The Mets’ managerial search lasted a month and yielded an answer Friday: Carlos Beltran, one of the best players in franchise history. He signed a three-year contract with a team option for a fourth season and will be formally reintroduced Monday morning in a news conference at Citi Field.
Now what? General manager Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets can get to the meatier portion — dare we say, the more important portion — of their offseason. After all, a manager is only as good as the players available to him.
So let’s take a look at three areas in which the Mets can look to improve their on-field personnel.
One caveat: Obviously, the Mets desperately need more good relievers. Trying to build an effective bullpen is often an exercise in futility, as this team has learned in recent seasons, which makes trying to project or anticipate how a team goes about that even more of a fool’s errand. Let’s skip that for now.
The Mets need a starting pitcher. A bit of baseball kismet: The Mets traded Beltran to the Giants in July 2011 for Zack Wheeler. On Thursday, Wheeler officially became a free agent. On Friday, the Mets hired Beltran. Either Beltran or Wheeler — but never both at the same time — has been a member of the Mets every day since Jan. 13, 2005, when Beltran signed a seven-year, $119 million contract.
Wheeler’s free agency leaves a hole in the Mets’ rotation. It’s possible they will bring him back — they are likely to make him a qualifying offer (one year, $17.8 million) by the Monday deadline — but if not, they will need to replace him.
The question here: Will the Mets be satisfied by filling that hole with a back-end type of pitcher? Or will they spend big money to add to a strength?
Of course, the Mets almost never play in the deep end of the free-agent pool. They haven’t awarded a nine-figure contract to a player outside their organization since . . . Beltran, actually. The Astros’ Gerrit Cole is a free agent, and if he opts out of his contract, the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg will be one, too. They’re the big fish in this market, and any team — even one with a rotation headlined by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard — would benefit from having them.
If the Mets want a lesser pitcher, take your pick of the free-agent bunch: Dallas Keuchel (again) and Cole Hamels right on down to Gio Gonzalez (again), Wade Miley, Tanner Roark and others. Madison Bumgarner, Beltran’s former teammate, is available. Signing 38-year-old Adam Wainwright to play under Beltran would be kind of funny.
The Mets’ best bet might be to trade from their position-player depth — does Dominic Smith have a spot/adequate playing time on this roster? J.D. Davis? — to add a controllable, cheaper starter.
The Mets could use a better catcher. Wilson Ramos had a solid year at the plate, and nobody questions his work ethic as he tries to get better behind the plate. But he is not a good defensive catcher.
Yasmani Grandal, with whom the Mets flirted last offseason, again is available after playing on a one-year contract with the Brewers in 2019. He bet on himself and the bet paid off in the form of an All-Star season, so now he is in prime position for a big multiyear deal.
How much did the Mets like the 2019 version of Grandal? Enough to improve upon their reported four-year, $60 million offer to him last offseason? Grandal turns 31 this week, and eventually he’ll suffer a drop-off. Maybe that is a risk worth taking for the sort of win-now team the Mets hope to be.
Upgrading from Ramos to Grandal would be a heck of a needle-threading — finding a taker for Ramos while negotiating with Grandal, hoping to accomplish both so as not to lose leverage with either — but if the Mets can’t land Grandal, there aren’t a lot of other attractive options to try this with.
The Mets could really use an actual centerfielder. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo should be commended for being good company men the past couple of seasons, always willing to man center when a need arose. But they are better off, and the Mets are better off, if they are able to stick to the corner outfield spots.
The list of free-agent centerfielders leaves much to be desired, so instead, here are two options who currently are with other teams: Jackie Bradley Jr. and Starling Marte.
Bradley would be due to make more than $10 million in his last year of arbitration, and the Red Sox — now led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the former Rays higher-up and the runner-up in the Mets’ GM search a year ago — are in cost-cutting mode for some reason. Boston might non-tender Bradley, thus making him a free agent, but if not, he probably could be had via trade.
Marte, a two-time Gold Glover and an above-average hitter, will have a $11.5 million salary for 2020 when the Pirates officially pick up his option. The Pirates are in a state of transition; they replaced their president and are looking for a GM and eventually a manager. When the leadership situation there gets figured out, it’s worth a phone call.
TWO TO GO
With the Mets tabbing Carlos Beltran as their new manager, only the Pirates and Giants managerial jobs remain open
Team He’s out He’s in
Mets Mickey Callaway Carlos Beltran
Angels Brad Ausmus Joe Maddon
Cubs Joe Maddon David Ross
Phillies Gabe Kapler Joe Girardi
Padres Andy Green Jayce Tingler
Royals Ned Yost Mike Matheny
Pirates Clint Hurdle TBD
Giants Bruce Bochy TBD
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