Inbox: How will Mets upgrade their roster?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers fans' questions

October 18th, 2020

As we wait for Major League Baseball to vote on Steve Cohen as the Mets’ new control person, many baseball operations decisions have become secondary concerns. But that won’t be the case for long. The Mets have much work to do to improve their 2020 roster.

Here’s a look at some of the questions they’ll need to answer.

For a team with so many holes, $200 million for a catcher turning 30 seems too risky. However, the Mets certainly need a veteran behind the plate. If it’s not Realmuto, what other catchers do you think they would/should pursue?
-- @TheRealJGrant via Twitter

The Mets’ problem is the same as that of every team with a vacancy behind the plate: It’s , and then it’s an awfully big drop-off from there.

Realmuto is a two-time All-Star who almost certainly would have made it three in a row had the Midsummer Classic been played in 2020. He’s easily one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball, pairing that with plus defense and athleticism. Realmuto does it all; catchers like him simply don’t become available on the open market often.

Yes, he is also a risky asset, as any soon-to-be-30-year-old catcher would be. Crouching behind the plate requires players to take a beating, and Realmuto is no exception, missing time in each of the past three seasons due to knee, hip and back injuries. But such is the nature of long-term deals. Whichever club acquires Realmuto -- whether for the $200 million he’s reportedly seeking or something less -- will probably need to accept some injury-plagued seasons at the back of his contract in exchange for premium production now.

More important from the Mets’ perspective are the alternatives. If the team doesn’t land Realmuto, the next-best option in free agency is probably , who’s already 30 and doesn’t boast nearly the same track record as Realmuto. Just because a McCann contract would be shorter and cheaper doesn’t mean it would avoid risk.

After that, you could make an argument that the third-best catcher on the market is , and if the Mets wanted him back, they could simply trigger the $10 million team option they hold on him. Perhaps Cleveland’s will become available, but he hasn’t proven consistent. Catching options are likewise notoriously difficult to acquire on the trade market, as the Mets learned with their recent pursuits of Realmuto and . And Mets top prospect Francisco Alvarez is realistically three seasons away.

It’s a long way to say that there are no perfect fits at catcher, but Realmuto -- despite his asking price -- is the surest bet to thrive at the position in 2020. The Mets’ ideal offseason won’t require them to pivot.

Do you think the Mets will offer Stroman the $18+ million qualifying offer? Would he accept, especially after not playing this season?
-- @Scottlot91 via Twitter

I do think the Mets will offer, and I don’t think will accept.

Given their sizeable rotation hole behind Jacob deGrom and David Peterson, the Mets would have to consider roughly $18 million for Stroman a steal. One-year deals rarely come back to bite teams too badly, and Stroman’s track record suggests he’d be worth at least that much on the open market.

Stroman has also been outspoken in suggesting he’s one of the best starting pitchers available. If he doesn’t fear a depressed market in the wake of COVID-19, then it wouldn’t take much of a leap of faith for him to explore free agency. This is hardly a done deal considering Stroman hasn’t thrown a pitch since 2019, but I’d be surprised if it plays out any other way.

Have extension talks with Conforto been resumed?
-- @Shalpin7 via Twitter

Back in September, said he briefly discussed a deal with the Mets six months earlier, before the coronavirus forced Major League Baseball to shut down. Talks never became serious and never reopened, and at this point, it seems unlikely they will until next year. Once Cohen and presumptive team president Sandy Alderson come aboard, they’re going to have more pressing issues to tackle than a player already under contract.

That said, Cohen’s stewardship seems to increase the chances that a deal could get done. Expect talks to pick up again when the two sides start discussing arbitration numbers in January; if there’s an agreement to be had, it’s most likely to happen in the first three months of 2021.

Is Rosario or Gimenez the starting shortstop on Opening Day next year?
-- @2020LetsGoMets via Twitter

The short answer is that has earned a chance to play more, whether that’s as a starter or the left-handed half of a shortstop platoon. He’s the superior defender and was one of the brightest spots of the Mets’ 2020 season.

The longer answer is that it’s complicated. is still -- still! -- just 24 years old, and supremely talented. I’m skeptical the Mets will ever move him to center field, and skeptical it would work if they did. If the Mets are to shift Brandon Nimmo off center, it would make sense to replace him with a true, experienced fielder.

So where does that leave Rosario, who admitted some frustration at losing his full-time job this summer? Possibly as a trade candidate. It wouldn’t be difficult for the Mets to find a team willing to gamble on Rosario’s talent in exchange for pitching or other needs. They could even use him to headline a splashy deal for, say, .

Given all those factors, it’s difficult to predict who might start at shortstop in 2020. I just doubt the job will belong to Rosario alone.

What are the chances of extending Syndergaard on a team-friendly, post-injury long term contract, or is it destined to go year to year?
-- @kinglou77 via Twitter

It’s hard to envision not hitting the open market in a year. At this point, the Mets have little reason to lock him up to a big deal, considering the uncertainties inherent with Tommy John surgery. And Syndergaard has almost no incentive to take a discount, given that his value is at an all-time low. It’s in his best interest to return strong in 2020, pitch well, and cash in once he can -- whether in New York or elsewhere.

Have both Matz and Gsellman worn out their welcomes and are likely to be shown the door?
-- @XNativeNooYawka via Twitter

Consider me skeptical. MLB Trade Rumors recently released its arbitration estimates, projecting to receive between $5.1 and $5.3 million, and to earn around $1.2 to $1.4 million. Relatively speaking, that’s not a significant outlay for either, but the 2020 results of both pitchers cannot be ignored. As such, non-tenders are at least within the realm of possibility.

Largely, this will depend upon the Mets’ initial budget under Cohen, which we don’t know right now. I suspect the Mets will tender Matz a contract, given his obvious talent and their clear rotation hole. They need Matz for depth if nothing else. Less certain is Gsellman, who owns a 7.25 ERA since the final week of May 2019. The Mets have more bullpen options than rotation depth, potentially exposing Gsellman if they need to find a place to save some cash.

Given that “The Captain” by David Wright was just released, what was your most memorable moment when writing the book?
-- @SharonWeidberg1 via Twitter

There are entirely way too many to count, though I’ll always remember the day in Sept. 2018 when I approached Wright about the idea at Nationals Park in Washington. I wasn’t sure how he would react, but Wright’s initial response was that he was flattered that anyone would want to write a book about him. He didn’t think anyone would want to read it.

Based on the response I’ve seen so far, that certainly hasn’t been the case. Wright left a mark on so many people throughout his Major League career, as has become abundantly clear to me in two years of working on the book. It has been wonderfully refreshing to see.