. His bat played well when he was a few games into his career. There’s no reason to think that an entire offseason of training, losing thirty pounds, and learning from a borderline Hall-of-Famer won’t get Smith ready for everyday life in the majors.
It sounds a lot more beneficial to him than getting his head gassed up playing in Vegas, just to be crushed back down to Earth when he sees MLB pitching again. If the Mets need an extra reliever or outfielder, naturally Smith would be the first casualty. But at this point in his career, to let him learn at the highest level has got to be the course of action the Mets choose to take with Smith.
Once Conforto returns to the New York Mets, Sandy and Co. will need to cross the who-stays-who-goes bridge once again. But until that time comes, giving Smith a taste of a true MLB clubhouse (and hopefully, finding success while he’s there, albeit in limited at-bats) will give him something to work towards if he is the player to go down to Triple-A when the time comes.