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Mets in good, if incomplete, shape as baseball lockout seems imminent

Max Scherzer reacts after striking out San Francisco

Max Scherzer reacts after striking out San Francisco Giants' Wilmer Flores to end game 5 of the 2021 National League Division Series at Oracle Park on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 in San Francisco, CA. The Dodgers won 2-1.  Credit: Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag/Wally Skalij

As baseball careens toward its first work stoppage in a generation, with the industry expecting MLB to enact a lockout Thursday upon the expiration of its collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association, the Mets suddenly are sitting pretty with their offseason to-do list.

Over the past week, they have committed $254.5 million to four players: righthander Max Scherzer, outfielder Starling Marte, outfielder Mark Canha and infielder Eduardo Escobar. The Mets made the Marte and Canha deals official Tuesday night, with Scherzer and Escobar to come Wednesday, prior to the transaction freeze.

That should be the bulk of the Mets' heavy lifting with regard to the roster this offseason, all completed within two weeks of Billy Eppler being introduced as general manager. And it positions them well for what probably will be another flurry of activity when MLB and the MLBPA agree on a new CBA, when teams will rush to fill remaining holes before spring training.

What else do the Mets need? Here is a quick look.

* A manager and most of a coaching staff. This significant task took a backseat as the Mets focused on acquiring players. Now that nobody will be allowed to acquire players indefinitely, they can go back to finding a manager to replace Luis Rojas. Whom Eppler and Co. will choose is anybody’s guess — a veteran manager seems like a wise choice this time around — but there should be clarity in the coming weeks.

The only coach the Mets have under contract is pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, whose option was picked up in October. Expect the eventual manager to have significant say in shaping his staff.

* Some relievers. The Mets are light in the bullpen, with Aaron Loup (Angels), Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand and Heath Hembree no longer under contract. Of their part-timers, only Drew Smith (2.40 ERA) pitched like he deserved a regular spot. The 40-man roster does not include any lefthanded relievers.

There are dozens of free-agent arms for the Mets to choose from, including righthanders Mark Melancon, Joe Kelly, Ryan Tepera, Steve Cishek and Adam Ottavino, plus southpaws Andrew Chafin, Tony Watson and Hand.

The bulk of the Mets’ back-end of the bullpen is intact: Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Miguel Castro.

* At least one more starting pitcher. Even after adding Scherzer, the Mets need an additional starter to push both Tylor Megill and David Peterson into the bullpen/Triple-A section of the depth chart. Here, too, there are options. Rich Hill impressed the Mets with his ability, intelligence and clubhouse presence, and he was open about his interest in returning. Reports have linked Yusei Kikuchi to the Mets. The Athletics, believed to be willing to trade most anybody, have Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and others. Marcus Stroman is still a free agent.

* Maybe a hitter? The Mets are in a position of power here, able to strike if they feel moved to action or a deal presents itself. They aren’t desperate at any particular spot.

Kris Bryant — who plays third base, first base and all three outfield spots — would fit if the Mets are open to another big-ticket signing. So would Chris Taylor, though he would also cost the Mets a draft pick, which they are trying to avoid.

If the Mets add either of them or another starting-caliber position player, it would further the glut of Jeff McNeil/J.D. Davis/Dominic Smith — and raise the possibility of a trade or trades. Second base looks like some combination of Escobar, McNeil and Robinson Cano, with third-base options including Escobar, McNeil and Davis. The designated hitter, expected to be implemented in the NL with the new CBA, will open up another full-time position for those hitters and others.

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