PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- All told, the Mets turned over nearly half their 40-man roster this offseason, swapping 18 new players into that group. That’s an immense total, two or three times what the Mets have generally done in winters past. In a showcase of their depth, they invited 71 total players to big league Spring Training.
“I feel really good about the roster,” general manager Zack Scott said. “As it is right now, I think we’re pretty settled with the 40-man. We may have some other types of non-roster deals, and there may be other opportunities that present themselves during the spring, but I feel very good about the group that we have here.”
The Mets’ signing of Taijuan Walker to fill out their rotation, then, was likely their final major move of the offseason. Back in November, team president Sandy Alderson indicated that the Mets wanted to upgrade at catcher (James McCann), in the outfield (Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora Jr.), in the rotation (Carlos Carrasco, Walker) and in the bullpen (Trevor May, Aaron Loup). Less of a priority was third base, where the Mets added depth (Jonathan Villar) without making a significant change.
Asked Monday if he was content with J.D. Davis as his primary third baseman, Scott replied: “Yes, definitely.” Davis hit .247 with a .761 OPS last season, after breaking out with 22 homers and an .895 OPS the year before. The Mets believe he can get back to being an impactful offensive player while also improving his defense at third.
“I said this before: J.D. Davis is a really strong player for our organization,” Scott said. “We have some versatility with some of the other guys that we brought in here, so I feel really good about it.”
(Virtual) team meeting
The Mets’ annual gathering before the first official morning of full-squad workouts was a bit different this year. Because it was too windy at Clover Park to hold a socially distant meeting outside, players dialed in via Zoom from various spots around the complex. Alderson, Scott and manager Luis Rojas were the main voices in the meeting.
“We talked about how talented we are, and acknowledging that, but … being cognizant that that’s not going to do it [alone],” Rojas said. “We need to work hard to get to the point where we’re going to be that contender, we’re going to be that team that goes out there with winning mentality.”
To that end, Rojas said he installed a new program called the “fundamental of the day,” which the Mets plan to continue throughout Spring Training. Monday’s emphasis was on bunt defense.
“These guys are professionals,” Rojas said. “There’s not a lot of overcommunicating that you’ve got to do. The guys get it quickly. So everything that was said on the call, they absorbed it, and I thought we had a really good first day today.”
Four players absent
Dominic Smith and Carlos Carrasco were among four players missing from the first full-squad workout due to what Rojas called a “non-injury-related issue.” Rojas said he expects all four in camp by the end of the week.
From Tiger to Spieth to … McNeil?
Jeff McNeil’s productive offseason, as usual, included lots of high-level golf. McNeil said he shot “a few 67s” this winter, as well as a 70 at the challenging Cypress Point course in California, and a Top 10 finish in a local amateur tournament.
At this point, McNeil’s history as a golfer is well-known; he considered pursuing the sport professionally before receiving a baseball scholarship from Long Beach State and focusing on that instead. But McNeil still golfs regularly, and has talked about potentially pursuing a career in that sport later in life.
Asked Monday how he would fare on the PGA Tour today, the ever-confident McNeil grinned.
“I think I could compete,” McNeil said. “I played a good amount of tournaments this offseason and definitely competed. … I know those [PGA] courses are a different kind of test. I just watched the tournament at Riviera and that was an extremely hard test. So I think I could somewhat compete. They’re all going to beat me, but I know I’d definitely have some fun out there.”
“We’re going to rent horses and ride to the workout.” -- Alderson, to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, when asked if the Mets will send a scout to free agent Yoenis Céspedes’ showcase next month