The Mets' Francisco Alvarez runs to the dugout after the...

The Mets' Francisco Alvarez runs to the dugout after the end of the eighth inning against the Nationals in Game 2 of an MLB doubleheader at Citi Field on Oct. 4. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

LAS VEGAS — All of the players in the Mets’ designated hitter picture at the end of last season remain with the organization. Trade-deadline acquisitions Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf are under contract and prospects Mark Vientos and Francisco Alvarez retain their rookie status going into 2023.

If the Mets want to, they can try to figure it out with that quartet, going all internal in looking for an answer. But they are mulling making an addition at DH, the most glaring hole in their lineup.

“It’s something that we’re looking at. Whether it’s a priority or not, I wouldn’t forecast that or handicap that,” general manager Billy Eppler said at the GM meetings this week. “We have a number of candidates internally. We’re still in a nascent market right now to get engaged in. We’ll see what ultimately we go to Port St. Lucie with.”

Among the better bats available via free agency are first baseman Jose Abreu, who remained a highly productive hitter in his age-35 season despite a dip in power (career lows with 15 home runs and a .446 slugging percentage); first baseman Josh Bell, who struggled after a trade from the Nationals to the Padres but over the past two years has averaged 22 homers and 80 RBIs with a well-above-average .802 OPS, and corner outfielder Joc Pederson, who specializes in crushing righthanded pitching and was a first-time All-Star with the Giants in 2022.

There also is J.D. Martinez, a true DH who despite a relative down season in 2022 with the Red Sox has maybe the most thorough track record of power in this bunch.

Asked about injecting more thump into the Mets’ lineup, Eppler said, “We need to grow our run differential in whatever way we can.”

The Mets picked up Vogelbach’s $1.5 million option for 2023 after he was largely productive down the stretch following a trade from the Pirates. He had an .830 OPS in the bulk of the DH time, facing righthanders. Ruf, conversely, was ineffective against lefties, posting a .413 OPS. He’s under contract for $3 million next year.

You’re up, kid

Alvarez, the Mets’ top prospect and a surprise call-up in late September, is not guaranteed to open next season in the majors, Eppler said.

“He’s gotta earn his way on the roster,” he said. “We’ll see. He’ll get an opportunity to do that.”

Eppler declined to discuss the Mets’ plans for catcher, though, including whether the starting spot will be up for grabs during spring training. Alvarez is considered the backstop of the future, but incumbents Tomas Nido and James McCann remain with the team. The Mets might carry all three.

“That’s something that could happen. If you did, you’d want to diversify their skill sets a little bit,” Eppler said. “If one is particularly offensive and another one is particularly defensive, that’s a complement you can do.  So we can carry that largely because of players like [Luis] Guillorme and players like [Jeff] McNeil that can serve multi-purpose.”

Pair of aces

The challenge of re-signing ace Jacob deGrom would be committing upward of $80 million on the 2023 payroll to two pitchers in their mid-to-late 30s. Max Scherzer is due $43.3 million and deGrom is expected to command somewhere around the same.

That also would be true if the Mets lost out or passed on deGrom and signed, say, Justin Verlander, who declined a $25 million option with the Astros on Thursday to become a free agent.

How hard is it to have two $40 million-plus starters on the same team?

“It’d be a heavy allocation, to say the least,” Eppler said. “But you’d look to solve other areas of your roster internally, if that can be done, or via the trade market maybe where you don’t have to pay the free-agent rate, so to speak. That’s a needle to be threaded, but you have to be mindful of that.”


McNeil honored

Batting champion Jeff McNeil won the Silver Slugger Award, the first of his career, for NL second basemen. In his big bounceback season, he hit .326 with an .836 OPS. None of the Mets’ other four finalists (Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte) won one of the annual offensive honors.


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