Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When news broke that the National League was closer than ever to adding the designated hitter, my first instinct -- as a traditionalist when it has come to keeping the DH out of the NL -- was to recoil in horror.
Instead, I thought about all the ways the DH in the NL could help the Mets -- both soon and further down the road -- and stopped caring about NL tradition being ruined.
While the universal DH will likely not be implemented for the 2019 season (though there's still a chance), it seems like it has a strong chance of happening for the 2020 season. And there are three big reasons why the DH in the NL becoming a reality would be huge for the Mets...
Yoenis Cespedes would have a spot
Without a DH in the NL, the situation with Cespedes is really bad. After having surgery on both heels, Cespedes is expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2019 season. Omar Minaya said earlier this offseason that anything Cespedes provides in 2019 will be "gravy," but Brodie Van Wagenen is more optimistic than that. The GM recently suggested Cespedes could potentially return around the All-Star break.
Even if Cespedes returns earlier than expected, it's wishful thinking to believe he'll be able to handle left field with any regularity. Remember, he dealt with lots of other lower-body issues before his heels were surgically repaired.
With Cespedes, the Mets have a 33-year-old who is owed $29 million this season and $29.5 million in 2020. He's been hobbled, but when he plays, he's still highly productive -- hitting .292/.352/.540 in 81 games in 2017 and .262/.325/.496 in 38 games in 2018 while barely able to play the outfield.
For the Mets and Cespedes, the DH in the NL in 2019 would be great since it would be a perfect spot for an impact hitter whose health will always be a huge concern. But even if it doesn't happen until 2020, it would still be a godsend for the player and team.
There would be another option for Peter Alonso
No one expects Alonso to be a plus-defender at first base, but recent reports indicate he should be able to stick there. The problem right now when it comes to Alonso is that there doesn't seem to be a spot for him in the immediate future -- not with Jed Lowrie, Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano, and Todd Frazier on the roster.
If the NL adds the DH in time for the 2019 season, there will all of a sudden be a perfect spot for Alonso.
If the NL adds the DH in time for the 2020 season, the Mets will have another option for Alonso if it turns out that his defense at first base is worse than expected. There's also a scenario where it would make sense for the Mets to use Alonso as the DH even if his defense is adequate. And that scenario has to do with a recent trade...
The final years of Robinson Cano's contract would be far less concerning
There's no doubt that Cano can still hit, having slashed .303/.374/.471 in 2018 as a 35-year-old after returning from a PED suspension.
And while it's fair to believe Cano will continue to be a damn good hitter over the five years remaining on his contract (ending during his age-40 season), he might not age as well in the field.
Cano was still above average (4 DRS) at second base in 2018 and is on record saying he wants to remain at second base this season. If Cano's defense starts to slip, though, the Mets having the DH option in 2020 and beyond would give them two really solid options.
They can choose to either slide Cano to first base (where he got a taste in 2018) and use Alonso as the primary DH, or they can use Alonso at first base and make Cano the DH.
SNY's Andy Martino noted in December that Cano could end his career as the Mets' DH. Maybe Van Wagenen knew something that we didn't when he swung the deal for Cano and Edwin Diaz. Even if he didn't, the Mets are one of the teams that stands to benefit the most if the DH comes to the NL -- whether it's this season or next.