Blend logoWith just 17 days to go until opening day, the Mets coaching staff and front office are busy making their final judgments before finalizing the 25-man roster for opening day. For the first time in years, Port St. Lucie has seen very little competition. The starting lineup and rotation are virtually set in stone, unless there is an injury between now and April 3. The bench and bullpen are another matter.

Recent reports indicate that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will be healthy and ready to go come April 3. If that’s indeed the case, the opening day lineup will likely look like this:

RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
CF Yoenis Cespedes
1B Lucas Duda
2B Neil Walker
LF Michael Conforto
C Travis d’Arnaud
SS Asdrubal Cabrera

They’ll be facing a righty on opening day as Kansas City’s two best returning starters are Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez. In games against lefty starters, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores will likely sub in – Lagares for either Conforto or Granderson, with Cespedes shifting to left field, and Flores for either Walker or Cabrera. Flores will also see plenty of time filling in for Wright, but not against lefties, unless the captain is injured. Both Flores and Lagares will see pinch hitting duty and Lagares will also see some time as a late-inning defensive replacement. They’ll be the two most used players off the bench, but which three join them is still being worked out.

Kevin Plawecki is the second best catcher in the organization, but there have been discussions about letting him start the year in AAA Las Vegas to get regular playing time. If that’s the case, Johnny Monell, who is in camp but not currently on the 40-man roster, could begin the season as d’Arnaud’s backup. The Mets have reportedly also been talking to other teams about trading for a veteran backstop.

As of right now, Alejandro De Aza is slated to enter the season as the fifth outfielder and the lone lefty off the bench. He can play all three outfield positions, though not particularly well in center, provides a decent bat and slightly better than average speed on the bases. This would make for a good fit if he weren’t set to earn $5.7 million for the season. For that reason, the Mets are open to trading him, but finding a taker at that salary won’t be easy, so figure on De Aza opening the season on the Mets’ roster.

The last spot on the bench, reserved for another backup infielder, is now wide open as the six-year Mets veteran Ruben Tejada was released. The obvious in-house candidates include Matt Reynolds, primarily a shortstop, and Eric Campbell, a versatile position player who struggled at the plate last season. Reynolds also struggled with his hitting last season, but in AAA. Either player is fine in limited duty, but if there’s an injury early in the season, the Mets might be forced to make a trade. Later in the season, shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini might be ready for his first trip to the show.

The safe bet is that the opening day bench will look like this:

IF Wilmer Flores
OF Juan Lagares
C Johnny Monell
OF Alejandro De Aza
IF Matt Reynolds

The starting rotation was set in late 2015 when Bartolo Colon resigned to fill in the fifth spot until July when Zack Wheeler is expected to rejoin the team. Matt Harvey has officially gotten the nod for opening day and Jacob deGrom, whose wife is due with a baby while the team is in Kansas City to open the season, will likely be held back until at least the third game. No surprises here:

RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Noah Syndergaard
RHP Jacob deGrom
LHP Steven Matz
RHP Bartolo Colon

The backend of the bullpen is equally set in stone with Jeurys Familia returning as closer. His primary setup men will be Addison Reed and Antonio Bastardo with Hansel Robles returning to middle relief and Jerry Blevins as the requisite LOOGY. That leaves two open spots, one for another middle reliever and one for a long man. Logan Verrett, more suited to starting, has options remaining and will likely begin the season in Las Vegas. However, if a starter gets injured, he’ll likely be the first call up. Lefty Sean Gilmartin who can pitch multiple innings in relief or give us a solid five as a starter, should get the nod as the long man.

The last spot is pretty much down to the righties, Erik Goeddel, who had a solid season last year with the Mets, and the former Milwaukee closer turned comeback candidate Jim Henderson. Goeddel proved himself a reliable middle inning option, but he’s been nursing a lat injury. Henderson has looked good so far and has seemingly rediscovered his fastball. This may be the toughest call. If Goeddel is healthy, Henderson can be sent to Las Vegas, if he accepts, as he is on a minor league contract. Here’s what the opening day bullpen may look like:

RHP Jeurys Familia
RHP Addison Reed
LHP Antonio Bastardo
RHP Hansel Robles
LHP Jerry Blevins
RHP Erik Goeddel
LHP Sean Gilmartin

The roster will be fluid and not just because of injuries. Goeddel and Gilmartin could easily trade places with Verrett and Henderson should they struggle early on. The same is true for Reynolds, Campbell and Monell.  The good news is that the core 20 players are set and we’re just talking about secondary backups. The bad news is that some of these secondary backups are marginal players who are just an injury away from being pushed into a role they may be ill-equipped to handle.

16 comments on “Mets notes: The bench, the bullpen and the final 25

  • James Preller

    I never got too concerned about the back of the bullpen in April. Those guys come and go; it’s more important that there are viable options in AAA come the inevitable lat strain or meltdown. I’ve accepted that protecting options, and retaining talent, is more important than starting the season with the absolute best guys.

    Re: the position players, it’s similar, but not as fluid. The season has a strange start to it, with the days off, Cabrera’s uncertain status, Wright (who is showing no signs of being ML ready), Robles suspension, and so on.

    I think Eric Campbell at 25th man fits this club much better than Matt Reynolds.

    My thought is that Cecchini had a good Spring, and that the club was encouraged by his overall demeanor. He’s passed Reynolds and I think he passed the test that asks the question: Could this guy give us two decent weeks if we get stuck? Obviously, they want him to play a full year at AAA; he has work to accomplish. But he’s better than Reynolds already. If they need someone to sit on the pine, Reynolds is the better near-term candidate. If they need a player, I suspect they’d look to Cecchini.

    De Aza has no role. Nice player, but no role, unless somebody gets significantly injured. Can’t hit LHP. Rosters need complementary players, not pale duplicates.

    • Chris F

      Campbell will most certainly makes the club in my estimation. Im afraid he may even be the starting 3B come opening day. The situation with Wright is very serious. I think its worth everyone realizing that he is living with a permanent condition and not rehabbing an injury. He will never have a pain free day.

      • James Preller

        How do you have the entire winter off and not be ready to play in March?

        The only answer is that you are more injured than the Mets are letting on.

        If rather have Uribe than De Aza right about now.

        The wide-spread assumption is that he’ll play 75% of the games and be an effective hitter, fielder. My take is far, far more pessimistic than that. Hope I am wrong.

        • Chris F

          Like I said James, he’s not rehabbing something that gets better. My dad has spinal stenosis, and even after surgery, back pain is something he is married too…for 20 solid years now after surgery. Ive read that Wright will be considered “day-to-day” for the remainder of his career, and that makes sense from what I know.

          What I dont understand is the lack of a solid 3B back up. Again, Im not privy to knowing the inner workings, but the visible situation with Wright is crystal clear and not positive. With Frazier being had for very little, it was a big mistake in my eyes not to deal for him…or reup Uribe. I dont believe in any of the options we have otherwise in the least least from what my eyes of on-the-field play have witnessed.

          • Brian Joura

            But wait, they have more information than you! Trust their process.

            Being serious now — They’re stuck with Wright and putting on a happy face, I get it. They’ve made the decision that Flores and/or Campbell is a viable Plan B. I’m not convinced they’re wrong but I’m not going to argue with someone who feels the opposite.

            • Chris F

              I get it…if its Campbell, let it be. The armchair GM in me says, I dont get it.

              • Mike M

                I think you need to assume Flores is your full time 3B. It can’t be Campbell – been there, done that and the results were ugly. Its what makes the Tejada move curious. They must be real happy with Cecchini because he may be one injury away from being the starting shortstop, unless Wright is better than we think. I have spinal stenosis and I’m not optimistic he can be a regular or even approach his past level of play. The only other alternative would be Herrera plays second, Flores plays short and Walker plays 3rd (if he can).

                • Chris F

                  Except that Flores sucks at 3B and is utterly incapable of playing the position at a major league level. Campbell is better, has taken a lot of reps in the Show at 3B, and while a desperately poor choice, the best of what we have available. That I dont understand…but I dont have the whole vision in front of me.

    • MattyMets

      Agree with every word. Very insightful

  • BK

    I’m ready for Opening Day. Assuming everyone stays healthy (or relatively healthy), we will be tough to beat. #LGM

  • JC

    well I do believe Henderson will win the bullpen competition especially owing to Goedele’s inability to pitch early. I’m not as sure about the bench.

    I think TJ Rivera may beat out Reynolds and Campbell, TC seems to like him, He has hit at every level and he is versatile, the beat reporter for Newsday reported on one of the radio games that the team was leaning toward Plawecki as back up catcher. When combined with the reports they are looking for a veteran catcher to back up I read this to mean Monell is Vegas bound if they acquire a veteran backup Paw goes to Vegas if not he goes with the team to KC.

    I do believe De Azza stays with the team but if he gets traded what the team gets back could change it. I read someplace in early spring in adition to a backup catcher the team was looking for a power bat for the bench so if they get that peace then they would move or Cut De Azza I assume but failing that or him being the player you trade for the catcher De Azza should be a met. If he is gone though I could see Campbell getting his roster spot

  • Metsense

    Campbell is the more versatile and experienced player when comparing him to Reynolds. Initially Campbell gets the nod.
    Johnny Monell may get the spot over Plawecki only because Plawecki should start the season at AAA to get some much needed playing time. Plawecki won’t be there too long.
    Gilmartin as the long reliever is a deserving choice because he had a nice 2015.
    Henderson and Goedell are a toss up but Eric should get the spot as a reward for also having a nice 2015.
    There should be two open spots on the 40 man roster with the departure of Tejada and Wheeler going on the extended DL list. That makes room for Monell and Henderson. The Mets look like a solid contender as the season approaches.

    • James Preller

      They clearly don’t like Monell either behind the plate or in the clubhouse. As a LH bat, he’s good. I don’t think they want this guy handling young pitchers.

      Wonder if they miss Anthony Recker.

  • James Newman

    The only way I see Plawecki making the roster is if the team knows he is going to play 2-3 games a week.

    If he’s not, it makes sense to let him play in the minors, and call him up later on in the season.

    As for Monell, he seems like a serviceable backup catcher, so it was interesting to hear the organization say they wanted another catcher. It would be nice if there was a catcher who could also play first base on the market. Seems like an ideal fit for the Mets bench.

  • MattyMets

    A month ago i felt good about the bench. Didn’t understand the rush to cut Recker, in light of the Plawecki discussion. And as i posted last week, cutting Tejada is a gamble to save a few bucks. Given Wright and d’Arnaud’s injury histories i felt a lot better about Tejada and Plawecki than Campbell/Reynolds and Monell. Those last few names don’t belong on a contending teams roster IMO.

    PS – full disclosure, I’m belly up to an airport bar in Milwaukee comin home from a biz trip. I was talking about the Brewers with the two guys next to me. Glad to be discussing out team’s very minor shortcomings instead of theirs. LGM. *burp*

  • Jim OMalley

    God bless Conforto! He will have us eating Strawberries in December…

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