The Mets' roster entering the 2020 season might look very similar to the one they currently have. But there are some key areas where they could use improvement.
New York ranked near the bottom of the league in 2019 in overall DRS, and adding a center fielder with the ability to at least be average defensively could go a long way toward improving the team's defense.
As presently constituted, the Mets' outfield heading into 2020 is J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto from left to right, with Jeff McNeil sliding to third base.
Nimmo was passable in center field this season, worth -1 DRS in 481.0 innings after being worth -6 DRS in 1,040.2 innings out there in 2018. There is a case to be made that the Mets should simply stick with Nimmo in center field. But if they want a better defender (and one who can cover more ground to make up for Davis being in left) who they plan to play nearly every day, they'll have to look elsewhere.
Here are four potential options...
Starling Marte, Pirates
The Pirates have an $11.5 million option on Marte for the 2020 season and a $2 million buyout that would make him a free agent.
Pittsburgh was dreadful in 2019 and does not look like a contender for 2020, which would make one year of Marte pointless to have on their books. That means the most sensible options for the Pirates should be buying Marte out or picking up the option with the intent of trading him.
In either scenario, the Mets should be interested. Marte, 30, hit .295/.342/.503 with 23 homers and 25 steals this season. Defensively, he was worth -9 DRS in 1,141.1 innings. But that drop in defense seems more like an aberration than the norm.
Prior to this season, Marte had graded out as just about average in center field every year of his career. He was worth 1 DRS there in 2018 during what was his first season playing center full-time.
Manuel Margot, Padres
Margot didn't hit much this season, slashing .234/.304/.387 with 12 homers in 151 games. But he was very good in center field, worth 6 DRS in 943.1 innings there.
The 25-year-old Margot has been an above average defender in center every season since making his big league debut in 2016, and the Mets have been linked to him in the past (though it's not clear if his name was out there because they were interested or because the Padres floated it).
While Margot hasn't put it all together yet, he's young enough to take a chance on.
Brett Gardner, free agent
Whether it's the juiced ball, the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, or something else, the 36-year-old Gardner had a power explosion this season, hitting .251/.325/.503 with a career-high 28 homers in 141 games.
Any team adding Gardner (if he doesn't return to the Yankees) shouldn't expect him to replicate what he did this season, but he still profiles as a valuable player.
Defensively, Gardner was worth -2 DRS in 820 innings in center field this season -- the first time in his career he's been below average. But unless he falls off a cliff defensively in 2020, the combination of offense and defense he provides could be worth it.
Cameron Maybin, free agent
The free agent class of center fielders is not great, but Maybin and Gardner are arguably the best two bets out there.
The 32-year-old Maybin hit .285/.364/.494 in 82 games for the Yankees during the regular season after struggling badly in 2017 and 2018.
Maybin has barely played center field this season, though, and his performance out there has swayed wildly since he made his major league debut in 2007. So buyer beware.