The New York Mets have “recently contacted” D.J. LeMahieu, according to Jon Heyman. Take that as you may but signing LeMahieu would strengthen their offense and drastically better their infield defense. If signing LeMahieu has traction, then the Mets have multiple combinations to work with during 2021.
The continued guessing game on a designated hitter for 2021 makes dealing with the free-agent market harder for every National League Team. The Mets already have DH options in place, but it does not make decision-making any easier.
In a few of these situations, J.D. Davis becomes very expendable. He was already part of rumors along with Amed Rosario for a Francisco Lindor trade. The obvious missing part is the missing prospect(s) needed to complete the move. As enticing as the trade seems, Davis, Rosario, plus a prospect might be too much if Lindor does not remain with the Mets past 2021. If Lindor was the difference separating the Mets from being a World Series contender, giving up a little extra would be reasonable.
No DH Option 1: LeMahieu to Third, McNeil to Second
With Robinson Cano suspended for the entirety of 2021, the Mets can move Jeff McNeil to second base. LeMahieu plays third base while Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis handles the left field. The infield defense would be significantly better than in 2020, but the outfield would still suffer. Signing LeMahieu could make signing George Springer tougher. It certainly could still happen, but Jackie Bradley Jr. or Kevin Pillar is more realistic in that situation.
No DH Option 2: LeMahieu at Second, Davis/McNeil at Third
LeMahieu at second shows, the Mets are content with either Davis or McNeil at third base. Davis was better defensively in 2020, but neither one stood out. Second base is LeMahieu’s natural position and is where he won all three of his Gold Glove awards. Andres Gimenez should play shortstop when pitchers like Marcus Stroman and David Peterson are on the mound. Stroman especially is a groundball pitcher, and solidifying the defense up the middle would attempt to make up for the weak corner options.
DH Option 1 (With Springer in CF): LeMahieu to Third, McNeil to Second, Nimmo in Left, Smith DH
This is the dream scenario for the Mets, especially with the DH in place. They would get a good balance of offense and defense they have not found in years. Offensively, the lineup would become a nightmare to pitch to, and the overall team defense improves. Even if the center fielder becomes one of the two names mentioned earlier, the defense still improves, but the offense would lose some punch.
DH Option 2 (Without Anyone New in CF): LeMahieu to Second, Davis to Third, McNeil to Left, Smith DH
With Brandon Nimmo in center field, the Mets cannot afford two below-average fielders in their everyday outfield. McNeil defended much better in the left-field after moving from third base. While Nimmo struggles in center field, McNeil and Michael Conforto would handle the corners. This is the least likely option as the Mets are almost guaranteed to sign a new center fielder.
Of course, there are way more options than the four mentioned. The idea of Rosario at third base or Gimenez at shortstop changes the whole dynamic of LeMahieu at the roster. The great part of this offseason is the ability to contemplate good solutions. In the past, ownership settled for options similar to slapping duct tape on a leak.