Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
While the Mets' 2019 season wound up with them missing the playoffs, the emergence of a young core of offensive players meant all was not lost amidst the wreckage of the bullpen carnage that was the main reason the team will be sitting home in October.
The emergence of that core will mean some good problems regarding playing time in 2020. And the struggles of the bullpen will mean some tough decisions regarding how to fix it.
There are also decisions to make when it comes to how the Mets should handle players who are owed a lot of money in 2020, but whose potential contributions are in question.
Here are five of the big offseason decisions the Mets are facing...
The plan for Edwin Diaz and the closer role
Diaz's season has been disastrous, with him not only losing his closer job but being basically unusable at times.
But in the middle of his struggles have been signs that there is still a lot to work with. Diaz is striking out 15.50 batters per 9 (up from the 2018 season), his FIP is 4.39, his xFIP is 3.07, and it seems that most of what has gone wrong with him is linked to two things: poor location and an inability to harness his slider.
Part of the issue with Diaz and his slider could be due to the slickness of the new ball, which could be fixed by the time the 2020 season starts. And if that is negatively impacting him (a strong possibility), the 2020 ball not being as slick could arguably lead to improved location and the rediscovery of Diaz's slider -- the only pitch he has besides his fastball.
Still, while there is hope that Diaz can return to form, the Mets absolutely cannot go into the 2020 season with him as their closer. So they need to find someone else for that role. And it can't be Seth Lugo, due to the fact that he is severely limited when it comes to his ability to pitch in back-to-back games.
As far as potentially trading Diaz, that should be off the table unless a team is willing to give the Mets close to what they gave up for him. And that is highly unlikely.
The future of Noah Syndergaard
Syndergaard was the subject of trade rumors last offseason and again during the season, with Brodie Van Wagenen suggesting after the July 31 trade deadline passed that Syndergaard and other key cogs getting moved was not something the Mets were pushing hard to do this past summer.
Still, the relationship between Syndergaard and the Mets appears strained, and-- as SNY's Andy Martino has reported -- the expectation is that he will again be available via trade this offseason.
With Syndergaard under team control for two more seasons, the Mets will need to have a plan in place if they deal him. Simply put, the Mets would at the very least need to bring back Zack Wheeler or bring in another high-impact starter to replace Syndergaard.
But with no impact pitching prospects close to contributing and the Mets' history suggesting they won't go after pending free agent Gerrit Cole, it can be argued that the Mets should be keeping both Wheeler and Syndergaard.
What is the role of J.D. Davis?
J.D. Davis emerged this season as a player who should be considered a core piece, as the 26-year-old has hit .308/.370/.518 with 20 homers and 21 doubles in 136 games.
The issue with Davis is the fact that he is pretty much a man without a position.
Davis has done an admirable job in left field this season, though he has still been worth -9 DRS in 553.1 innings there. The numbers at third base are far worse, with Davis worth -9 DRS in just 220 innings this season. Basically, Davis is unplayable there over a full season.
But the offensive punch Davis provides is undeniable, and unless the Mets plan to trade him, he needs to be in left field nearly every day in 2020.
Davis in left field would almost certainly mean Jeff McNeil at third base nearly every day, which takes us to the next player on this list...
The plan for Jed Lowrie
After signing a two-year deal worth $20 million, a variety of lower-body injuries kept Lowrie out until earlier this month. And since returning, he has not yet started a game.
Perhaps Lowrie will be 100 percent healthy when the 2020 season begins and physically able to start on a regular basis. But there doesn't seem to be a spot for him. In other words, the Mets can't justify displacing any of their projected starting players for Lowrie.
Pete Alonso is at first base, Robinson Cano is at second base, Amed Rosario is at shortstop, and McNeil will likely be at third base. If that doesn't change, it seems that Lowrie needs to be a $10 million bench player -- regardless of how healthy he is. But if he's healthy, Lowrie being on the bench would seriously strengthen that area of the team.
The future of Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes has been invisible since the 2017 season ended.
He missed all but 38 games in 2018 due to injury, and his 2019 season ended before he could even begin properly rehabbing when he suffered an ankle injury on his ranch that required surgery.
Cespedes, who turns 34 years old in October, is owed $29.5 million in 2020 during what will be the final year of his deal.
If Cespedes is healthy enough to return in 2020, it will be a great problem to have. But as was the case with the Mets entering the 2019 season (and as they operated), the team needs to go into next season under the assumption that they will get absolutely nothing from Cespedes.