The Mets’ postseason hopes are flickering on life support at this point. Also flickering are the chances that any of the position players and starting pitchers whose contracts expire after this season have much prospect to return to the Mets next year.
Joe Panik was released by the Giants earlier this year after a good career with the team including his helping spark the team’s 2014 WS run, and winning a Gold Glove in 2016. His production for the Giants this year plunged though, and his stat line with SF was only .235/.310/.317 in 103 games. His release from the Giants came at a fortuitous time for both him and the Mets as regular second sacker Robinson Cano had just been placed on the IL with a hamstring injury. Panik has had much better stats since coming to the Mets with a .284/.326/.395 line, which is still not great. Panik became the regular second baseman until the recent return of Cano.
Panik will be 29 next season, and he still plays a solid defense and gets some timely hits. He’s a Yonkers native and still lives in the region, and he seemed to really enjoy being a Met. However, the Mets have a real logjam at 2b, with Cano, Jed Lowrie, Jeff McNeil and Luis Guillorme all having second as their best position, and Cano and Lowrie have albatross like contracts that make them almost impossible to move. Panik will land somewhere next season, but it will not be at Citi Field. He’s good enough to be a starting second baseman for a lesser team or a reserve on a better team that needs depth at second.
Third baseman Todd Frazier is in his second year with the Mets, and in 117 games this year he assembled a line of .233/.309/.416 with 18 homers. He still plays decent defense. But he will be in his age 34 season in 2020, and has entered a declining phase of his career.
Jeff McNeil is more of a natural third baseman, but he can play third and is sure to be somewhere in the lineup the way he has hit. Frazier will likely end up somewhere in MLB next year, not necessarily as a starter. With his knowledge of the game and clubhouse leadership he may have a future as a manager some day.
Center fielder Juan Lagares was off to a promising start in 2018, then had his season end prematurely by injury. This year the door was wide open for him but he fizzled especially early in the year. His stat line for the season is a bad .209/.276/.303, even though he is the best fielding outfielder on the team. He has, however, shown some life since the All-Star break. His line so far for that time frame is .264/.330/.385. In the recent thrilling comeback win over the Phils, Lagares got a two out single in the bottom of the ninth that kept the game alive that Mets ultimately won.
Most likely Lagares will be toiling for a different organization next season, his age 31 season. But the team does have a definite need for a fourth outfielder, and there is no one in the high minors ready to step in. Probably wheeler-dealer Brodie Van Wagenen will either trade for another outfielder or snap up a free agent, but it is at least possible (but not probable) that the Mets offer a one or two year deal at a lower salary, and Lagares accepts.
Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler entered 2019 coming off a career best season in 2018, but he has regressed this year. He’s got a 10-7 record with a 4.33 ERA in 166.1 innings. He’s struck out 163, batters are averaging .263 against him, and his WHIP is 1.31. His FIP figure of 3.68 is pretty good, showing that he suffered from poor defense behind him. Wheeler may have the easiest path to return to the Mets next year, if he wants to. The team will likely give him a qualifying offer, and if he accepts then he’s back for one more year. Otherwise a team in need of a starter will grab him.
Last year, in his first season as GM, Van Wagenen churned the roster quite a bit, with uneven results. Most likely we will see that method of operation continue with players coming and going, with the four profiled in this article probably being in the going group.