There’s been a lot of bickering about just exactly how the owners will take advantage of the pandemic to pay players less than what they contractually owe them. It’s nothing short of amazing how the owners are able to shape the narrative here. Of course, it’s been 25 years since the last time baseball had a shortened season – enough time for the masses to forget about the long history of how owners have tried their best to hoard as much money as possible for themselves. When the players try to do the same thing, they’re painted as greedy. Owners? They’re just smart businessmen.
It’s reasonable to believe that the sides will reach an agreement. It’s also reasonable to assume that there will be different rules in how the season will be played. There’s already been talk about all teams using the DH and it’s been mentioned about possibly using an automated strike zone, too. Another thing mentioned is an expanded roster for the teams. We were already going to play with a 26-man roster. But with trying to get as many games played in as short of a window as possible, it won’t be a surprise if that number jumps to 30. And with no minor league season, there’s even been talk about having a much larger “taxi squad,” which would be a collection of some number – 40? 50? – of players from which to draw upon to create the daily roster.
This will be an advantage to two types of organizations. Obviously, it will benefit the teams that have great depth in their system. But it will also benefit those who choose to use their best players, without worries about their age and experience. Or starting their service time clocks.
For the Mets, the question becomes if they choose to use known scrubs like Tyler Bashlor and Jacob Rhame for these extra spots/taxi squad or if they’ll use guys with more upside but fewer innings of professional experience. And it’s a tightrope to walk. Will guys be ruined if they get called up too soon and end up getting shell shocked? If your best prospects played last season at Lo-A, is it a help or a hindrance to expose them to MLB action now?
It’s my belief that if you have a, say, 40-man taxi squad in play, that you can successfully use less-experienced players in roles where they won’t be overwhelmed. Teams are used to “hiding” a guy they’ve selected in the Rule 5 Draft on their roster all season. It should be even easier to do that if your roster sits at 40 and the season is only half the normal length. As strange as it sounds, committing to using your best players – even if you have to shelter them – is harder than actually doing it.
So, what should a 40-man roster for the 2020 Mets look like? Let’s operate under the assumption that the clubs will have these 40 guys to play the year with and that no additions/subtractions will be allowed once the season starts. Now, this may not be the way this plays out at all. But it adds a level of strategy to assembling the roster that’s appealing to me. You have to assemble your roster with potential injuries and ineffectiveness at the front of your mind. You can’t carry just two catchers and expect there not to be an injury along the way. You can’t carry 18 relievers and expect them to remain effective with sporadic playing time.
So, here’s my roster:
Catchers – Wilson Ramos, Tomas Nido, Rene Rivera, Ali Sanchez
It’s certainly tempting to carry a catcher with more offensive upside than Sanchez. Maybe if Patrick Mazeika hit better than a .725 OPS as an older prospect at Double-A he would be the choice. But that guy doesn’t exist in the system unless you want to use Francisco Alvarez. Shoot, that’s the whole idea here. So, let’s redo the position.
Catchers (4) – Ramos, Nido, Rivera, Alvarez
Infielders (9) – Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Jed Lowrie. Luis Guillorme, Matt Adams, Andres Gimenez
Maybe it’s naïve to think that Lowrie and his big brace are ready to play. But that’s the beauty of having the extra roster spots. It’s easier to carry him as the 39th guy rather than the 25th one. It would be nice to have a true third baseman somewhere on the roster. But it turns out you can’t have everything. Even with a 40-man roster.
Outfielders (6) – Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, Jake Marisnick, Hansel Moreno.
It’s tempting to put Tim Tebow as the last outfielder, just for the chance to mess with Andrew Church, one of the minor leaguers who the Mets just cut who criticized the organization for having anything to do with Tebow. But Moreno could play center field and in a worst-case scenario, it’s preferable to have another option for the middle of the outfield.
Starting Pitchers (9) – Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha, Walker Lockett, Stephen Gonsalves, Corey Oswalt, David Peterson
Obviously, starters can be used as relievers but it’s a big decision about how many starters you need to have available in this exercise. With two relievers who have starting experience and who could be pressed into the rotation in a worst-case scenario, nine seems like enough
Relief pitchers (12) – Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, Brad Brach, Robert Gsellman, Paul Sewald, Drew Smith, Thomas Szapucki, Franklyn Kilome, Daniel Zamora
Szapucki and Kilome also give you potential starting pitchers should the need arise, another thing that makes them a better choice than Bashlor and Rhame. Szapucki and Zamora give other lefties for the pen to go along with Wilson. Zamora has a .710 OPS allowed to RHB in his brief MLB career, so he should be able not to melt if he has to face a righty in a three-batter appearance. Smith probably won’t be ready right away but that shouldn’t be a problem with these many pitchers available.