Offseason checklist: Mets’ needs and moves

January 30th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Mets are embarking upon one of the most significant offseasons in franchise history. Coming off a fourth-place finish in the National League East and having made the playoffs just three times in the last 20 years, the team is set to wade into free agency with a new owner, Steve Cohen, as well as a new front-office structure and a new outlook.

“My family and I are lifelong Mets fans, so we’re really excited about this,” Cohen said in his introductory statement following the deal’s approval.

What exactly Cohen’s vision looks like remains to be seen, but the Mets’ roster holes are apparent. Here’s a look at what the team must accomplish this offseason. Check back frequently for updates throughout the Hot Stove season.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Center field
It’s entirely possible the Mets won’t address this need, preferring to use Brandon Nimmo as their everyday center fielder. There’s a good case for that, given Nimmo’s success at the plate (a .257/.397/.465 slash line) over the past three seasons. But Nimmo has struggled defensively at times, leaving the Mets to wonder what their outfield might look like with an elite defender roaming around center. If they do make a move, it might result in a trade of either Nimmo or J.D. Davis, who would become expendable. George Springer is by far the top center fielder available in free agency, but the team could also take a look at Jackie Bradley Jr.

NEEDS ADDRESSED

Starting pitching
In the blockbuster Francisco Lindor trade, the club acquired right-hander Carlos Carrasco to bolster the rotation. The team will start next season with Jacob deGrom, David Peterson, Steven Matz, Carrasco and Marcus Stroman penciled into the rotation -- the last of whom accepted the Mets' one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer. Seth Lugo could also play a role, but the Mets haven’t committed to him yet. It's possible that the Mets may not be done however, with right-hander Trevor Bauer still on the market.

Bullpen
The Mets’ first significant move of the offseason was to acquire veteran right-hander Trevor May, who should slot into the back of their bullpen. The team entered the offseason featuring a stronger relief corps than in years past, with Edwin Díaz, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and several others all under contract for 2021. But the Mets nonetheless made continued bullpen improvement a priority, landing May as the group’s centerpiece addition. They also added familiar face Jerry Blevins, the team's former lefty specialist, on a Minor League deal. Southpaw Aaron Loup, who was brought in on a one-year contract, provides postseason experience and success against lefties.

Starting catcher
If there was any doubt that the Mets would pursue a new backstop this offseason, they erased it when they declined contract options on both Wilson Ramos and Robinson Chirinos. That left backup Tomás Nido as the top catcher on the depth chart -- but not for long, as the Mets landed 2019 All-Star James McCann on a four-year, $40.6 million deal. McCann, who is well-regarded for his ability to work with pitching staffs, will take over everyday duties behind the plate for the Mets.

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MOVES MADE

Jan. 30: Signed LHP Aaron Loup
The 33-year-old reliever compiled a 2.52 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP in 24 regular-season appearances for the Rays in 2020. He then allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 postseason innings, striking out seven and walking two. Lefties have slashed .232/.301/.319 against him across nine MLB seasons.

Jan. 19: Acquired LHP Joey Lucchesi
Playing a relatively minor role in a three-team trade that saw Joe Musgrove go from Pittsburgh to San Diego, the Mets received Lucchesi from the Padres while sending catching prospect Endy Rodriguez to the Pirates. The move gives them lefty depth at the back of their rotation.

Jan. 8: Signed INF Brandon Drury to a Minor League deal; claimed LHP Stephen Tarpley off waivers
Drury, who is capable of playing six different positions, will compete for a backup job in Spring Training. Tarpley will attempt to make the bullpen as a lefty ground-ball specialist.

Jan. 7: Acquired SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco
The Mets made the first blockbuster trade of the Cohen era, acquiring Lindor and Carrasco from Cleveland for shortstops Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez, pitching prospect Josh Wolf and outfield prospect Isaiah Greene.

Dec. 22: Came to terms with RHP Noah Syndergaard
The pitcher agreed to a one-year, $9.7 million deal to avoid arbitration as he looks to make a comeback from Tommy John surgery.

Dec. 21: Signed RHP Jerad Eickhoff, LHP Tom Windle and INF Wilfredo Tovar to Minor League contracts
The Mets continued their quest to deepen the upper levels of their farm system with a series of signings, inviting those three players to Spring Training.

Dec. 15: Signed C James McCann on 4-year deal
McCann -- an All-Star in 2019 -- will receive $40.6 million, plus a signing bonus, over the course of his 4-year contract.

Dec. 11: Agreed with LHP Jerry Blevins on Minors deal
Blevins was one of the Mets' most reliable pitchers in 2016-17, before taking a step back in '18. He posted a 3.90 ERA in 40 games for the Braves last season.

Dec. 10: Busy during Rule 5 Draft
The Mets selected right-handed pitcher Luis Oviedo from the Indians with intentions to trade him to the Pirates for cash considerations, according to a source, but lost righty Dedniel Nunez to the Giants. The club also selected five players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, including two with Major League experience.

Dec. 2: Agreed to terms with LHP Steven Matz, RHP Jacob Barnes and OF Guillermo Heredia; non-tendered LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Paul Sewald, RHP Ariel Jurado and RHP Nick Tropeano
Matz ($5.2 million), Heredia ($1 million) and Barnes ($750,000) avoided arbitration with their new deals. The Mets tendered contracts to all of their other arbitration-eligible players except Shreve, Sewald, Jurado and Tropeano.

Dec. 1: Agreed to terms on a two-year contract with RHP Trevor May
The former Twin, who signed for approximately $15 million, should slot into the later innings for the Mets.

Nov. 20: Signed RHP Sam McWilliams to a one-year, $750,000 contract
The former Rays farmhand, whom the Mets acquired for rotation depth, received the largest big league deal over the past decade for an American player without any Major League service time.

Nov. 13: RHP Marcus Stroman accepted the Mets’ $18.9 million qualifying offer
The one-year deal brings Stroman back to the rotation in 2021.

Nov. 4: Signed OF Mallex Smith, OF Johneshwy Fargas, INF Jake Hager, INF José Peraza, INF Luis Carpio, INF Mitchell Tolman, C Bruce Maxwell, C David Rodríguez, RHP Oscar De La Cruz, RHP Harol González and RHP Arodys Vizcaíno to Minor League deals
The team invited all but Tolman to Spring Training in an effort to build up the upper levels of its farm system.

Nov. 1: RHP Dellin Betances ($6.8 million) and RHP Brad Brach ($1.25 million) exercised player options
Both relievers will be back in the Mets’ bullpen in 2021.

Nov. 1: Declined team options on C Wilson Ramos, C Robinson Chirinos and INF Todd Frazier
All three players became free agents.

Oct. 30: Claimed RHP Nick Tropeano and RHP Jacob Barnes
The Mets claimed Tropeano from the Pirates and Barnes from the Angels. Both relievers had been designated for assignment by their former clubs.

Oct. 26: Claimed INF Robel García
The Mets’ first offseason transaction was a waiver claim from the Reds. In a corresponding move, the team designated outfielder Ryan Cordell for assignment.