Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Mets have made some notable additions this offseason and should be better off for them. But while their ceiling is high, it's hard to put them on the same level as the Braves and Nationals. It's also hard to believe that they're done making moves.
Brodie Van Wagenen made a very necessary (if still a bit risky) bullpen addition by signing Dellin Betances. Rick Porcello has also been added to the starting rotation. By also adding Michael Wacha, the Mets have six starting pitchers for five spots -- a good problem to have. The only move of note on the offensive side of things was trading for Jake Marisnick, whose addition was more about his defense in center field than anything.
With just over a month to go until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, the Mets' payroll for luxury tax purposes is roughly $195 million. When you factor in the additional money Yoenis Cespedes will receive if he is on the Opening Day roster or on the IL for a reason other than his ankle, that number rises to about $200 million -- $8 million shy of the luxury tax threshold.
If the Mets want to put themselves in better position between now and Opening Day and/or give themselves more wiggle room to spend during the season, there is more work to be done. There is also the presence of a few players on the roster who would be better off elsewhere in 2020.
Here's what should still be on Van Wagenen's agenda...
Trade for Starling Marte
No, you're not having deja vu. This is another call to trade for Marte, who has been connected to the Mets most of the offseason and whom the Mets and Pirates have had trade discussions about.
No, the Mets should not trade Brandon Nimmo in a deal for Marte. This should be about adding Marte, using him in center field, and sliding Nimmo to left field.
If the Mets feel Marte's defensive slide last season was an aberration, he is the perfect fit for center field -- a spot where the Mets don't currently have a full-time player who profiles best there defensively.
The complications with Marte are currently the Pirates' asking price and his contract, which will pay him $11.5 million in 2020 and has a team option in 2021 worth $12.5 million. Pittsburgh can hang onto Marte and try to deal him during the season. But if he gets hurt, they could be left holding the bag. Translation: They should be itching to trade him now, and the price has to be dropping a bit.
The Mets adding Marte without clearing salary would put them over the luxury tax threshold, and it's very hard to see that happening. So they also need to...
Trade Jed Lowrie
Due to a string of injuries that kept him out the majority of the season, Lowrie was more of a myth in 2019 than an actual baseball player. And he counts for $10 million against the luxury tax in 2020, during what is the second and final season of the contract he signed last offseason.
The Mets are set when it comes to their starting infield, so Lowrie -- if healthy -- has no place there.
When it comes to the bench, if the Mets carry five players on it, it should shake out something like this:
Yoenis Cespedes, OF
Jake Marisnick, OF
Luis Guillorme, INF
Dominic Smith 1B/OF
Tomas Nido, C
The Mets could always carry Lowrie instead of Guillorme if Lowrie is still here, but they should be doing everything they can to deal him and as much of his salary as possible. Even if they can only clear $5 million or so off the books, it could still be worth it. It all depends on what kind of sweetener the Mets would have to throw in to get a team (Rangers?) to take Lowrie off their hands.
This takes us to Dominic Smith.
Earlier this offseason, I was pretty adamant that the Mets should trade him -- simply because I didn't think there was much of a role for him in Queens in 2020 and beyond. In other words: If there was value to be had for Smith, cash in.
But with the Mets not having a true backup first baseman and with Smith able to at least fake it in the outfield, maybe the smarter play is to hold onto him for now unless a trade is too good to pass up.
Find a catcher to pair with Wilson Ramos
It seems that the Mets want someone more reliable than Tomas Nido as their backup. And with Ramos' injury history, it's a smart plan to upgrade at catcher.
Robinson Chirinos made a shade under $6 million in 2019 and profiles as a starter, having played in 114 games last season for the Astros. So adding him might be a pipe dream due to monetary and playing time issues.
Beyond Chirinos, there isn't much out there. So if the Mets hope to upgrade from Nido and give themselves a hedge against a Ramos injury, Van Wagenen might have to get creative.