Scott: 'Never can have too much pitching'

February 13th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Mets are not done shopping this offseason.

Acting general manager Zack Scott confirmed that much on a conference call Friday, noting that the Mets -- who have already completed four trades and signed eight players to Major League contracts -- would like to make more moves before Opening Day.

“I want us to be opportunistic,” Scott said. “We’ve positioned ourselves to be opportunistic. … I think we need to always be relentless and trying to find ways to improve the club.”

Specifically, Scott said the Mets would like to add pieces to their pitching mix. While he did not mention specific names, the club has been linked to James Paxton, Jake Odorizzi, Jake Arrieta and Rich Hill at various points this offseason; all of them remain free agents.

Less than 24 hours later after Scott discussed pitching options, the club announced that Seth Lugo would undergo right elbow surgery to remove a loose body. Lugo’s injury increases the chance that the Mets continue looking outside the organization for relief help.

If the team does not acquire a prominent starter, the Mets are still interested in acquiring depth pieces to supplement what’s already in house. Currently, the Mets feature a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson and likely Joey Lucchesi, with Noah Syndergaard due back from Tommy John surgery around June. A prominent addition would almost certainly bump Lucchesi to the bullpen or the Minors, though it’s worth noting Peterson could face innings restrictions coming off an abbreviated rookie season.

“I definitely subscribe to the ‘never can have too much pitching’ cliché,” Scott said. “I’ve seen that in my years with the Red Sox, where the fastest way for your season to go sideways or backwards is to not have quality pitching depth or to have too many injuries there. You always have to expect some level of injuries, so increasing our depth is always something I think we’ll be pursuing.”

Thor on track
Everything is “going as expected” for Syndergaard, according to Scott, meaning the Mets still hope to have one of their top starting options back in June. Syndergaard has been rehabbing at the Cressey Sports Performance center in Jupiter, Fla., with plans to drive up the coast to Port St. Lucie this weekend. Once he arrives, Syndergaard will continue his rehab under Mets supervision.

Early reporters
Several others have begun trickling into camp, with COVID-19 intake testing scheduled to take place throughout the next two weeks. Brandon Nimmo, who owns a home in town, was the first Met to arrive. Jeff McNeil was also on site Friday.

“I’m really excited for 2021,” Nimmo said in an interview with the Mets’ public relations staff. “We’re looking forward to really competing and staying healthy this year and trying to win a World Series.”

No extension talks yet
Mets officials do not intend to engage Francisco Lindor or Michael Conforto in extension talks until those players arrive in Port St. Lucie, according to Scott. Although both Lindor and Conforto have said they don’t want to negotiate after a certain point in Spring Training, the expectation is that both players will be eager to talk in February and early March.

“That’s a common thing, and I completely respect it,” Scott said. “We want the team focused on winning when the season starts, so I get that, and I’ve had that experience with the Red Sox in the past that a lot of players feel that way. There should be plenty of time to talk through this before the season starts to figure out if there’s something to be done or not.”

Lindor and Conforto have publicly expressed their willingness to discuss long-term deals to stay with the Mets. They can both become free agents after this season.

No DH? No problem
Although the Mets don’t know for certain if the designated hitter will return to the National League this season, they are prepared to move forward without one in light of MLB’s recently announced health and safety protocols. That has significant implications on Dominic Smith, who was the Mets’ primary DH for much of last season.

On Friday, Scott stopped short of naming Smith the Mets’ starting left fielder, saying he will take reps both in left and at first base this spring. But team president Sandy Alderson has indicated Smith could wind up in left as a way to keep his potent bat in the lineup.

“Dom obviously has been a very good hitter,” Scott said. “The fact that he’s moved from first out to the outfield gives him more versatility. I know it’s something that he wants to continue to work on.”

Earlier this offseason, the Mets passed on free agent George Springer, whose presence would have shifted Nimmo to left field and put Smith in an awkward position, without an obvious role. Instead, the club signed Albert Almora Jr., a strong defensive center fielder who profiles more as a platoon player than a starter. That should free up space for Smith to play left, assuming the DH does not return.

Minor League addition
The Mets have hired Jeremy Barnes to be their director of player development initiatives. Barnes will work in tandem with the club’s new farm director, Kevin Howard. He previously spent four seasons as a hitting instructor in the Astros organization, following seven as a player in the Phillies organization and independent leagues.

Barwis relationship ends
The Mets have parted ways with Mike Barwis, whom they hired as a senior strength and conditioning consultant in 2014.

Barwis originally connected with the Mets through his relationship with former owner Jeff Wilpon, whom he met at a University of Michigan football game. The Mets subsequently hired Barwis as a consultant, then expanded his duties to oversee their entire strength and conditioning staff. When the Mets reorganized that staff under high performance director Jim Cavallini in 2018, they retained Barwis to work alongside him.

While Barwis continues to run a public fitness center attached to the Mets’ Spring Training facility in Port St. Lucie, his formal relationship with the team has ended.