What Positions Do the Mets Still Need to Solve in Free Agency?

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The New York Mets have had a very proactive offseason so far, and as expected, didn’t shy away from pursuing top-tier talent on the free-agent market with the deep pockets of owner Steven Cohen at their disposal.

Following the arrival of two former Oakland Athletic outfielders in Starling Marte (signed to a four-year deal worth $78 million) and Mark Canha (signed to a two-year, $26.5 million-dollar deal), the Mets cashed in big days later, sealing starting pitcher Max Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million-dollar deal while also acquiring third baseman Eduardo Escobar for $20 million on a two-year contract.

Though it was just four new additions, these are by no means no ordinary four signings for the Mets. In fact, the Mets addressed some of their most pressing concerns both within their lineup and their starting rotation.

Last season, the Mets were 29th in the league in total hits (1,242), 27th in total bases (2,034), 20th in batting average (.238), and 17th in OBP (.314), putting forth an awful hitting display that severely influenced yet another squandered opportunity to clinch a playoff berth.

But by signing the speedy, contact-hitting specialist in Marte (who hit .310 last year and led the league with 47 stolen bases) and the on-base expert in Canha (who collected 120 hits to go along with a .358 OBP), the Mets have put their lineup in a much better position to succeed, especially after adding the switch-hitting All-Star power bat of Escobar into the mix (he posted a .253 average to go along with 28 HRs and 90 RBIs last season).

However, aside from bringing in three-time Cy Young award winner in Scherzer, the pitching staff of the Mets still isn’t as robust and reliable as it could be. Outside of the remarkable consistency that both Jacob DeGrom and Scherzer bring to the table, the Mets have plenty of question marks left not only within their starting rotation but also within their bullpen. And with the outfield revitalized and the infield solidified with talent, the greatest area of concern for this team right now has become its pitching.

Though the starting rotation certainly doesn’t pose as grave of a concern as the bullpen, it could use an injection of talent and support. For starters, as special as DeGrom has been for the Mets, last year marked the first time he logged 15 games or less over the course of a full 162 game season. After dealing with tightness in his forearm late in July to then feeling soreness in his elbow later that month, the Mets didn’t want to take any chances with their ace and shut him down for the remainder of the season.

Naturally, 2021 is a new year, and DeGrom could very well log in another full season. But should the Mets come across a similar circumstance again this year, they will need to rely on more than just Scherzer to get the job done. And guys like Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Williams, David Peterson, Tylor McGill, and Joey Lucchesi have yet to consistently prove they can provide the anchoring stability the Mets need from their 3,4,5 spots on their rotation.

Despite making his first All-Star appearance last season following an exceptional first-half performance where he posted a 7-3 record with 2.66 ERA in 16 games started, Walker really struggled throughout the second half, recording an 0-8 record while conceding a 7.13 ERA in 13 games started.

But Walker’s not the only one who’s gone through some struggles of late. Carrasco, who put together a strong showing in 2020 with a 2.91 ERA to go along with 82 strikeouts in 12 games started, fell well below expectations in his debut season for the Mets, finishing 1-5 with a 6.04 ERA in 12 starts. Though Peterson and McGill did illustrate plenty of upside so far in their young careers, the consistency has yet to come to fruition from both youngsters as they continue to refine their pitching skills.

As a result, the Mets should consider two of the following starters over the remainder of free agency:

1. Carlos Rodón: The left-handed ace would be an exceptional addition for this Mets rotation. After having a breakout season with the White Sox last year that led him to secure his first All-Star appearance (he went 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA and had himself 185 strikeouts in 24 starts), Rodon brings a great balance of velocity and off-speed precision with his pitching that led him to secure his first career no-hitter last year as well.

Though he might not reproduce the same exact numbers from last season, Rodon is in his prime at age 29, and the Mets should strongly consider signing him to at least a two-year deal.

2. Yusei Kikuchi: Though he’s still fairly new to the MLB, Kikuchi really came onto the scene last season, so much so that he was elected to his first All-Star game as well. Prior to the All-Star break, Kikuchi managed to go 6-4 with a 3.48 ERA and collected 98 strikeouts in 16 games started. Despite undergoing a similar second-half fate to that of Walker, where he tanked and went 1-5 with a 5.58 ERA in 13 starts, Kikuchi illustrated how good he can be and has plenty left to show for at age 30.

If Rodon ends up being too much to bargain for, the Mets should certainly consider bringing on the Japanese native to boost their starting rotation.

That said, if the Mets are content with the starters they have, they should then turn their focus towards their bullpen and the depth that it requires. Just to refresh your memory, the Mets decided not to resign Aaron Loup, Robert Gsellman, Brad Hand, Dellin Betances, and Jeurys Familia. As a result, this leaves them with five relief pitchers they can lean on: Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Miguel Castro, and Drew Smith.

Though that’s a solid foundation for their bullpen, the Mets could use an infusion of talent in this area and should at least think about going after one, if not, both of these relievers:

1. Alex Colomé: Since stepping foot into the league back in 2013, Colome has risen into one talented relief pitcher that has proven to be very consistent over the years. Despite enduring a shaky 2021 season with the Minnesota Twins, where he mustered a 4.15 ERA with 58 strikeouts and a career-high seven blown saves in 67 games played, Colome has produced some spectacular seasons with a few different teams.

In 2019 with the Chicago White Sox, Colome finished the year with a 2.80 ERA to go with 30 saves in 62 games played. The year prior with the Seattle Mariners, Colome posted a 2.53 ERA and recorded 30 holds in 47 games played.

In addition, Colome recorded 47 saves for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 and was also selected to his first and only All-Star game in 2016, where he finished the year with a 1.91 ERA, 71 strikeouts, and 37 saves.

Whether they choose to sign him to a short-term or long-term deal, Colome would be worth every penny, and the Mets should make him a top priority.

2. Trevor Rosenthal: When healthy, Rosenthal has proven to be a reliable reliever. In six seasons and 325 innings pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2012 through 2017, Rosenthal averaged an ERA of 2.99, ending three of those six seasons with a 2.78 ERA or lower.

In 2014, Rosenthal really took his talent to a new level, recording 45 saves to go along with 87 strikeouts in 72 games played. Just a year later, he would record his best season to date with 48 saves, 83 strikeouts, and a 2.10 ERA that would result in his only All-Star appearance to date.

Since then, Rosenthal has run into his share of tough injuries that have limited his success, first undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017 to then receiving thoracic outlet surgery in 2021 to address a shoulder injury he suffered. Just when he was set to return from his shoulder injury in July, Rosenthal tore a labrum in his hip that required season-ending surgery.

That said, what makes him a solid target for the Mets is that he’s shown not only how clinical he can be when healthy, but he would also be cost-efficient due to his injury-riddled past. Though signing him is a risky gamble, it’s a worthwhile one that has the potential to be quite fruitful, considering Rosenthal is just 31-years old.

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