It’s for good reason that pitching is the Mets’ focal point this offseason — they can’t field a competitive major league team without upgrades in that area — but let’s not forget about the lineup.
On the surface, there is plenty to like about a lineup that figures to include Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso and Francisco Alvarez, among others. But don’t ignore the holistic view: The Mets were 20th in MLB in runs scored last season, and that’s not good enough.
There is murkiness at DH and in the outfield. And as much as president of baseball operations David Stearns talked up the idea this week of Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio at third base, an alternative plan seems necessary.
It would be nice if Baty or Mauricio emerged to claim the position, but you can’t count on it. It also would be nice if Starling Marte returned next season healthy as the force that helped bolster this lineup in 2022, but you can’t count on it.
The DH spot is an enigma, but Daniel Vogelbach has fallen into Luis Castillo/Oliver Perez territory as somebody whose mere presence on the roster next season would alienate most of the fan base. Sandy Alderson’s best move in his first season as Mets general manager might have been releasing Castillo and Perez before they played another game for the team, changing the narrative. The newly arrived Stearns has that opportunity with Vogelbach, with next Friday’s non-tender deadline looming.
Last offseason, the Mets channeled their energy into pitching heading to the winter meetings in San Diego, and the lineup became almost an afterthought. It left the Mets scrambling in a sense, trying to get in late on Carlos Correa, after his agreement with the Giants fizzled because of physical concerns. This offseason, heading to Nashville, Tenn., for the winter meetings, maybe the Mets will be more proactive with addressing the lineup.
Names to consider:
Shohei Ohtani: Is there any team with significant financial resources that shouldn’t be considering the best player on the planet? The Mets might be looking to reduce expenditures, but if they have a chance to get Ohtani and his 1.066 OPS from last season it’s a no-brainer.
Mets owner Steve Cohen is said to be a huge fan of Japanese culture and food. By now he should be a huge fan of Japanese ballplayers, after receiving optimal return from Kodai Senga in his rookie season. Yoshinobu Yamamoto could be next in the rotation.
If the Mets were to sign Ohtani, it would be as a DH for the first season, until his right elbow strengthens from surgery to address his torn UCL.
Justin Turner: The idea of the former Mets infielder returning to Queens in a jack-of-all-trades role is intriguing.
Turner could provide insurance at third base, but also play second and serve in the DH role. Turner, who recently declined his 2024 player option with the Red Sox, turns 39 this month and the Mets would run the risk of becoming the team that had him before and after he was a good player.
Even so, Turner had an .800 OPS last season and has been a strong clubhouse presence throughout his career.
Teoscar Hernandez: This could fall into the category of the Mets’ Tommy Pham signing last offseason: a proven veteran with power who can bounce between the outfield and DH if needed.
Hernandez is a strong player defensively. The Mets will have questions about Marte (who still has two years and $39 million remaining on his contract), and Hernandez could help give the Mets protection in the outfield.
Jeimer Candelario: He rebounded after a down season with the Tigers and would give the Mets a switch-hitting option at third base, where he was strong defensively for the Nationals after arriving from the Cubs.
Again, it comes down to how much faith the Mets have in Baty/Mauricio at third base.
Kevin Kiermaier: Stearns said this week that he’s content with Nimmo in center field but would consider moving him to a corner spot if there was an opportunity to improve the team.
Kiermaier just won a fourth Gold Glove in center field and brought a respectable .265/.322/.419 slash line to Toronto’s lineup.