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Five key spring training questions for the Mets

First base, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and more.

Mets prospect Peter Alonso speaks to the

 Mets prospect Peter Alonso speaks to the media before the first game of a doubleheader against the Marlins at Citi Field on Sept. 12, 2018  Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

1. WHO’S ON FIRST?

The Mets have indicated that prospect Peter Alonso, who crushed Double-A and Triple-A pitching last year, will get every chance to win the first-base job in spring training. Whether they actually will give it to him isn’t clear. With impact prospects, teams have been known to manipulate service time — and thus gain an extra year of team control before a player hits free agency — by keeping them in the minors for a couple of additional weeks. The knock on Alonso is his defense, and if that indeed is a weakness in camp, it could give the Mets cover to keep Alonso in the minors to begin the season. Todd Frazier and Dominic Smith are among the other first-base options.   

2. A DEAL FOR deGROM?

Jacob deGrom has been open about his interest in signing a long-term contract extension, and the Mets have said they would very much like to keep him around beyond the 2020 season. But talks seemingly haven’t been very serious. Neither party has set any sort of deadline to get a deal done — at least not publicly — but spring training is a low-key enough time of year that talks could ramp up.   

3. WHAT IS YOENIS CESPEDES’ STATE?

The Mets have been mum on the state of Yoenis Cespedes’ rehabilitation from surgery on both of his heels last year, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said last month that the club will have a better idea once he gets to camp. Will Cespedes be back in July? September? Not till next season? Spring training should bring some clarity.  

4. CAN JEFF McNEIL PLAY THE OUTFIELD?  

A year ago, McNeil was a virtual nobody in the Mets’ farm system: 25 years old, mostly hurt the previous couple of seasons and opening the season in Double- A. But after his breakout year, which included tearing the cover off the ball in about two months of major-league time, the Mets want to create playing time for him. A crowded infield means McNeil, mostly a second baseman as a pro, will be re-learning the outfield, which he played in college. The Mets aren’t sure which outfield spots he will be able to handle.   

5. HOW WILL THE METS BUILD THE ROSTER?

There aren’t many job competitions for the Mets in spring training, but among the decisions is whether to carry 12 or 13 pitchers. The latter would be more in line with what the Mets did last year, but the former would open an extra spot on the bench for the crowded position-player picture. (Teams sometimes go with 12 pitchers early in the season, when there are more off days, and add an extra arm after the first couple of weeks.) Either way, there are two or three bullpen spots to be won among the many relievers in camp. Among them: Paul Sewald, Drew Smith, Tyler Bashlor and Daniel Zamora.  

 

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