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Inbox: Improving Mets' bullpen, possible DH

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans
December 4, 2020

So the Mets made their first significant splash of the offseason, signing reliever Trevor May to a two-year deal. It’s the start of what most expect to be a hyperactive offseason for the team under new owner Steve Cohen, and so it naturally begs the question: What’s next? What will

So the Mets made their first significant splash of the offseason, signing reliever Trevor May to a two-year deal. It’s the start of what most expect to be a hyperactive offseason for the team under new owner Steve Cohen, and so it naturally begs the question: What’s next?

What will the Mets pivot to immediately following signing Trevor May? Starting pitching, another reliever, George Springer?
-- @Shmeag_5 via Twitter

The Mets have made no secret of their top goals, which are to shore up their catching and starting pitching this winter. It’s difficult to predict the order in which they will attack those needs (even if my colleagues and I recently tried ), because market conditions tend to take on a life of their own. But it’s clear the Mets will spend the next few weeks checking in on all the top pitchers and catchers out there. That means Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto and plenty of others.

As for Springer, it may be a while before he signs, but you can expect the Mets to be players for his services, as well.

Hot Stove Tracker

What does Steven Matz’s role look like in 2021?
-- @NimmoFan9 via Twitter

Lots of fans were surprised that the Mets brought Matz back on a $5.2 million unguaranteed deal to avoid arbitration. Surprise was probably the wrong emotion. Left-handers who throw in the mid-90s are tough to find on the open market, and Matz received what looks like fair market value for his services. That may not be what folks want to hear after he posted a 9.68 ERA in a small sample in 2020, but there’s still lots of optimism within the organization that Matz can get himself right. Organizational pitching gurus Phil Regan and Jeremy Hefner have both been digging into Matz’s struggles in an effort to help.

To answer your question though, much depends upon how many starters the Mets acquire through free agency and guarantee jobs this winter. I anticipate the number will be one or two. If that’s the case, Matz would probably enter Spring Training jockeying for position with David Peterson, Sam McWilliams and others on the depth chart. You’ll probably hear talk of the Mets considering converting Matz to relief given their lack of lefty options out of the bullpen. But he seems more valuable to the team as a fifth/sixth/seventh starter type.

Will Seth Lugo be in the bullpen (where he’s been most effective) or in the starting pitching staff?
-- @celeBRADtion via Twitter

Feels like I’ve been answering this Inbox question for half a decade now, and probably will be for years to come. The signing of May gives the Mets enough bullpen flexibility to keep Lugo in the rotation if they desire, but is that’s what’s best for the team?

Lugo would have had a better chance to remain a starter if not for his final three outings of 2020, in which he twice allowed six runs to post a 12.54 ERA. Many in the organization have long viewed Lugo as an average starter but an elite reliever, and their resistance to moving him to the rotation didn’t exactly fade this year; Brodie Van Wagenen’s regime made the shift simply because the Mets were out of good options, with so many others either injured or otherwise unavailable.

I’ve personally been an advocate of using Lugo as a starter, knowing you want your best pitchers maximizing their innings. But in terms of roster building, the Mets’ quickest path to contention is probably signing two free-agent starters and keeping Lugo as a multi-inning fireman out of the ‘pen. I suspect that’s what the team will do.

Why did they not give Chasen Shreve a contract? He was good last year and would’ve been cheap to hold on to. Especially if Justin Wilson doesn’t re-sign, the Mets have a lack of left-handed relievers.
-- @AllenE12344 via Twitter

Money. The notion of Shreve as financial steal was a bit erroneous, as most web sites publicly listed his 2020 salary as well under $1 million. According to a source, that’s untrue; Shreve actually signed a $1.5 million base deal, meaning he likely would have made more than $2 million through arbitration had the Mets kept him. That’s still not a ton, but Mets officials made the deduction that Shreve, based upon his longer track record, would be a risky asset at that price. Instead, the Mets will earmark the money for other investments -- maybe even a superior lefty like Brad Hand, as many of you have suggested.

If the DH remains in the National League, who do you think will predominately get that role on the Mets (based on how the roster is currently constructed)?
-- @SharonWeidberg1 via Twitter

That’s a big if that we should know the answer to soon. In the meantime, the Mets are at least well covered for any contingency. Dominic Smith, Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis would likely all see time at DH, much as they did in 2020. Having the DH back would be a bigger advantage to the Mets than to most NL teams, because it would give Smith in particular a more consistent path to playing time.

Why wouldn’t these GM candidates wouldn’t want to come in at the beginning and set up this franchise the way they want to since the infrastructure is weak.
-- @dool_75 via Twitter

@dool_75 is referring to what Sandy Alderson recently referred to as a difficulty in securing interviews with several candidates.

15 names of interest for Mets' GM search

There are essentially two reasons. The first is that top front-office talent has become super valuable. It’s a competitive disadvantage for a team like the Brewers, for example, to let their president of baseball operations move to the Mets, even if he wants to for personal reasons. In many cases, teams promote their executives rather than let them interview with other club. So it’s actually rare for an up-and-coming executive to become available.

Think of it like a team trying to build its roster through free agency rather than the Draft. These days, the best way to accumulate front-office talent is to develop it from within.

The other thing people sometimes forget is that these aren’t just pieces to be moved around a game board. These are human beings with families, hopes, aspirations and fears. For instance, media outlets including SNY have reported Chris Young’s desire to remain in Texas with his young family. Every candidate has a personal life, and those don’t always mesh with the Mets’ plans -- regardless of how desirable their GM job may be. I don’t see it as a condemnation of the Mets; this is an objectively good job. It’s just that timing and circumstances are important, too.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.