Change is a good thing, but it can also take away certain levels of comfort and familiarity. We got a taste of that over the winter with the New York Mets non-tendered Wilmer Flores. Most recently, we got another taste with the organization deciding to release infielder T.J. Rivera.
Both players hold a special place in the hearts of many Mets fans. However, with the other players acquired by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen over the winter and even into spring training, it didn’t make sense to keep them around.
For Rivera, it’s truly a shame that his recovery from Tommy John surgery hasn’t gone as smoothly as one would’ve hoped. Even if it did, though, it would’ve been tough to see him have a significant role on the 2019 club. And that’s without considering the fact that Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier will eventually be healthy enough to play.
The most important item on Van Wagenen’s to-do list as GM this past winter was to eliminate as many as those “if” situations as possible, which has been well established around these parts. We won’t find out how successful BVW was in doing that until July or August, but he’s certainly given his coaching staff plenty of options to sift through during Grapefruit League action.
Releasing Rivera was likely tough on multiple levels for the front office (although it’s hard to look past what could’ve potentially been part of the motivation). As Opening Day approaches, this is just one of a handful of tough roster decisions the Mets will be making prior to heading north to face the Washington Nationals in DC.
This is the position battle everyone is watching in Port St. Lucie, and the opportunity has only increased due to Lowrie and Frazier suffering injuries. When they both initially went down, it certainly felt as if the stars were aligning for Pete Alonso to finally get the call — especially with the first impression he made.
It’s not like he hasn’t taken advantage of a potentially clearer path toward becoming a big leaguer. He’s slashed a healthy .414/.469/.828 with as many extra-base hits as singles (six each) through his first 29 at-bats. It also doesn’t hurt that he shows off this kind of power.
Pete Alonso doing Pete Alonso things pic.twitter.com/I4S6iewfXu
— Joli (@24joliver) March 9, 2019
What was a little more unexpected has been the great camp Dominic Smith has put together. The power hasn’t been nearly as prodigious (two extra-base hits in 26 at-bats), but it’s hard to ignore a .423/.483/.577 line. This could be a difficult decision because of Alonso’s current 40-man status — he’s not on it yet and Smith is.
BVW has continually stated that service time won’t be a consideration if they feel Alonso is the best option for New York, but I’ll have to see that happen before believing it. Rivera’s release puts the 40-man roster at 39 players, but the Mets will need to open multiple spots before breaking camp with the team they want.
As noted around here in recent days, Lowrie and Frazier being sidelined has led to an interesting little competition between J.D. Davis and Luis Guillorme in the infield. What complicates this here, though, is not the status of the Mets’ injured veterans. It’s Adeiny Hechavarria and Devin Mesoraco — two non-roster invitees.
Hechavarria has posted just a .583 OPS in 18 Grapefruit League at-bats thus far, but New York signed him for what he can do with the glove. And while he needs to earn his way onto the roster, the $3 million base salary he’d earn if he sticks in the big leagues may be a clue as to how much the Mets might be valuing his services.
With regard to Mesoraco, the question will be whether New York wants to carry three catchers upon heading north. His relationship with Jacob deGrom might be his path toward getting another chance to stick in Queens, especially since he was seen taking ground balls at first recently.
Davis and Guillorme are both on the 40-man roster, but Hechavarria and Mesoraco aren’t.
BVW has signed quite a number of veteran outfielders for the purposes of depth and bringing some competition to camp. Depending on how much time Jeff McNeil spends in the outfield grass moving forward, the current starting outfield mix includes him, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares, and Keon Broxton.
The non-roster invitees in camp include Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Rymer Liriano, and most recently, Carlos Gomez. Liriano and Blanco haven’t put up eye-popping numbers in camp, but Davis has made an impact (.975 OPS in 18 at-bats). How Gomez fits into all this will be interesting to watch once he starts getting into games.
For the first time in what feels like a while, most of the Mets’ bullpen is accounted for. Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman are all locks for Opening Day, leaving open a couple of spots for a competition. With 5.2 scoreless innings already under his belt, Luis Avilan is probably all but a lock to be Mickey Callaway‘s second lefty reliever.
At the very least, including Avilan on the roster prior to facing the Nats in a couple weeks will mean yet another spot on the 40-man needs to be opened up. In all these instances, a number of young relievers appear to be the most vulnerable if a lot of roster shuffling has to happen.
The final stretch of spring training can drag because we’re all ready for the regular season to start, but this is a crucial time for the Mets as they begin making final decisions. Whether this acquired depth helps the club will be determined at a later date. What isn’t up for debate is that there will be a number of tough calls made in the coming days.