Mets offseason FAQ: Who stays? Who goes?

November 2nd, 2021

NEW YORK -- While some of the Mets’ most significant offseason decisions will revolve once again around their front office and management structures, don’t let that overshadow the fact that the organization has lots of work to do on the field as well. It’s a process that will begin immediately after the World Series, when about a quarter of the 40-man roster hits free agency.

From there, the entire winter figures to remain busy for a Mets club that will need to reshape large swaths of its roster.

Here’s a look at some of the key questions and dates surrounding the team:

Which players are free agents?

The Mets have a significant haul of players set to enter the open market this winter: starting pitchers Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard and Rich Hill; relievers Aaron Loup, Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand and Heath Hembree; infielders Javier Báez and Jonathan Villar; and outfielder Michael Conforto.

Are any of them likely to receive qualifying offers, and what’s the deadline for that?

Conforto is a lock to receive a one-year qualifying offer worth $18.4 million, and sources have maintained for months that he will decline it in search of a multiyear deal. The Mets aren’t quite as certain to extend one to Syndergaard, but they’re likely to as they seek rotation stability for next season. If Syndergaard receives the offer, he’ll probably accept it as a way to rebuild his value coming off Tommy John surgery.

No other Mets players will receive the offer. (Stroman would have been a QO candidate, but the Mets cannot extend him one because they did so last winter.)

The deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers is the fifth day after the conclusion of the World Series. Players must accept or decline within 10 days after that.

Which players have contract options?

Outfielder Kevin Pillar holds two contract options: A $6.4 million team option, which the Mets are likely to decline, and a $2.9 million player option, which Pillar is likely to accept.

All option decisions must be made by the fifth day after the conclusion of the World Series.

Which players are arbitration-eligible, and who might be a non-tender candidate?

Players with between three (in special cases, two) and six years of service time are eligible for arbitration -- a process in which they exchange salary figures with their club and, if they can’t find middle ground, consent to an independent arbiter’s decision.

Many of the Mets’ best players are arbitration-eligible this winter, including infielders Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and Luis Guillorme; outfielder Brandon Nimmo; catcher Tomás Nido; starting pitchers Joey Lucchesi and Trevor Williams; and relievers Edwin Díaz, Seth Lugo, Miguel Castro, Robert Gsellman and Drew Smith.

Of those, Lucchesi and Gsellman are the most prominent non-tender candidates. The left-handed Lucchesi, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is the most interesting case. Because Lucchesi is unlikely to provide much (if any) value next season, the Mets would effectively have to offer him arbitration twice -- both this winter and next -- in hopes of having him help in 2023.

What are the Mets’ areas of need?

Outfield, starting pitching, third base and bullpen, probably in that order.

The Mets will need to sign at least one Major League outfielder this winter -- either Conforto, or someone to replace him. They’ll also need to fortify their pitching given the questions surrounding Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson and others. If Mets officials wanted to, they could get by with what they already have at third base, but they’re more likely to seek upgrades there, perhaps even aggressively. Finally, in the bullpen, the Mets will need to re-sign or replace Aaron Loup, among other less notable moves.

Who might they be willing to trade?

The Mets have no lack of trade candidates this winter. Of note is Davis, who acknowledged in early October that he “could be out of here” following a season in which he played through injury and hit just five home runs. While Davis may conceivably return as the Mets’ designated hitter, he also holds trade value as a proven power hitter under team control for three more seasons. The Mets, who are looking to upgrade at third base, will at least have to consider dealing him.

First baseman Dominic Smith is also likely to pop up in trade rumors, but he’ll be a tougher sell coming off a year in which he slashed .244/.304/.363. The Mets may not be inclined to part with him for cents on the dollar.

Third-ranked prospect Ronny Mauricio will always remain a trade candidate as long as Francisco Lindor is manning shortstop in Flushing -- and Lindor is contractually obligated to do so for the next 10 seasons.

Which prospects must be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft?

Like all teams, the Mets must place prospects on the 40-man roster after they’ve been in the organization for four or five seasons (depending upon their signing age), or risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft. This year, three of the Mets’ Top 10 prospects are eligible and are locks to be added: Mauricio, Mark Vientos and Carlos Cortes.

Less certain are the fates of 13th-ranked José Butto, 16th-ranked Josh Walker, 21st-ranked Hayden Senger, 23rd-ranked Nick Meyer, 24th-ranked Carlos Rincon, 26th-ranked Shervyen Newton, 29th-ranked Michel Otanez and 30th-ranked Ryley Gilliam, among other unranked prospects.

The Mets won’t be able to add all of them to the 40-man roster, but they’ll have a small amount of space to add some following non-tenders and other moves to clear 40-man space. Their deadline to do so is Nov. 19.

Note that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is set to expire on Dec. 1, will not affect any of the deadlines above, which are all scheduled for November.