3 roster considerations affecting the Mets early on

April 24th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- For the second time in three days, on Tuesday, a top-flight National League pitcher shut down the Mets. This time it was Logan Webb, whose eight shutout innings dropped the Mets to a 5-1 loss to the Giants despite Luis Severino’s quality start.

“It’s part of 162,” manager Carlos Mendoza said afterward.

Often, a West Coast trip is about surviving and advancing. Since the season began, the Mets have made transactions on a near-daily basis as they’ve tried to move past injuries and heavy reliever usage. In the coming weeks, some other things are bound to change on the margins of this roster as well.

The Mets have a bench decision to make
J.D. Martinez’s debut, which could occur as soon as Friday, will force the Mets to cut a bench player they’d rather keep around.

The obvious candidates are the same ones from the end of Spring Training: DJ Stewart and Zack Short, two players with divergent skill sets. Stewart is a bat-first DH type who has been productive since recovering from a slow start. Short is a talented, versatile defender who offers speed but has a career .570 OPS.

One of Short’s problems is that his qualifications overlap with those of Joey Wendle, who is on a $2 million guaranteed contract. At this early juncture of the season, the Mets aren’t likely to move on from Wendle, who made a diving stop at second base to save a run in the sixth inning Tuesday.

Short, unlike Stewart, is out of Minor League options. Toward the end of Spring Training, rival scouts were convinced that if the Mets had designated Short for assignment, he would have been claimed. Now that the regular season has begun, perhaps the Mets would have a better chance at sneaking him through waivers. Optioning Stewart would be the only sure way to keep both players.

But president of baseball operations David Stearns indicated this decision is more likely to be about winning right now. Is it more valuable for Mendoza to have a left-handed power bat off the bench? (When would Stewart pinch-hit? And for whom?) Or is it better to have a pinch-runner and defensive replacement? (Would Short find any playing time at all?)

“We need to ensure we’re putting the best team together to help us win games,” Stearns said. “We’re in the thick of it now.”

The Mets aren’t likely to find catching help outside the organization
… really, for three reasons:

1. Francisco Alvarez is only going to be sidelined for around eight weeks. While that might feel like an eternity, the season is more than 26 weeks long. The Mets could still have Alvarez for two-thirds of it. With a pair of veteran catchers already in house (making a combined $9.1 million this season), a significant move would be short-sighted.

2. To that end, good catching is “certainly at a premium,” as Stearns put it. Most organizations don’t exactly have a surplus of guys who are more complete players than Omar Narváez and Tomás Nido.

3. Mets officials believe that, if nothing else, Nido and Narváez can provide strong defensive production for as long as Alvarez is absent. Nido has been an excellent blocker and pitch framer throughout his career. Narváez may have taken a step back defensively since signing with the Mets, but he profiled as one of the game’s better defensive catchers from 2020-22. While neither offers the same type of total package as Alvarez, both are bona fide Major Leaguers.

“We are talking about two guys who have performed at a high level in this league -- particularly defensively,” Stearns said. “They both know how to work with pitching staffs. They both know how to get guys through their outings. So we have confidence that they’re going to be able to keep us going while Alvy’s recovering.

“We’re always going to look for depth and to get better. I also think we’ve got two pretty good options here, and I think it’s a great opportunity for both Narvy and Tomás to take hold of this and to help us win games. I know that they’re both very motivated to do so.”

Could the Mets insert a sixth starter into their rotation?
Before Kodai Senga strained his shoulder, the Mets planned on using a sixth starter anytime they had a long period of games without an off-day. They’re about to face two such stretches of 13 consecutive games. Even without Senga, they’re still considering the idea of a spot starter.

The team has two pitchers on their 40-man roster who could fit the role. One, Joey Lucchesi, has been pitching better since the end of a rough Spring Training. The left-hander has a 2.57 ERA over four Triple-A starts, albeit with 11 walks in 21 innings. The other, Max Kranick, came off the injured list on Tuesday and still needs to stretch out a bit more in the Minors, but he could become a consideration by the start of next month.