After missing the first month and change of the season due to a knee injury, the Mets could be getting Jed Lowrie back on Friday when they return to Citi Field.
When it comes to playing time after Lowrie returns, it should shake out like this most days:
Lowrie at third base (relegating the struggling Todd Frazier to the bench), Amed Rosario at shortstop, Robinson Cano at second base, Pete Aloso at first base.
When it comes to who the Mets remove from the 25-man roster to make room for Lowrie, things get trickier. Here are the likeliest potential roster casualties:
As long as the Mets are sticking with Amed Rosario as their starting shortstop-- and they should be -- Hechavarria is the player it could make the most sense to drop for Lowrie. In a world where the Mets stick with Rosario (who is hitting .280/.317/.417 while working through his defensive issues), he'll be playing nearly every day at shortstop. And on days when Rosario sits, the Mets can shift Lowrie to shortstop. New York has the option of outrighting Hechavarria off the roster and trying to pass him through waivers. And if he passes through, he will be unable to elect free agency and retain his salary, The Athletic's Tim Britton recently noted. Instead, the Mets will be able to assign him to the minors.
While it might make more sense to drop Hechavarria, it seems there's a strong chance the roster casualty for Lowrie could be Davis, who has barely played since Frazier came back. When Lowrie returns, he'll likely replace Frazier at third base -- leaving Davis in the same position he's been in for the last few weeks. Davis is also the only player on this list who can be safely optioned to the minors without having to pass through waivers.
Broxton has been abysmal this season, hitting .156/.224/.178 in 49 plate apperances over 29 games. And his defensive miscue in right field last week literally cost the Mets a game against the Brewers. But the Mets saw something in the 29-year-old Broxton when they traded prospects for him in the offseason, and they have three years of team control remaining on him beyond this season at a relatively low cost. He's also out of options, meaning the Mets would have to DFA him and hope he passes through waivers. It's hard to see them taking that risk right now.
This would be incredibly unexpected, but Lagares is listed here because he and Broxton (both right-handed hitting, defense-first backup outfielders) are redundant. He is also listed here because this is almost certainly his last year with the Mets. The Mets would be eating the remainder of his $9 million salary if they DFA'd him, so this would likely have to be a trade. But again, don't expect it.
What should the Mets do?
The easiest thing to do is option Davis to Triple-A Syracuse. But if they're carrying the best 25 players -- as GM Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Mickey Callaway have preached -- Davis belongs on the roster. Even if it's simply as a right-handed power bat off the bench.
If the Mets are truly keeping the best 25 players (as of now), the choice is simple -- Broxton. But if they're looking at the big picture and hoping Broxton starts playing better (and they should be), the better choice at the moment is to drop Hechavarria. If they do that, though, they're still dealing with a redundancy on the roster with Broxton and Lagares. But that can be dealt with at a later date.
It should be noted that the Mets also have the option of delaying their decision a few days by simply placing Steven Matz on the IL when Lowrie returns, though that would mean carrying only 11 pitchers. They could also try to trade Frazier (not likely). Another option is sending Brandon Nimmo to the minors, but that would be extreme and shortsighted.
So this seems likely to come down to Hechavarria and Davis. And the clock is ticking.