Which roster decisions still await for Mets?

When the club returns, it will have to decide on fifth starter, bench

March 17th, 2020

NEW YORK -- Whenever the Mets reconvene after the sudden end of Spring Training and the Opening Day delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the focus will inevitably drift back to the product on the field. For the Mets, that will be an optimistic team with one of the most complete rosters in baseball -- but not one devoid of questions.

The first phase of Spring Training gave the Mets hints at how their roster might shake out, though much has changed now that there’s a gap in the schedule. Here’s a look at the Mets’ two most prominent job competitions, and how the coronavirus hiatus might affect them -- or not:

Starting rotation
The most intriguing battle heading into Spring Training was also the most intriguing throughout Grapefruit League play, and it figures to remain so whenever the Mets return. Combined, ,
and pitched to a 1.85 ERA in preseason games. All three threw well enough to merit rotation jobs, but the Mets don’t have enough of those to go around. The ability of individual pitchers to maintain momentum following this break could play a significant role in their rotation prospects -- that is, if there are even spots to win.

The Mets spent time this spring exploring -- in theory, at least -- alternatives to naming a fifth starter outright. Possibilities included mixing and matching based on opposing lineups, or using an opener for back-end starters like Wacha and Matz. Because Spring Training ended abruptly, the Mets never got far enough down the road to make any of those options a reality, and they ultimately might opt for a more traditional fifth starter. Much remains unsolved at the back of New York’s starting rotation.

Major League Baseball’s shutdown could have a significant impact on the composition of the Mets’ bench. Most notably, it will give much more time to recover from his heel and ankle injuries, potentially giving him a better chance to make the team in some capacity. If that’s as a starter, it will cut into the reps of J.D. Davis and Brandon Nimmo. Even if Céspedes is a bench player, he will take a job away from someone else.

Same goes for in the infield, though more uncertainty surrounds his ability to make it back to the field. If he does, a bench including Céspedes, Lowrie, Dominic Smith, Jake Marisnick and Tomás Nido (or René Rivera) would leave no room for anyone else. If Lowrie can’t make it, space could open for Eduardo Núñez, Luis Guillorme or others.

Before the shutdown, it seemed likely that Núñez or Guillorme would make the team due to other players’ health questions. That’s no longer necessarily the case.