NEW YORK -- The Mets’ acquisition of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco carries a number of implications beyond those two. The six-player deal, which sent Amed Rosario, Andrés Giménez and two others to Cleveland, leaves the Mets in a far different place than they were at the beginning of the week.
That is true both in free agency, where the Mets will continue to be active, and on the internal depth chart, where several different possibilities now exist. Of note:
The Mets aren’t done shopping
Mets president Sandy Alderson wouldn’t directly answer a question regarding his desire to continue targeting top free agents, a group that includes center fielder George Springer and starting pitcher Trevor Bauer. He noted simply that “we’re always hungry,” and that he and general manager Jared Porter will continue looking for ways to improve the depth of their team.
There are still a significant number of avenues for them to do so. One would involve acquiring another starting pitcher to fill out the rotation behind Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Carrasco. Currently, the Mets plan to rely on some mix of David Peterson, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, at least until Noah Syndergaard returns from Tommy John surgery in June. But the Mets could deepen their stores by signing another starter -- if not a top-market arm like Bauer, then perhaps a reclamation project such as Corey Kluber or James Paxton.
“You can never have enough, both starting pitchers and relievers,” Porter said. “So we’re going to continue to be creative, opportunistic and see where the market takes us.”
Offensively, Springer is now a less likely option for the Mets because his salary -- likely well more than $20 million per year -- would press them close to Major League Baseball’s $210 million luxury-tax threshold. The Mets would prefer not to go there, at least not yet, but a cheaper price for Springer could cause them to reevaluate. Short of Springer, Jackie Bradley Jr. remains an option as a more defensive-minded center fielder at a cheaper price.
“I think the market will dictate some of our decisions over the next few weeks,” Alderson said. “We feel we’ve made a major impact on the team. We’re not perfect. And so we will still be active talking in the marketplace, but I do think this moves us forward quite a bit.”
Luis Guillorme will play a more prominent role
If the designated hitter returns to the National League this season, then the Mets’ current roster would require Jeff McNeil to play left field with either Dominic Smith or Pete Alonso at DH. That leaves a hole at second base, where Guillorme -- in the absence of Giménez -- could prove significant. Even if the DH doesn’t return, Guillorme would become the Mets’ primary backup infielder -- if not an everyday option at third.
In any scenario, the fact is this: Coming off by far his best big league season, Guillorme no longer has to fight with a chorus of others for scraps of playing time.
“I would remind you that we still have a guy named Guillorme on the roster who’s got tremendous versatility,” was the way Alderson put it.
Long considered one of the Mets organization’s finest defenders, Guillorme broke out to the tune of a .333/.426/.439 slash line last summer, albeit in a 29-game sample.
The DH remains an issue
Mets officials are rooting for the DH to return, because that would allow them to start either Smith or Alonso there with the other playing first. If that’s not the case, then the Mets would probably default to using Smith in left, where he has compiled -7 Defensive Runs Saved over the past three seasons. The Mets can still massage their roster to bring in another infielder or outfielder, but doing so would not eliminate the core problem: Without a DH, they have no clear place to use Smith -- statistically their most productive hitter in 2020.
“Putting Dominic Smith in left field is not ideal,” Alderson said. “He can play there, and to get his bat in the lineup, he probably will end up playing quite a bit there. But that’s not ideal for us regardless of what we do at another position.”
Lugo could fill any number of roles
Sound familiar? The Mets have wrestled with what to do with Lugo for most of the past five seasons, bouncing him between the rotation and bullpen (and stretching him out as a starter at the height of last season's pennant race). Even with Carrasco on board, nothing has changed in that regard.
“You could say that he’s more a bullpen piece because of what we’ve added in the starting rotation, and conversely, you could say that he’s more of a starting-pitching piece because of the depth we’ve added in the bullpen,” Alderson said. “We’ve got some flexibility there. Seth is a guy that can go either way.”
Certainly, Lugo has enjoyed more recent success out of the bullpen, posting a 6.15 ERA as a starter last season and a 2.61 mark as a reliever. But his ultimate role may depend more on how the Mets round out their offseason shopping spree. If they acquire another starter, Lugo will almost certainly head to the bullpen. If they acquire a high-profile reliever, the opposite could be true.