The New York Mets offense struggled as a whole in 2018, though one of their biggest weaknesses was against left-handed pitching, where they ranked among the bottom of the league in virtually every category.
Their 82 wRC+ against left-handed pitching ranked 26th, .285 wOBA ranked 28th, 24.7 strikeout percentage was 29th and their .224 batting average tied for the worst in Major League Baseball.
The numbers actually get worse when you look at Mets right-handed hitters vs. left-handed pitchers in 2018, they had a MLB low 75 wRC+ and only 17 home runs.
Finding at least one bat that crushes left-handed pitching is a must this offseason for the Mets to have a balanced lineup. Three of the Mets best hitters from 2018, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil, are all lefties that figure to hit towards the top of the lineup. The injury to Yoenis Cespedes and the likelihood of him missing a good portion of 2019, leaves the Mets vulnerable to left-handed pitching at the top of the lineup.
I must note, that Conforto showed marked improvement against left-handed pitching this season with a .808 OPS (.792 vs RHP) while Nimmo (.742 OPS) and McNeil (.812 OPS) did fair decent against lefties, though both of those numbers are below what they did vs. righties.
Time to look at what the free agent market has to offer for right-handed bats with the obvious top guy being Manny Machado. The marquee free agent had a 145 wRC+ against lefties in 2018 including more extra base hits (22) and walks (27) than strikeouts (18).
Signing Machado would be an obvious upgrade at either shortstop or third base. You could move Rosario to third if need be or Frazier to first/bench role. Those type of decisions aren’t things that hold you back from signing a superstar like Machado.
Ramos is a right-handed batter and crushed lefties in 2018 to the tune of a .321/.360/.557 line. It was the fifth straight season in which Ramos had a higher OPS against lefties, and he has a career .825 OPS vs. lefties and .735 vs. righties. It was a good season overall for the former National, he posted a 2.7 bWAR in 111 games.
Grandal is a switch hitter, though he’s fared much better in his career against righties with a .797 OPS than lefties with a .728 OPS.
How the Mets will deploy their outfield for 2019 remains a question, and a potential answer could be right-handed hitting center fielder A.J. Pollock. The 30-year-old is headed to free agency coming off a 2.5 bWAR season. He’s been historically better against lefties in his career (.825 OPS vs LHP, .798 OPS vs RHP) despite having only a .742 OPS in 2018 vs. lefties.
Right field might be another spot the Mets could squeeze a lefty masher in if they decide to play Jay Bruce mostly at first. Andrew McCutchen had a solid 2018 season (2.7 bWAR) while hitting .264/.363/.456 against lefties. For his career, the former MVP, has crushed lefties with a .950 OPS off them.
One other spot they might look to add a lefty masher is on the bench, given the questions surrounding the health of Wilmer Flores and his struggles against lefties (.610 OPS) and overall (.736 OPS) in 2018.
The Mets would have multiple options on that front with lefty mashers Danny Valencia (.864 career OPS vs LHP) and Steven Pearce (.959 OPS in 2018/.852 career) available via free agency. Mark Reynolds (.791 career OPS) and Logan Forsythe (.784 career OPS) have also handled lefties better in their careers and play multiple spots.
Machado’s the clear answer here, given his overall talents other than just being a lefty masher, though it seems unlikely the Mets enter the sweepstakes for the young star. After that, Ramos might be the best fit for a team that has been starving for an everyday catcher.
Of course, the Mets could also look to one of the best hitting prospects in baseball that mashes lefties, Peter Alonso. The 23-year-old hit .285/.395/.579 with 31 doubles, 36 homers and 119 RBI in 2018 between Double-A and Triple-A. Alonso’s OPS by season vs. lefties, .950 in 2018, 1.099 in 2017 and 1.331 in 2016. The first base prospect is now tearing up the Arizona Fall League, going 7-for-12 with two walks in the first three games.
As the Mets still search for their next GM – one thing is for sure – he will need to find a lefty masher or two if the Mets hope to score runs in 2019.