Mets' core intact, ready for Opening Day

This browser does not support the video element.

NEW YORK -- In the end, no significant surprises made their way onto the Mets’ Opening Day roster. Much of that is a testament to the team’s talent; the identity of New York’s eight starting position players was never in doubt, nor were large swaths of the rest of the roster.

A few details did come down to the final days of camp, leaving the Mets with the following 26-man mix:

Catcher (2): James McCann, Tomás Nido
Heading into the offseason, one of the Mets’ primary goals was to find a starting catcher. Rather than wait out the market for J.T. Realmuto, they acted early on a four-year, $40.6 million contract for McCann. If nothing else, the veteran McCann is a significant defensive upgrade over Wilson Ramos, the Mets’ starting catcher from 2019-20. McCann also offers offensive upside, with an .808 OPS and 25 home runs over 149 games the past two seasons. Now, he will try to repeat that performance as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.

Nido returns as McCann’s backup; he ostensibly competed for the job in Spring Training but won it without much competition. For their first road trip of the season, the Mets are also carrying veteran Caleb Joseph on their taxi squad.

This browser does not support the video element.

First base (1): Pete Alonso
While questions remain about Alonso’s ability to rebound from his down 2020 season, his strong Spring Training -- including a grand slam among four total homers -- at least temporarily quieted his skeptics. With Dominic Smith ticketed for something approximating a full-time role in left field, Alonso should start most games at first base. Smith could still see some reps at the position, but he’ll spend most of his time in left.

José Martínez entered camp on the roster bubble, but he tore the meniscus in his left knee and is sidelined until at least midseason.

This browser does not support the video element.

Second base (3): Jeff McNeil, Luis Guillorme, Jonathan Villar
Despite losing Robinson Canó to a full-season PED suspension, the Mets are well-covered at second -- McNeil’s natural position. Should roster issues force McNeil elsewhere at some point during the season, Guillorme or Villar could step in to replace him, but the plan is for McNeil to receive most of the reps at the keystone. The backup situation is fluid, with Guillorme and Villar both capable of playing second, third and shortstop. A mild groin injury sidelined Villar late in camp, but he recovered in time to make the roster.

This browser does not support the video element.

Shortstop (1): Francisco Lindor
One of most significant reasons for optimism in Flushing these days is Lindor, the Mets’ blockbuster offseason trade acquisition who spent the early part of Spring Training ingraining himself in clubhouse culture. If all goes to plan, Lindor will start 150-plus games at short.

Guillorme is the primary backup here. José Peraza did not make the team, but he’s on the Mets’ season-opening taxi squad.

This browser does not support the video element.

Third base (1): J.D. Davis
Verbally, Mets officials never really committed to Davis this winter, keeping open the possibility that they could trade for Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant or some other big-ticket third baseman. Questions surround Davis’ defensive aptitude at the hot corner, despite the fact it’s his natural position (and that he possesses one of the strongest throwing arms of any big league infielder). Scouts and advanced metrics alike call Davis’ range into question, which is even more of an issue because he took a step back offensively in 2020, as well.

All that said, the Mets never actually made a move to replace Davis, leaving him as the starting third baseman with something to prove. If Davis can become a stronger defender while giving the Mets something closer to his 2019 level of offensive production, those offseason whispers will quickly disappear. If not, Villar or Guillorme might see significant time at third.

This browser does not support the video element.

Outfield (5): Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora Jr.
On paper, this is a potent-hitting outfield but a questionable defensive one. The Mets explored the possibility of acquiring an everyday center fielder who could push Nimmo to left, but they settled instead on a pair of lesser options in Pillar and Almora. Team officials initially hoped Smith could serve as their designated hitter, but that rule didn’t return to the National League. As such, the Mets will rely on Smith and Nimmo in left and center, where both profile as roughly average defensively, and Pillar as a platoon option. The Mets at least have an outfield cornerstone in Conforto for one more season at minimum; his unresolved contract situation was one of this spring’s significant stories.

Pillar and Almora made the team as strong defensive backups with pop. Pillar will play often against lefties, replacing one of the Mets’ three left-handed starting outfielders. On the taxi squad but not the active roster is speedy veteran Mallex Smith.

This browser does not support the video element.

Rotation (5): Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi
Carlos Carrasco’s torn right hamstring knocked him off the Opening Day roster, clearing space for both Peterson and Lucchesi. The latter may pitch behind an opener, as he did in his final spring outing. The Mets will also bring back deGrom on regular rest so he can start Games 1 and 5 of the regular season.

The Mets hope Noah Syndergaard will return from Tommy John surgery by June, but it’s too early to estimate the certainty of that. A significant question here is how many innings might be feasible for Stroman, who missed all of 2020 over pandemic concerns, as well as for Peterson and others. Depth will be important, and the Mets are likely to use far more than five starters over the course of the season.

This browser does not support the video element.

Bullpen (8): Edwin Díaz, Trevor May, Aaron Loup, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, Jacob Barnes, Robert Gsellman
The loss of Seth Lugo weakened a bullpen that hopes to have him back at some point in May. In the interim, the Mets will lean heavily on offseason acquisitions May and Loup, while hoping for rebound seasons from Familia and Betances.

Barnes solidified his roster spot with a strong end to camp, including five consecutive scoreless outings with eight strikeouts and no walks. Mike Montgomery was also a serious consideration to make the team, but the Mets did not want to guarantee him $2.25 million for what might have been a temporary stay in their bullpen. Instead, they released Montgomery and gave his spot to Robert Gsellman, despite the latter’s 5.00 Grapefruit League ERA.

Some late-spring shoulder soreness knocked Drew Smith out of Opening Day picture, while a right elbow ailment kept Arodys Vizcaíno off the roster as well. Vizcaíno is closer to being ready. Two additional relievers made the taxi squad: right-hander Trevor Hildenberger, and lefty Stephen Tarpley.

More from