The Mets are exploring the market for a number of bats as they look to upgrade over what has been a generally unproductive tandem of Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis at designated hitter, reports Andy Martino of SNY. Nationals sluggers Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz, Colorado’s C.J. Cron and Baltimore’s Trey Mancini (as previously reported) are among the names in play.
Metsmerized’s Michael Mayer reported this week that the Mets have also had talks with the Pirates about left-handed-hitting Daniel Vogelbach, who is signed to a highly affordable $1MM contract with a $1.5MM option for the 2023 season. FanSided’s Robert Murray hears the same, though Murray notes that there are multiple teams inquiring about Vogelbach’s availability (as is surely the case with the Mets’ other reported targets). Martino describes conversations with the Pirates regarding Vogelbach as “active.”
The 29-year-old Vogelbach would surely be viewed as a platoon option in Queens, as he’s never hit lefties well and has again posted an inept .141/.267/.156 batting line against them. However, he’s crushed righties to the tune of a .260/.365/.532 batting line, swatting a dozen homers, nine doubles and a triple in just 203 trips to the plate when holding the platoon advantage this year. Vogelbach’s has long been a productive hitter against righties, and he’s not all that far removed from a smashing a career-high 30 homers with the 2019 Mariners.
There’s some appeal to Vogelbach beyond the strong platoon work and next year’s affordable club option, too. He entered the year with three-plus years of Major League service time, meaning that even after a club exercises next year’s option — which seems likely, whether it’s the Pirates, Mets or another trade partner — he’s still controllable through the 2024 season. Vogelbach would be arbitration-eligible in the 2023-24 offseason before reaching free agency in the 2024-25 offseason.
The 29-year-old Bell is hitting .311/.390/.504 with 13 home runs this season, striking out at a career-low 13.5% and drawing walks at a hearty 10.7% pace. He’s earning $10MM this season, and while the Nationals might be wary of sending long-term pieces to the division-rival Mets (e.g. Juan Soto), Bell is a free agent at the end of the year, which probably eliminates any such concerns from Washington’s vantage point.
It’s a similar story for the 42-year-old Cruz, who’s earning $15MM this season and has a mutual option for the 2023 campaign. Those are rarely exercised by both parties, however, and players with mutual options are generally considered rentals for this reason. Cruz got out to an awful start in 2022 but has produced a solid .283/.362/.425 batting line in his past 247 plate appearances. He’s only homered six times in that span, showing a decidedly uncharacteristic lack of power, but Cruz has still been a productive hitter if you’re willing to set aside a slow start to the year.
As for Cron, it’s understandable that the Mets would harbor interest, but a deal seems unlikely to come together. Although the Rockies are 19 games out of the NL West lead and six and a half games back of the NL’s third Wild Card spot, the organization has opted not to deal what look to be on-paper trade candidates for years now. Ownership in Denver steadfastly believes the foundation of a contending club is in place, as evidenced by the glut of extensions doled out over the past year (as well as the surprising signing of Kris Bryant to a seven-year deal).
One need look no further than last year’s deadline to see that Cron isn’t likely to be moved. The Rockies were in this position a year ago, when Cron was playing on a cheap one-year deal and looked like a slam-dunk candidate to be flipped to a contender. The Rockies instead kept him and inked Cron to a two-year, $14.5MM extension. To their credit, Cron has been overwhelming bargain, hitting .298/.350/.552 with 21 homers this year. That’s outstanding production, but if the Rox balked at moving him a year ago when he was a free-agent-to-be, it only stands to reason that they’d be further dissuaded from trading him now (even though the contract likely makes him more appealing to potential suitors). General manager Bill Schmidt said just last week that he does not expect to be a major seller this summer.
Any of the names listed here would likely serve as an upgrade over the combined .219/.300/.368 batting line that Mets designated hitters have put together this season. That production includes 90 very productive plate appearances by Pete Alonso as DH, which only underscores how rough the non-Alonso DH options have been at Citi Field this season.
As for what would happen with the current DH options the Mets have in-house, it somewhat unsurprisingly seems as though a change of scenery may be in the fold. Smith was just placed on the injured list due to an ankle sprain but could return by the middle of next week. The Cubs and Red Sox are among the teams to have talked to the Mets about a potential trade. Martino writes that the Mets are “working to trade Smith,” adding that Davis could be moved as well.
Smith has struggled in 2021-22 after a hugely productive 2019-20 showing, while Davis’ power numbers have tumbled this year despite eye-popping exit velocity and hard-hit numbers. Both are controllable for two years beyond the current campaign, which might make them appealing to a club that’s not a current contender but can afford to give Smith or Davis consistent playing time while showing a bit more patience than the Mets have the luxury of doing in a competitive setting atop the NL East.