New York Mets Opinion: Offseason Free Agent Targets Going Forward

New York Yankees, Trevor Bauer

The New York Mets have a good start to their offseason, but as always, fans want more. They secured Trevor May and James McCann and found themselves a highly regarded general manager in Jared Porter. With plenty of big names still on the market, where should the Mets look next?

1. George Springer

Obviously, the top spot is between George Springer and Trevor Bauer, but Springer is needed more. Partnering Springer along with Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis gives the Mets lineup a perfect balance from both sides of the plate. Both of them will complement the outstanding left-handed power very well, and Springer is a proven clutch hitter. His versatility to hit in the top and middle of the lineup provides plenty of options for manager Luis Rojas.

The Mets also need a center fielder who is capable defensively. Springer is, at worst, is average defensively in center field. It will be a major upgrade from Brandon Nimmo‘s defense. Signing Springer would create a log jam in the outfield, but only if there is no designated hitter. If there is no DH, it makes Nimmo the odd-man-out between Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith. 

2. Trevor Bauer

Much like J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer is likely to drag out the offseason to get the perfect deal. He will likely be as expensive but differ in the number of years needed. Bauer’s biggest question is whether he is the Cy Young caliber pitcher from 2020 or the career 3.90 ERA pitcher. Any team would be happy to have either in their rotation, but each commands different contracts.

Put all the social media and on-field antics to the side, and the Mets need Bauer. His demeanor and hard-working personality are shown in an unorthodox way, but Bauer’s focus is on success. Bauer’s 4.55 ERA in his worst full season would have made him the third-best starter in the 2020 Mets rotation. The biggest question is if he wants to be a number second fiddle behind Jacob deGrom?

3. D.J. LeMahieu

D.J. LeMahieu is the signing that would open up trade options for the Mets. It would guarantee Jeff McNeil as the every day second baseman and leave Davis without a spot. The Mets could stock their depth or deal Davis, Amed Rosario, and a mid-level prospect for Francisco Lindor. With Andres Gimenez almost big league ready, they may not want to waste three players on a one-year rental.

This is not overlooking what LeMahieu brings to the Mets. He is a gold glove caliber defender at second and third base. LeMahieu has a rare combination of contact, power, and clutch hitting; the latter is what the Mets lacked throughout 2020. He will be 32 on Opening Day, and signing him may force the Mets to keep him through his age-37 season. As they look to go younger, LeMahieu’s length request may be a deal-breaker.

4. Liam Hendriks

Just the fact the Mets can be in on every free agent on the market is a luxury on its own. Signing Liam Hendriks gives the Mets the best bullpen in baseball. It potentially eliminates the typical closer role but in a good way. By no means is this a shot at Edwin Diaz; it allows the Mets to use their bullpen similarly to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Seth Lugo and Trevor May would join Diaz and Hendriks at the high-leverage relievers. If healthy, Dellin Betances potentially fits into the same category. Instead of putting relievers in situations where they pitch in back-to-back days or four times in a week, they can pick and choose easier. With four, potentially five dominant relievers in the bullpen, they can have the firepower to end games after five innings.

5. Jake Odorizzi

What if I told you Jake Odorizzi might be just as good as Trevor Bauer? Odorizzi has made 192 starts, thrown 1042.1 innings, has a 1.24 WHIP and a 3.92 ERA in nine seasons. Bauer has made 195 starts, thrown 1190 innings, has a 1.27 WHIP and a 3.90 ERA in nine seasons. The biggest difference? One is coming off an injury-plagued season, while one is coming off a dominant Cy Young award-winning season.

If both were free agents last offseason, Odorizzi would have the upper hand. Unfortunately for Odorizzi, baseball has a major recency bias. The Mets need a reliable starter to round out their rotation, and missing out on Bauer does not stop them from doing so. Odorizzi likely will not have the Cy Young outburst like Bauer but is a quality, mid-rotation starter. If the Mets pass on Bauer, combining Odorizzi with someone like Masahiro Tanaka gives the Mets a strong rotation. They will have Noah Syndergaard returning by mid-season and potentially allows them to sign at least one of the other three names above.