Todd Frazier is continuing his slow crawl back to the Mets, with his rehab stint shifting to Triple-A Syracuse and his activation necessary by early next week unless he has a setback.
Mets manager Mickey Callaway spoke earlier this week about Frazier's return, saying what was already known -- Frazier will not be the full-time starter at third base. Instead, he will split time there with J.D. Davis and -- when he isn't in the outfield -- Jeff McNeil.
The Mets have some choices to make when Frazier returns and are in for some really hard playing time choices when Jed Lowrie comes back. For now, the focus is on Frazier. Here's how things could shake out when he returns...
Jeff McNeil's starts at third base could stop for the most part
McNeil has made 24 starts this season, with 12 coming at third base, 11 in left field, and one at second base. When Frazier returns, expect him to split time at third base with Davis and for McNeil to be the primary left fielder.
Complicating things a bit here is the fact that both Frazier and Davis are right-handed hitters, with Davis on the team primarily because he mashes left-handers. Who plays and when will likely come down to matchups, with Callaway mixnig and matching while trying to keep everyone involved. Davis is also supposed to start getting reps in left field, but now is not the time to experiment in-game.
Frazier's return and McNeil being in left field full-time will also have an impact on Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton's playing time. The Mets have spoken about carrying the best 25 players and using the best players regularly. That means an outfield of McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto from left to right on a daily basis.
Pete Alonso is not going to be impacted
The expectation before the season was that Frazier would be the first baseman until Alonso was "ready," with Lowrie holding down third base and McNeil in left field. When both Frazier and Lowrie went down and Alonso tore the cover off the ball in Spring Training, that changed.
Now, with Alonso entrenched as the first baseman and emerging as a true difference-maker in the lineup, it would be insane for the Mets to mess with him. And they won't mess with him.
The bench will get stronger and Smith could be in danger
The Mets are currently carrying four bench players and eight relievers, so it would make sense for them to demote a reliever (Jacob Rhame) when Frazier is activated. If they don't, the likeliest option for demotion is Dominic Smith.
Either way, on days when Frazier doesn't play, he will strengthen the bench. For instance, if Frazier was on the bench on Wednesday against the Phillies, he would've likely pinch-hit for Broxton with the game on the line in the ninth inning.
Frazier coming back is a good thing, as long as the Mets make the right decisions about how and when he plays.