Inbox: Will the Mets add another starter?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans

February 1st, 2019

Well, that went fast. The official start of Spring Training is less than two weeks away. While the Mets have some areas they might yet look to improve, by and large, the roster appears set. In this week's Inbox, we take a look at one thing that could still happen between now and mid-March.

Are the Mets considering adding another starter, someone such as ?
-- @rtpiers via Twitter

I have learned quickly not to count general manager Brodie Van Wagenen out on anything, so I won't say definitively that the Mets are done adding starting pitching. We also don't know what the team's true budget ceiling is for 2019, though I suspect it's probably around $160 million -- and they're pretty close to that number right now. That doesn't leave much wiggle room for a player like Gonzalez or or whatever other big name you want to throw out there, considering how many teams are still interested in adding pitching. But perhaps the Mets could get creative in shedding one of the other salaries on their roster.

Short of that, can I see the Mets adding a starter between now and Opening Day? Yes, on a smaller scale, much as they've already done with Kyle Dowdy, and . I just don't see them stretching to add a Gonzalez type, as much as it seems like a good roster fit. I agree with the masses who feel the Mets are a bit lacking in starting-pitching depth. In my eyes, they're one major injury away from being in real trouble with their rotation; it's the only roster weakness the Mets didn't really address this offseason with proven talent.

Where do the Mets stand on a long-term extension for ? That should be their next priority.
-- @ctz1057 via Twitter

The two sides opened dialogue in December, but as of this week, nothing had progressed to the point where offers were exchanged. Don't read too much into that; all it takes is one phone call for the situation to change. But as of right now, it appears likely deGrom will enter Spring Training on the one-year deal he signed to avoid arbitration.

How do you see first base working out? I think we all would like to see Peter Alonso win the job outright, but if he can't, is it and at first?
-- @MetJetBowler via Twitter

Definitely at least Frazier -- the Mets have already hinted that if Alonso does not make the club, will start at third and Frazier at first. (That's far from a static situation, but still the most likely alignment.) Whether Smith joins that mix is going to depend largely on him. He's coming off two underwhelming partial years in the Majors, and he missed almost all of last Spring Training due to injury. A dynamic camp would give Smith a real chance to make the team, but he'll have to show more than he has in the past.

The great unknown here is Alonso. Van Wagenen has been consistent in saying Alonso has a real chance to make the team, which backs the Mets into a corner if he rakes in Grapefruit League play. From a long-term roster-building perspective, it makes little sense to sacrifice a year of team control just to have Alonso on the club for two extra weeks in April. But Van Wagenen sure does sound convincing when he indicates he's willing to do it.

With the new bullpen acquisitions in Dowdy, and complementing , ,  and , is there anyone between , , Daniel Zamora and that sticks out as a particular dark horse to grab a spot?
-- @jack_hendon99 via Twitter

I think you've named the favorites, not the dark horses. I'd say heading into camp, Diaz, Familia, Lugo, Gsellman and Wilson are all guaranteed jobs. Dowdy and Avilan will have to earn theirs, competing against the other names you mentioned. Smith and Zamora in particular are both on solid footing.

If you're looking for a true dark horse, look to some of the other non-roster invitees nobody's talking about: and stick out in particular as guys who could turn heads with strong springs.

Everyone always talks about Lugo potentially going in as a fifth starter for , but is there any potential for Gsellman to get another shot at it if Vargas struggles?
-- @chaybags27 via Twitter

I don't really see it, no. It's not as if Gsellman thrived in the bullpen to such an extent that the Mets feel they need to see him as a starter. And unlike Lugo, who has expressed his preference to be in the rotation, Gsellman has said he actually prefers the bullpen. So shall it be.

With revamping the analytics department, are the Mets going to deploy more data-driven decisions, or have you heard anything about what they're going to do with the new personnel?
-- @JHUDSON_04 via Twitter

You may have noticed the Mets added two more analytics staffers this week: Russell Carleton and Andrew Perpetua. They promised to beef up this area of their organization, and they have.
Still, I don't think it's as simple as saying, "The Mets have more analytics employees, so they're going to ignore classic scouting and do what the computers say." In fleshing out their analytics department with a bunch of new hires, the Mets are giving themselves a sharper tool with which to evaluate players. They also hired an assistant GM in Allard Baird who's a star in the scouting community, and they shook up their player development system. All of it will play a role in how the Mets make decisions.

If Jeff McNeil is in the starting lineup on Opening Day playing outfield, would he play left field or right field?
-- @FunerlMadera via Twitter

Probably right. The Mets are more comfortable with than in center, meaning Conforto will likely default to left. That opens up right field for McNeil.
Defensively, their best realistic alignment is probably Conforto in left, either or in center, and Nimmo in right. You'll see that a lot, too.

Do you think at least one of Vargas, Lagares, or Frazier will be traded before Opening Day?
-- @Reactively via Twitter

Unlikely. While the Mets would benefit from the salary relief of trading one of those players, perhaps allowing them to sign one of the aforementioned starters, it's difficult to deal expensive veterans coming off injuries or down years. Again, I wouldn't count it out entirely, but it's not something I envision happening before the start of the season.