NASHVILLE — The Mets’ preferred path to bolstering their lineup and defense this offseason finally is coming into focus.
David Stearns divulged Monday that they want to add an outfielder who would play regularly but they are not seeking a third baseman, comfortable enough with their internal options and a job competition through spring training and perhaps beyond.
Also, Stearns said, the Mets view Jeff McNeil primarily as a second baseman, not an outfielder, heading into 2024.
Complicating all of the above: the uncertain status of Starling Marte. After suffering through groin issues last season, he has offered “really positive” feedback lately, according to Stearns. But realistically they won’t know what he can contribute until he starts to do so.
“We have a lot of really talented offensive players. We have some elite position players on our team,” Stearns, the president of baseball operations, said on the first full day of the winter meetings. “We can stand to score a few more runs, and that’s probably doing our best to complement that group and creating a roster that functions as well as it possibly can together.
“Our outfield situation, we could stand to add an outfielder there, no question. That can take a variety of different paths. It could be more defensive-oriented, it could be somebody we view as a bat-first player. There are options in free agency and trade that we’re working on, and we’ll continue to evaluate that.”
Multiple reports Monday linked the Mets to Michael A. Taylor, the former longtime National who won a Gold Glove with the Royals in 2021 and most recently was with the Twins.
Another option: Kevin Kiermaier, also a free agent. After a couple of years of battling injuries, Kiermaier rebounded in a big way with the Blue Jays in 2023, winning his fourth Gold Glove. He rated as a slightly above-average hitter and was better than Taylor in a variety of modern defensive metrics. He would cost more money than Taylor, but he is a better player.
Taylor and Kiermaier both are centerfielders. Acquiring either probably would mean often putting Brandon Nimmo in a corner outfield spot, which Stearns reiterated is an option but far from a necessity.
“We’ve had conversations about it, and I think Brandon is of the mind that whatever he can do to help us win, he wants to do,” Stearns said. “And so if there are roster constructions, lineup constructions where there are times he’s not in centerfield and it’s going to give us a better chance to win, he’s open to it.”
For third base, the Mets have the youthful homegrown trio of Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos, though the last of those hasn’t been mentioned publicly as often by team decision-makers in the context of his position. Manager Carlos Mendoza mentioned utility infielder Joey Wendle as an option at third (and elsewhere).
None of Baty, Mauricio or Vientos impressed much during their chances at the hot corner last season. Stearns said he doesn’t view anyone as the favorite for the job.
“It’s important for us organizationally to learn about our younger players, to provide them opportunity at the major-league level,” Stearns said. “Again, that doesn’t have to be all on Opening Day. But over the course of the year, we’ve gotta learn about these guys.”
Mendoza said: “There’s depth there, obviously. We’re a few weeks away before we have to report and then make that final decision around the end of spring training.”
Maybe they don’t, though.
“We’re going to get into the season, and performance and health ends up changing so much,” Stearns said. “We’ve all seen that. We all know it.”
The wild card is the DH spot, which the Mets don’t have filled. The answer could be a rotating combination of the above. It could be an external name.
Do the Mets have their DH already in the organization?
“It’s kind of too early to tell,” Mendoza said.
Stearns said: “I wouldn’t close the door on [bringing in a DH-specific hitter]. A lot depends on what else happens around that position and what some of the other moves are. But I wouldn’t close the door on it.”