Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
MLB rosters expanding to 26 players for the 2020 season will help every team, but the Mets -- who could be carrying some compromised players health-wise -- could be one of the teams that benefits the most from the extra slot.
Still, that doesn't mean New York is sitting in an envious position right now.
In the words of Brodie Van Wagenen, Yoenis Cespedes is ready to go offensively. As far as Jed Lowrie is concerned, Van Wagenen recently said the 35-year-old who dealt with various injuries for most of 2019 has progressed to the point where the team is "optimistic of having him participate in a meaningful way" come spring training.
If Cespedes and Lowrie are fully healthy or at least close to it, the Mets will be in a great spot. With Cespedes, they would have a serious offensive threat who could play left field often. With Lowrie, they would have a jack-of-all-trades bench piece with a plus bat who would be able to regularly fill in at third base and second base while perhaps playing shortstop and first base in a pinch.
But while it's fun to imagine what a healthy Cespedes could mean for the Mets, the fact remains that he hasn't played since 2018, when he appeared in just 38 games. And he has dealt with multiple heel surgeries and a severe ankle injury since then.
And while it's cool to picture a healthy Lowrie being a key cog, it's fair to note that Van Wagenen's tone when talking about Lowrie's progress and the Mets' expectations hasn't exactly been confidence-inspiring.
In the event Cespedes and Lowrie are healthy enough to merit roster spots but not healthy enough to be reliable contributors/regular starting players if needed, the Mets will be at a severe disadvantage.
Let's break things down...
Like every team, the Mets will carry eight position players: C Wilson Ramos, 1B Pete Alonso, 2B Robinson Cano, SS Amed Rosario, 3B Jeff McNeil, LF J.D. Davis, CF Brandon Nimmo, and RF Michael Conforto.
Like most teams, the Mets are expected to have a regular five-man starting rotation: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Rick Porcello.
The Mets will almost certainly carry eight relievers: Edwin Diaz, Dellin Betances, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Justin Wilson, Brad Brach, and Michael Wacha.
If the above players are on the Opening Day 26-man roster, the Mets will be left with five bench spots.
One of those five spots will be taken up by a backup catcher, so pencil in Rene Rivera or Tomas Nido. Another will go to Jake Marisnick, and one has to go to Dominic Smith. who would be the only backup first baseman on the roster. Add in Cespedes and Lowrie, and the Mets have a five-man bench and full roster.
Again, this would be a great turn of events if Cespedes and Lowrie are some semblance of their former selves. But if they're not able to be regular contributors?
- Jed Lowrie -- not Luis Guillorme -- would be the Mets' only true backup infielder. And if his legs are like they were toward the end of last season, he won't be able to cover much ground.
- Jake Marisnick would be the only true backup outfielder. Dominic Smith has done an admirable job faking it in left field, but he is not the kind of player you want to be inserting for defense late in games after using him to pinch-hit. So he would likely be mainly a pinch-hitter and a starter at first base for the handful of games Alonso doesn't start.
- While many other National League teams would have the option to carry three catchers, the Mets wouldn't be able to. That means that pinch-hitting with one catcher and having another ready to enter the game in case of an emergency wouldn't be an option. So the Mets' backup catcher would likely be a last-resort pinch-hitting option.
Basically, the Mets can hope for legitimate comebacks from Cespedes and Lowrie, but they need to prepare for the other -- and arguably more likely -- scenarios.
Having a compromised Cespedes (who would offer thump in pinch-hitting situations) or Lowrie taking up one roster spot would likely be fine. But two compromised players on a five-man bench would be a problem.
According to SNY's Andy Martino, the Mets remain open to trading both Cespedes and Lowrie. But finding takers is obviously easier said than done. And with spring training less than two weeks away, it's fair to wonder what the Mets' plan for Cespedes and Lowrie will be if the best case scenarios don't happen.