Mets still have offseason work to do as spring training starts
As players arrive at spring training to prepare for an Opening Day that suddenly is less than four weeks away, don’t forget: The Mets still have offseason work to do.
The transaction freeze that accompanied the lockout halted major-league moves for 99 days. Now teams need to play catch-up, which could create the biggest free-agent and trade-market rush since . . . well, late November, right before the work stoppage.
Back then, the Mets’ quarter-billion-dollar splurge brought in Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar. That filled several — but not all — of their roster holes.
Here is an overview of some of the offseason-type tasks general manager Billy Eppler and the Mets need to do while managing an abbreviated camp.
1. ADD ANOTHER STARTING PITCHER
The Mets’ top four of the rotation — Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker — are a formidable bunch. But each faces questions, mostly health-related, heading into spring training.
Similarly, their No. 5 starter at the moment would be someone from a group that includes Trevor Williams, Tylor Megill, David Peterson, Jordan Yamamoto and others. None has an extended track record of major-league reliability.
All of which is to say, the Mets still could use some help — and it would have been awfully helpful if Noah Syndergaard had re-signed or Steven Matz had accepted their offer early in the offseason.
Remaining free-agent starters include Yusei Kikuchi, Matthew Boyd and Zack Greinke.
2. BOLSTER THE BULLPEN
This is a constant presence on every team’s to-do list, but especially for the Mets right now.
The bullpen looks as if it has four locks (Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, Seth Lugo, Miguel Castro) plus two very good bets (Drew Smith, Williams). The Mets will need a lot more than that, even with a 40-man roster that includes options Yennsy Diaz, Jake Reed and Sean Reid-Foley.
There are dozens of available relievers, among them Ryan Tepera, Collin McHugh, Andrew Chafin, Brad Hand, Joe Kelly and Nick Wittgren. Don’t be surprised to see multiyear contracts. Diaz, May, Lugo and Castro are scheduled to be free agents after this season.
3. WHAT TO DO WITH JEFF McNEIL, J.D. DAVIS AND DOMINIC SMITH
These three get lumped together because they are hitters who have been everyday players in years past but won’t necessarily have that role after the Mets’ offseason additions, at least not in an obvious way before team decision-makers have weighed in on their intentions.
The Mets have room for some portion of this trio to play regularly — McNeil might be the best option at second base, for example, and Davis or Smith could DH — but the point is there is a surplus. And the Mets could try to turn that surplus into pitching.
An issue with trying to trade any of them is their stock is lower after down 2021 seasons. Each dealt with injuries — McNeil’s leg, Davis’ hand, Smith’s leg and wrist — that affected their offensive abilities. They are all solid bounce-back candidates, so it wouldn’t hurt the Mets to keep them, either.
4. MEET THE METS
Buck Showalter was not allowed to talk to his players until the lockout officially was lifted at 7 p.m. Thursday — 82 days after he was hired. Eppler, similarly, had little time to communicate with the team between his mid-November hiring and the lockout. So much of these next few weeks will be about getting to know players, even more so than usual for a new manager and GM.
His ability to work a clubhouse and earn the respect of players was a major reason the Mets hired Showalter, a veteran manager of 20 major-league seasons. He enters his first camp with his new team with virtually no relationship with any of them. The same is true for most of the coaching staff. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner knows most of his guys, but hitting coach Eric Chavez and others are newcomers.
The Mets will host a number of special events during the 2022 season.
April 15: The Mets will unveil their Tom Seaver statue prior to their home opener at Citi Field against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The game has a 1 p.m. start. April 15 is also Jackie Robinson Day and the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The Mets and Diamondbacks will honor Robinson by wearing No. 42 on the field.
July 9: The Mets will retire Keith Hernandez’s No. 17 jersey prior to their game against the Marlins. Hernandez will become the fourth player to have his number retired by the Mets, joining Tom Seaver (41), Mike Piazza (31) and Jerry Koosman (36). The Mets have also retired No. 14 for manager Gil Hodges, No. 37 for manager Casey Stengel and No. 42 across baseball for Jackie Robinson.
Aug. 27: The Mets will host an Old-Timers’ Day for the first time since 1994 prior to their 7:10 p.m. game against the Rockies. Gates open at 4:10 p.m. and the Old-Timers’ Day player introductions will begin at 5 p.m. Frank Thomas, Ron Swoboda, Jon Matlack, Felix Millán, Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson, Bobby Ojeda, Robin Ventura, Turk Wendell, Endy Chávez, Cliff Floyd and Daniel Murphy are among some of the over 40 players scheduled to attend.