In a recent mailbag, Tim Britton and Will Sammon of The Athletic fielded questions about the Mets and what remains of the offseason. They report that the club isn’t looking to add to their rotation any further this winter, except perhaps a depth move. They may make an addition at designated hitter, but don’t consider that essential.
The club came into the winter with lots of work to do in addressing the rotation. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander had been traded prior to the trade deadline in the summer and then Carlos Carrasco became a free agent at season’s end. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that David Peterson underwent hip surgery with the recovery set to last beyond the start of the season. All of that left the club with Kodai Senga and José Quintana in two spots, with depth pieces like Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi and José Butto available as well.
But since then, the club has bolstered that group by signing Sean Manaea and Luis Severino, as well as acquiring Adrian Houser from the Brewers. That currently leaves them with a front five of Senga, Quintana, Manaea, Severino and Houser. Each of Megill, Lucchesi and Butto are still optionable, which will likely have them starting in Triple-A until an injury creates a need at the big league level. Peterson also has an option and can be in Triple-A if there’s no room for him in the majors when he’s healthy. It seems the club will go into the season with that as the depth chart, though a minor league signing or waiver claim could still factor in at some point.
The long run is a bit of a different story. Each of Quintana, Severino and Houser are impending free agents. Manaea signed a two-year deal but can opt out after 2024. Senga has four years left on his deal but has an opt-out after 2025, provided he logs at least 400 innings from 2023 to 2025. That gives the Mets very little long-term certainty their rotation.
They do have some prospects who could perhaps enter the picture in the near future, with Mike Vasil, Dominic Hamel, Christian Scott, Blade Tidwell and Tyler Stuart some of the notable prospects that reached at least as high as Double-A in 2023. But per Britton and Sammon, the Mets “are aware that their prospect pool leans toward mid-rotation or back-end starters, and thus that a significant external addition to their rotation sometime in the next two years is necessary.”
Assuming the Mets are shopping for a front line starter next winter, they should have some options. Corbin Burnes, Max Fried, Shane Bieber and Walker Buehler currently look to be some of the most exciting names in the free agent class of 2024-25. In terms of veterans, Zack Wheeler, Nathan Eovaldi and Scherzer will be in there as well, with Verlander perhaps joining them depending on the outcome of his vesting option. Robbie Ray can opt out of his deal after the upcoming campaign. Pitchers like Jack Flaherty, Frankie Montas or Severino might have bounceback years and raise their stocks, and the same goes for pitchers with options like Lucas Giolito or Manaea. So much can happen in a year to change a club’s plans but the Mets should be able to find something to their liking, especially with their willingness to spend money.
Turning to the designated hitter situation, the Mets could have some internal options there. The recent signing of Harrison Bader to join Brandon Nimmo in the outfield leaves one spot open on the grass. Starling Marte is the most logical person to line up next to those two, but he’s now 35 and is coming off a frustrating season. He missed almost half the year due to migraines and groin issues, hitting just .248/.301/.324 when in the lineup. Perhaps the Mets will look to get him some semi-rest days via the DH slot. If so, that would leave some outfield playing time for Tyrone Taylor or DJ Stewart. The latter would also be a DH candidate since he’s considered a poor fielder. Mark Vientos will be battling Brett Baty and Joey Wendle for playing time at third but Vientos is also considered weak on defense and could find himself in the DH mix if he hits well enough. Baty hasn’t been graded well for his third base defense in his major league career, for that matter.
That gives the Mets plenty of internal candidates to fill the DH slot, but it’s also possible to see room for an addition. Each of Baty, Vientos and Stewart are still optionable and could find themselves in Triple-A, depending on how things go. That gives the club a path to perhaps bring in a bat. Some of the DH types available in free agency include J.D. Martinez, Joc Pederson, Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Soler, Brandon Belt and Justin Turner. The Mets have previously been connected to Turner and Martinez in rumors this offseason. Turner would arguably be the best fit on the roster since his ability to play some infield means he wouldn’t be strictly limited to a DH role and could allow the club to cycle Marte or anyone else in there. Since Turner is 39 years old, he will also be limited to a short-term deal which will appeal to the Mets, given the way they’ve been operating this winter.
Despite the club’s apparent transition year in 2024, their past spending still has their competitive balance tax figure over the fourth and highest threshold of $297MM. Roster Resource pegs their CBT figure at $321MM right now. As a third-time payor at that level, the Mets will be facing a 110% tax on any further spending. The tax bill won’t be calculated until season’s end, so midseason deals could drop them down, but it seems inevitable that they will be facing another steep bill in the fall. They have shown little hesitation about spending money under owner Steve Cohen but it remains to be seen if they will add another contract to the books when they could give those DH at-bats to internal options.