2 needs New York must still fill in MLB free agency

the New York Mets have spent a record amount on free agent contracts this offseason. But even Mets owner Steve Cohen knows it’s not enough and there’s more work to be done. We’ll examine what needs the Mets must still fill in MLB free agency.

“My team is good. But it isn’t that much better than last year,” Cohen told the New York Post. “If you want a team that’s good, this is what it costs. What are you going to do?”

The Mets had several big holes to fill after their 101-win season in 2022. In some cases, they re-signed players to large raises (Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo). In others, they imported expensive free agents (Justin Verander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana).

But are they better than Cohen himself questioned?

The Mets are looking at an approximate $350 million payroll in 2023. But there’s still work to be done, even with internal help on the way this year and next with top prospects Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos knocking at MLB’s door .

That said, here are the needs the Mets still must fill in MLB free agency.

2. Bullpen

Retaining Edwin Diaz at the start of free agency was key for the Mets. They’ve got their closer for the next five years, one who’s coming off an epic season and will be 29 next season.

The makeover in the bullpen behind Diaz includes signing David Robertson to a one-year contract as the setup man and trading for veteran lefthander Brooks Raley. They’ve added intriguing options in Zach Greene (Rule 5 Draft) and Stephen Ridings (waivers).

A trade with the Marlins brought swingman Elieser Hernandez and veteran Jeff Brigham. Drew Smith is back and John Curtiss returns from Tommy John surgery. There’s the possibility of David Peterson, Tylor Megill or Joey Lucchesi working out of the pen with the starting rotation full.

But there’s still a need for another veteran to replace Seth Lugo, one who can be trusted in the late innings along with Diaz and Robertson. Adam Ottavino was excellent for the Mets last season (2.06 ERA, 0.975 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 in 66 games), is a native New Yorker who has also thrived with the Yankees and is still available. The Mets likely would prefer a one-year deal for a reunion with the 37-year-old, and Ottavino could receive multi-year offers elsewhere. So, we’ll see.

If not Ottavino, the Mets should be exploring the possibility of signing Michael Fulmer. The 30-year-old, a former Mets prospect, pitched in an MLB career-high 67 games last season with the Tigers and Twins and had a 3.39 ERA. He would require a greater commitment than Ottavino, both in terms of years and dollars. But he’d be a nice piece moving forward with Diaz, especially with Robertson coming off the books at the end of the season.

Lefty Taylor Rogers was on the Mets’ radar at the trade deadline last season. Andrew Chafin has been linked to the Mets over the years. Either would add late-inning experience, as would veteran righthander David Phelps.

1. Designated hitter

The DH spot was a black hole in the Mets’ lineup most of last season. Robinson Cano, Dominic Smith, JD Davis, Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf provided various forms of failure. Vogelbach was the best of the group after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates (.255/.393/.436 with 15 extra-base hits, 25 RBI in 183 plate appearances) and returns on a modest contract this season. Ruf is also under contract, though you’d think the Mets would love to move him after his terrible showing after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants.

Vogelbach is limited in that he’s a lefty hitter who can’t hit left-handed pitching. Plus, he’s strictly a DH. You don’t want him playing the field. So, the Mets need a right-handed bat, preferably someone with pop who can also play the field in a backup role.

Adam Duvall, Wil Myers and Trey Mancini come to mind immediately.

Duvall hit 38 home runs, led the NL with 113 RBI and helped the Atlanta Braves win the World Series in 2021. Last season, he had a brutal start then had season-ending wrist surgery. He’s 34 but not strictly a DH. He is a solid defensive outfielder who could spell Starling Marte, Brandon Nimmo and Mark Canha. He should be the Mets’ first option.

Myers played 77 games because of a knee injury last season. He’ll hit for a higher average than Duvall but not for as much power. He can play the outfield and first base and would be an upgrade over Ruf, but he is not as good a fit as Duvall.

Even though Mancini struggled mightily after being traded to the Houston Astros last season (.168/.258/.364 in 186 plate appearances), he’ll likely command a higher salary for longer term than Duvall and Myers since he’s 30 and has put up strong numbers both before and after battling cancer in 2020. If Francisco Alavarez or Mark Vientos is seen as an answer at DH down the road, Mancini isn’t a fit for the Mets. If not, Mancini is an intriguing option moving forward.

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