5 things on Mets' to-do list for when MLB lockout ends

·5 min read
Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler treated image, Cohen wearing blue Mets cap and Eppler with grey shirt
Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler treated image, Cohen wearing blue Mets cap and Eppler with grey shirt

With MLB owners locking out the players, all player movement -- and contact with players -- is frozen until a new CBA is agreed upon and the lockout ends.

Free agent signings and trades will not be allowed during the lockout, which is why there was such a frenzy to get deals done before it began.

The Mets were at the forefront of that frenzy, signing Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and -- to cap things off -- Max Scherzer.

While the Mets having taken care of a large chunk of their offseason needs, there is still plenty left on their list.

Here are five things the Mets should have on their agenda when the lockout ends...

Round out the starting rotation

With the addition of Scherzer, the Mets have four rotation members for the 2022 season -- Jacob deGrom, Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker.

However, aside from Scherzer, those pitchers will enter 2022 with question marks attached to them.

That means the Mets should not be relying on all of them to be healthy (though that would be ideal) and should be focused on adding one more reliable starting pitcher.

Speaking on the eve of the lockout, GM Billy Eppler suggested much of the focus for the rest of the offseason would be on adding pitching -- whether in the rotation or bullpen.

Sep 23, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (18) delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at RingCentral Coliseum.
Sep 23, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (18) delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at RingCentral Coliseum.

Of the free agents still available (and there are a lot), Yusei Kikuchi is one who was connected to the Mets right before the lockout. Carlos Rodon seems like an unlikely target for New York at the moment, since he might get the highest average annual value of any starting pitcher remaining and had shoulder issues late in 2021.

The Mets can also explore the trade market to add to the rotation (more on that below).

Explore position player additions

If the Mets have any opening left to fill, it would be either at third base (with Escobar sliding to second base) or at second base (with Escobar playing third).

Of the big players remaining on the free agent market, the versatile Kris Bryant is the one who would be the best fit. And the Mets are among the teams who have expressed interest.

Aug 25, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Kris Bryant (23) at Citi Field.
Aug 25, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Kris Bryant (23) at Citi Field.

Bryant will likely cost well over $100 million for five or six seasons, which would mean one more big contract added to the ones New York already has.

And SNY's Andy Martino recently reported that the Mets are "probably set on the position player side" unless they trade Jeff McNeil after the lockout.

But if they trade McNeil, Bryant could fit at third base and potentially shift to a corner outfield spot if needed in 2023 or 2024.

Bolster the bullpen

The Mets are in solid shape in the bullpen, with Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, and Miguel Castro the current late-inning options.

But the loss of Aaron Loup will hurt, as will the potential departure of Jeurys Familia.

Jun 3, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Aaron Loup (32) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning at Petco Park.
Jun 3, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Aaron Loup (32) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning at Petco Park.

Beyond Diaz, Lugo, May, and Castro, the Mets could turn to pitchers like Drew Smith and Sean Reid-Foley to help fill out the bullpen.

It would behoove the Mets to add at least one more experienced bullpen arm, though, and left-hander Andrew Chafin and right-hander Joe Kelly are among the most intriguing relievers still available on the free agent market.

Pursue trade possibilities

As part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will need to be agreed upon before the 2022 season, the DH will very likely be added to the National League.

And if the DH is added to the NL, part of the glut the Mets currently have will be freed up.

New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (2) reacts after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (2) reacts after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Specifically, New York could opt to keep both J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith and use them as their DH platoon. Or they could trade Davis and keep Smith, giving him the bulk of the at-bats.

There is also the question of McNeil's Mets future.

Arguably due for a bounce back in 2022, the Mets could simply slide McNeil in at second base. Or they could dangle him via trade -- potentially while attempting to get starting pitching back in return.

As noted above, Davis and/or Smith could also be candidates to be traded.

Figure out the Robinson Cano plan

I intentionally omitted Cano from the discussion above about the players the Mets could use at DH if the NL adds it.

That is because Cano should not be counted on for anything in 2022, and because he has done nothing to deserve taking playing time away from players who are more worthy.

Aug 2, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) reacts after striking out in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park.
Aug 2, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) reacts after striking out in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park.

Cano, who was suspended for the entire 2021 season following his second violation of the MLB PED policy, attempted to play winter ball earlier this offseason before being shut down due to a back issue.

For those who point to the $20 million Cano will earn in both 2022 and 2023, I'll note that -- barring a third positive test or his being declared medically unfit to play -- the Mets are on the hook for that money no matter what.

And with Steve Cohen being able to afford a sunk cost like Cano, the Mets should not compound the problem by forcing Cano into the lineup.

Their plan should be to have him attend spring training and see how he looks. But he should not be part of any plan, nor should his presence on the roster impact any other moves the Mets might make.

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