After Verlander, Mets' Winter Meetings agenda wide open

December 5th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Winter Meetings took on a different tone for the Mets after their former ace signed with the Rangers on a five-year deal, and they wasted little time finding a replacement.

With a large number of other teams seeking pitching, the Mets acted fast, agreeing to two-year deal with Justin Verlander, who's coming off an age-39 campaign that saw him win his third Cy Young Award while helping the Astros win the World Series. 

And the Amazin's may not be done, as the Meetings in San Diego are shaping up to be as busy for the Mets as any in their history.

Key Events

  • Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
  • Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
  • Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft

Club Needs

Even with Verlander signing, the Mets could use more pitching. That could mean re-signing one or more of of their departed free agents, as they did with Bassitt last spring. At the same time, the Mets are in significant need of bullpen pieces to complement Díaz and , their two returning relievers.

In a perfect world, GM Billy Eppler will also acquire some offensive thump before the end of the offseason. That’s most likely to take the form of a designated hitter type -- either a right-handed bat to pair with , or an everyday DH who would shift Vogelbach to the bench.

Potential Trade Candidates

The Mets' No. 6 prospect, shortstop Ronny Mauricio, has been an obvious trade candidate since the day signed his long-term contract extension back in March 2021. Mauricio remains a trade chip today, despite two straight inconsistent seasons in the Minors. He has recently rebounded with a strong showing in the Dominican Winter League, which could increase his stock.

The Mets, however, have been reticent to engage with other teams on any of their top prospects as they look to build a sustainable pipeline of talent to Flushing. At the Trade Deadline, Eppler referenced his desire to hang onto the team’s “Top 19 prospects” -- a list that includes Francisco Álvarez, Mauricio, and a slew of younger pitchers.

Prospect to Know

There’s going to be loads of chatter over the next few months about Álvarez, baseball’s No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The Mets have three returning catchers (Álvarez, and ), and although Álvarez remains raw defensively, his power could eventually entice the team to include him on its Opening Day roster. It could also affect what Eppler does this offseason, given the possibility that New York will carry three catchers.

One thing is clear: Álvarez is not a realistic trade candidate, even though Mets officials tend to balk at the idea of calling anyone “untouchable.”

Rule 5 Draft

The most notable player left unprotected by the Mets is outfielder Jake Mangum, a former Mississippi State star who does not rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Mets prospects but could tempt a rival club with his mix of speed and elite defense. If Mangum remains in the organization, he will be a candidate to make the Opening Day roster. That means he’s close enough to the Majors that another team might take a chance on him.

Prospects within the Top 30 who are eligible to be drafted include pitchers Junior Santos, Jordany Ventura and Javier Atencio, as well as outfielder Stanley Consuegra. Those players are less likely to be selected given their age and relative distance from the Majors.

The Mets have plenty of space on their 40-man roster if they wish to take a flyer on a Rule 5-eligible player, though they’re going to want to save most if not all of it for incoming free agents and trade acquisitions.

Burning Question

With Verlander headed to Queens, will the Mets continue to add reinforcements? The Winter Meetings should provide them with a unique opportunity to figure out the answer.