With the Mets’ season complete, here are five questions that will guide much of their offseason:
1. What is Mickey Callaway’s fate? This is the most pressing question, and an answer should come shortly. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen and his inner circle will meet early this week to make a decision on Callaway — who is under contract for 2020 but is far from guaranteed to return after managing the Mets through two disappointing seasons — and his coaches, at least most of whom are on expiring contracts.
As they deliberate, it is worth remembering that Callaway was hired after the 2017 season by then-GM Sandy Alderson, not Van Wagenen. Van Wagenen stuck by Callaway throughout an up-and-down 2019, but there is little reason for loyalty there.
2. What will the Mets do with Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard? The Mets’ long-ballyhooed rotation is entering what might be a transformative winter. But the Mets might be best off if the rotation isn’t transformed at all.
Wheeler is due to be a free agent and seems like a safe bet to receive a qualifying offer (a one-year contract at about $18 million). Free agents tagged with qualifying offers — and thus draft-pick compensation for the club that signs them — had a harder time getting jobs last offseason. If that is the case again, perhaps the Mets and Wheeler will find common ground on a longer-term deal.
Syndergaard was in trade rumors last winter and this summer, and there usually isn’t that much smoke unless there is fire — fire, in this case, being the Mets’ openness to and interest in moving Syndergaard. He had a career-high 4.28 ERA this season, and five years into his major league career, he has yet to reach his perceived Cy Young ceiling. But Syndergaard just turned 27, is under team control for two more seasons and is considered in the industry to have yet-untapped potential. The Mets should demand an absolute haul from any team that wants him, or better yet, smarten up and not move him at all.
3. How do the Mets fix the bullpen? Among the many what-ifs that marked the Mets’ season: What if would-be closer Edwin Diaz and would-be setup man Jeurys Familia had even average years? The team might be in the playoffs.
The Mets had two relievers who were reliable this year: Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson (when healthy). To contend for the NL East title in 2020, they will need much more than that. Maybe they can bet on Diaz and Familia bouncing back to their career norms, but that isn’t exactly a plan.
And so the Mets can stand to add a couple of relievers. The problem is relief pitching is a crapshoot from year to year, as the Mets have learned first-hand the past two seasons. Among those who will be free agents: Will Smith, Chris Martin, Sergio Romo, Steve Cishek.
4. Who is in center? The Mets faced this question last year, too, and stuck with Brandon Nimmo. Their options this winter are sticking with Nimmo again or acquiring an actual centerfielder, which would allow Nimmo to shift to left, where he is better suited. (Adding a centerfielder also would have an effect on J.D. Davis, who probably is the 2020 everyday leftfielder right now, and Dominic Smith, who has no obvious defensive spot.)
5. Where in the world is Yoenis Cespedes? The Mets haven’t answered questions regarding Cespedes since May, when he had surgery after suffering multiple fractures of his right ankle during a mysterious fall on his ranch near Port St. Lucie. The 2020 season is the last on his contract — he is on the books for $29.5 million — but it is not clear if Cespedes will be ready for the start of the season or any point of the season or if he is physically capable of competing at the major-league level after the major ankle injury and surgeries on his heels in 2018.