Here on the last day of January there are still plenty of good free agents available. Still, eight of the top 10 free agents from MLBTR are off the board and the top two players rumored to be available via trade have switched teams. So, it seems like a good time to check in on the Mets’ offseason plan and see if they could have allocated their funds and trade assets better.

First, we should note that an important component of the Mets’ offseason plan was to increase their 40-man roster depth. And no one can say that they didn’t do that. Sure, there’s still some bloat on the 40-man – Patrick Mazeika and Daniel Zamora jump immediately to mind – but it’s good to have a couple of players you can cut for when something better comes along. The problem with teams of the recent past is they had double digit number of guys who fit in this category.

The trouble with this type of depth is knowing who among the various people available to the role has the chance to turn into the next Max Muncy. A lot of people think highly of new addition Sam McWilliams but it’s not like there’s an MLB track record upon which to judge him as there is with the big free agents.

The offseason before 2019, the Mets signed and traded for a bunch of guys with MLB experience to provide depth. Among others, there was Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Rajai Davis, Carlos Gomez and Adeiny Hechavarria. Each of those players got a chance and each was found to be pretty useless. When it comes to depth, being good in the majors on another team three years ago is no guarantee that you’ll be worthwhile.

So, let’s just agree that the Mets tried to upgrade their depth and on paper it looks better now than it did in the recent past.

For the major league roster, the Mets added seven players with a salary of at least $1 million for a total expenditure of $73.1 for the 2021 season. Some of these are players on a one-year deal and others have multiple years of control. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll only consider the upcoming season. The seven players are:

$22.3 – Francisco Lindor
$18.9 – Marcus Stroman
$12.0 – Carlos Carrasco
$8.15 – James McCann
$7.75 – Trevor May
$3 – Aaron Loup
$1 – Jose Martinez

McWilliams and Jacob Barnes came in at less than $1 million while Joey Lucchesi is in his last year before arbitration. The Mets still have roughly $30 million before they hit the CBT and obviously things will be a lot different if they end up signing Trevor Bauer. But assuming Bauer signs elsewhere, should fans be happy with the offseason? Let’s take a position-by-position look.

Catcher – The Mets felt the need to act early here, afraid to be shut out of getting one of their top choices at a thin position. By most estimates – MLBTR had him getting just a two-year deal while the Mets gave him four – they overpaid to get McCann. In a vacuum that might not be too bad. But there were rumors that J.T. Realmuto was eying the richest contract ever for a catcher. Instead, he signed a 5/$115 deal, which is in the ballpark but probably for fewer dollars than many anticipated. Would the Mets have been better off going after Realmuto, who has a much longer track record of success than McCann? There were rumors that Realmuto did not want to play in New York, so it’s likely it would have taken more dollars to get him. So, would you have preferred the Mets to get him at 5/$130? My preference is to avoid long-term deals with catchers already on the wrong side of 30. And that preference is buttressed with the knowledge that one of the club’s top prospects is a catcher. My plan was to try to entice Realmuto with a short-term deal with a high AAV. Five years was past my comfort level. Actually, four years with McCann is too long for me but it will be easier to cut him or trade him while paying the other team to take him at $12 million than the $25 million or so that Realmuto will pull down in the final years of his deal.

Infield – The Mets traded for Lindor. You could argue they needed a third baseman more than they needed a shortstop. Would they have been better off trading for Nolan Arenado or going out to get DJ LeMahieu? This one’s not so easily answered, at least not for me. Lindor is younger and plays a more important defensive position. The cost to get him wasn’t too bad and the fact they got Carrasco is a huge consideration. But the cost to get Arenado was even less and he’s under contract while the Mets still need to come to terms with Lindor on a long-term deal. From a total value standpoint, is Lindor/J.D. Davis better than Arenado/Andres Gimenez?

For what it’s worth, ZiPS projects Lindor/Davis to amass 5.9 fWAR, with Lindor pulling down a 5.1 mark. It has Arenado/Gimenez at 4.9, with Arenado producing a 3.8 mark. My opinion is that ZiPS is overvaluing Lindor and undervaluing Davis and Arenado. Finally, ZiPS has LeMahieu at a 4.2 fWAR this season.

The only pitcher who could swing the pendulum for me is Bauer. Could the Mets have made an Arenado/Bauer combo rather than a Lindor/Carrasco one? That’s far from certain. There are so many potential combinations the Mets’ offseason could take if they traded for Arenado instead of Lindor. As a big fan of Carrasco – and not quite so much of a Josh Wolf fan – ultimately, it’s hard to wish the Mets had gone in a different direction here.

Starting Pitching – Stroman and Carrasco combined will make roughly the same that Bauer will sign for eventually. It’s hard to prefer Bauer and 32 starts compared to 60 from the two guys the Mets signed. That’s not an anti-Bauer stance. It’s just that the Mets needed both quality and quantity and it looks like they got it.

Relief Pitching – The Mets wanted Brad Hand and could have grabbed him on waivers. But it happened during the transition from the Wilpons to Steve Cohen. It’s understandable why they didn’t claim him. Still, my opinion is that the new team of Cohen/Sandy Alderson should have been able to instruct Wilpon/Brodie Van Wagenen to select Hand on their behalf. However, once Hand reached free agency, he wanted to go some place where he had a good chance to be a closer. That wasn’t going to be the Mets.

The Mets did get May, no doubt with a good recommendation from Jeremy Hefner, his former pitching coach in Minnesota and who now holds the same position with the Mets. May’s likely content in a setup role. We know Hand wasn’t going to feel that way. Would Liam Hendriks have been okay coming in before the ninth inning? It’s tough to know how to evaluate how a pitcher’s preference for role might ultimately impact their performance when placed in a different spot.

You could make the argument that Justin Wilson plus another reliever is preferable to May and Loup – if they were to invest the savings into signing Bauer. And actually, the more consideration given to this, the more it appeals to me. At the end of the day, the Mets are open to criticism for how they handled shaping their pen for 2021. From missing out on Hand, non-tendering Chasen Shreve to keep Robert Gsellman, to the big deal for May – there’s some things that could backfire here on them.

Which brings us to the outfield.

Most people wanted/expected the Mets to sign George Springer. But the Mets’ interest apparently cooled once they executed the deal for Lindor. A switch-hitter, Lindor provided a righty bat to help balance the lineup against LHP, one of the main selling points for Springer. The other big thing, of course, is that Springer is a better defensive center fielder than Brandon Nimmo. But without any clarity on the DH issue, signing Springer would push a good bat to the bench, likely Dominic Smith.

If MLB had committed to the National League having the DH, my preference would have been to sign Springer even after adding Lindor. Had the Mets done this they would have had to let Michael Conforto leave as a free agent following the 2021 season. While Conforto is younger, Springer is better. And hopefully he would have been able to stay in center long enough for Pete Crow-Armstrong to make it to the majors.

But, the uncertainty of the DH makes passing on Springer okay for me. Especially given the 6/$150 deal he eventually got from Toronto.

Ultimately, the Mets have had a very productive offseason so far and it’s still a possibility they’ll be an addition or two to strengthen the team. Based on what they’ve done so far, my grade is an A-, with the handling of the bullpen being the biggest beef. You won’t get any argument from me if you think it’s a B+ since they didn’t get Springer. But any time you add quality and quantity to your starting rotation, a potential impact player at shortstop and a catcher trending upwards – that’s some good work.

13 comments on “Francisco Lindor and a critique of the Mets’ offseason

  • Wobbit

    I agree heartily with your assessments, Brian. I especially like the “60 vs 32” starts perspective. Of all the players on the salary list, Marcus Stroman is the most worrisome. All indications I got in seeing his careers numbers and watching his very few starts with the Mets is that he is running on hype. That means to me that he is likely to underperform. And since opting out of the 2020 season, he might also be less robust mentally than one might want from a front-line starter. Would Gibson (a man) or Hershiser (the Bulldog) opt out? ha ha. I fear a colossal disappointment in Stroman, and will gladly take 30 starts and a sub 4.00 ERA for the 18 million… no questions asked.
    I’m frankly glad that Rosario is gone… I found him hard to find a place for and maybe not likely to get much better. Too many holes in his strike zone, too many bad habits. The sheer fact that he stole zero bases in 2020 tells a lot about his mental toughness and passion for the game… not bringing all he had to the table. Almost the opposite of Gimenez, however, whom I was so sorry to lose. But still, I take Lindor a hundred times out of a hundred. Even if he underperforms a tad under the NYC lights, he still brings a huge upside right now, and a leadership the team needs.
    I vote no on Bauer. It’s not necessarily what he brings to the mound, but how much better is he than any alternative. Relative to the cost, will his replacements perform 80% of what he will? Assuming the answer is likely yes, than the 20% difference is certainly not worth the 70% more money it would cost the team, not to mention the veritable mountain of potential disruption his me-first-personality disorders would cause the team… certainly not worth the 20%…
    I’ll take McCann for four years… a blink of the eye if he holds down the position with good defense and passable offense. A team just cannot win without a decent catcher, and many teams don’t have it… teach your grandson to catch…

  • BobP

    I’m generally happy with the offseason. I wish there was resolution on the DH so we would have a better sense of how our hitters will fit into the lineup, but the thing that I’d still like to see is another solid starter. The big three of Jake, Carasco and Stroman looks good but then there are a lot of question marks. Peterson has some promise but Wobbit has been much more sold on him than I am. After that it’s still shaky. A strong return by Thor would be great but it’s tough to count on that. I don’t know that Bauer is the answer because of the price tag, but I’d love to see one more solid mid rotation starter that we can have some confidence in.

  • Metsense

    Going into the offseason the Mets had abundant needs.
    • three starting pitchers better than Peterson to start the season. Stroman +, Carrasco +, Lucchesi – . They should get another quality starter.
    • an above average defensive and offensive catcher. McCann is an upgrade
    • upgrade CF, LF and 3B defense without diminishing the offense. Without a DH this can’t accomplished without a trade.
    • upgrade the bullpen. May replaces Wilson and Loup are a upgrade to Gsellman. All eight relievers have contracts.
    • obtain an impact RHB. Lindor is a star and a sizeable upgrade at shortstop.
    Grade: B- because no starting pitcher depth , a slight improvement with the bullpen and no trade to address the defense at three positions. The lack of depth in the starting pitching is ominous and an injury could sabotage the season.
    Grade: A+ for the article. It covered all points!

  • Wobbit

    I’d like to reiterate that a platoon at third with JDDavis and Luis Guillorme can yield better than expected results. With Luis, we’re getting superior defense at 3B maybe more than half the time. With JD hitting primarily lefties, he would rake. Luis we already know can hit, especially if he is hitting primarily against RHers.
    Imagine their combined numbers hitting in the second half of the order, might we say .280/.350/.390 minimum, with 20 HRs and 70 RBI? How much better than that can we hope to achieve through a trade, especially regarding how much they cost the payroll. Both guys stay fresh, both guys get to be major contributors. We need a RH hitting second baseman with a good glove to spell McNeil, too. Again, he doesn’t have to be a household name, which one always pays more for.

    • Remember1969

      It is very hard to see how a Guillorme/Davis platoon would produce 20 homers and 70 ribbies, especially the 20 homer. Guillorme would be playing the bulk of the time and he does not have that kind of power. I can see a full year of Davis yielding 20-25 home runs and 75-80 RBIs, but playing only 30% of the time + pinch hitting duties would limit that.

      Now, with that said, I am not in complete disagreement that a Guillorme/Davis platoon would be the worst thing, although at this point, Guillorme is the depth guy at all the infield positions. Turning him into a starter eliminates him from any second base defensive work. I don’t know how this will work out – or even how it should with the current roster. Just hope that Lindor does not get hurt for any length of time!

      Got any ideas for that RH hitting second baseman with a good glove?

  • Remember1969

    So as the 2020 season ended and the off-season got started – seems like a long time ago – the priority order of need was (1) defense up the middle with centerfield as 1a and catcher as 1b. * Need 1a is still open
    * I am very happy with the filling of need 1b (McCann). I believe McCann at $40M over 4 years will prove to be a much better value than Realmuto at $115M over 5 years, and as Brian aptly states, it would have probably been another $15M or so to draw him in. Overall A+ on the catcher.
    Priority (2) was starting pitching. Stroman accepting the qualifying offer was a bonus for us lazy people – one less starter to worry about, and arguably the second best starting pitcher on the potential free agent list. Obtaining Carrasco looks like a very solid move. Peterson should be given a very real opportunity to prove he belongs and as a previous #1 draft pick, he really should belong at this point. They still need another. I was sorry to see Matz go, and would still like to see them ink Taijuan Walker. Sam McWilliams may turn into a great find. Grade B+ for offering the QO to Stroman and trading for Carrasco. Even if they cobble up the #5 slot until Syndergaard comes back, they are better off now than they were three months ago.
    Priority (3) – the bullpen. Getting May was big. Adding the little depth they did was meh, not exciting, but OK. Loup is interesting, but it is hard to tell if he is better at $3M than Wilson or Shreve would have been. Both are still available and seeing Shreve on a split contract would be good. Bullpen grade B.
    Priority (4) – general defense. Lindor is one of the very best, but giving away two major league shortstops didn’t seem like the best idea to me. McCann helps, but other than that, they have not done anything. Still have big concerns about ‘D’ at first, second, third, left, and center. and even right-field (Conforto) is not above average in the field. Grade C for getting Lindor.
    Priority (5) – depth. Grade D- As noted, they stripped both major league shortstops. They have a back-up catcher that is unproven (at best) over time. Guillorme is a very capable infielder. Jose Martinez has been a terrific hitter in the past, but he doesn’t have a position where he can competently fill in. Why Martinez, when they needed defense first players? I was really hoping to snag either Profar or Kike Hernandez, but neither happened. Not sure where they will find their solid bench and depth at this point.
    Overall: I’d probably rate the offseason as a B or B- at this point. Lindor, McCann, Carrasco, and May are fine additions, but centerfield, most of the defense, and the bench has not really been addressed well enough.

  • T.J.

    A very thorough recap in both the article and the commenters. There’s not much to add, but I’ll try. I am pleased so far, not thrilled but pleased, but the grade is an incomplete. I still see needs in CF defense, a starter, perhaps the pen, and perhaps the bench. It is difficult give unknowns about the DH and roster size. Bauer is both exciting and concerning. I would not go beyond a couple of years, and I would not surpass deGrom’s AAV. I can live with a lesser but capable starter, even a Paxton-type gamble, to add both depth and flexibility. Lugo deepens the pen and gives 3 guys with closer experience, but having 3 shaky guys in Betances, Familia, and Castro is concerning. Swapping out (trade required) one of those for a more reliable arm would be nice, but I’m not sure who would take any of these guys. We all know Nimmo hurt CF defense, but I could go on the cheap there if the add two more quality arms (I’d go Almora given his age).

  • TexasGusCC

    As we all stated, the off-season was about adding pitching and adding defense. They added the pitching and there are still names to pick from such as Walker or Paxton. From the defense, there hasn’t been an upgrade except behind the plate but again, many players available.

    I think Davis/Guillorme should be a 70/30 split until the trade deadline, and then re-evaluate. Davis has much more upside and should get the most playing time and Guillorme can get his swings filling in at other positions.

    One last thing: If MLBPA and MLB can modify and agree to the deal floated out today, the hitters in free agency will be snapped up quickly.

  • Paulc

    I agree with A- so far. Adding another starting pitcher would raise it to an A. Taijuan Walker seems to be a good option, but I have not seen a lot of talk about him on the site. Is his TJ surgery giving Alderson pause?

    • Brian Joura

      I’m not sure if it’s the TJ surgery specifically but rather the fact that he’s never made 30 starts in a season and he’s reached the point of being a free agent while posting just one essentially league average season (2015) and one slightly above-average year (2017).

      To me, Walker is an upside play. But is that what the Mets need now? I’d think they’d much prefer an established level of performance. Everything goes right, Walker might give you a 4-WAR season. But a 1-WAR season is in play, too.

  • TexasGusCC

    I also forgot Ordozzi. I can’t believe he hasn’t signed yet. We have been hearing his name since before Thanksgiving.

    • Paulc

      SP options are mainly Bauer, Walker, Odorizzi, and Paxton. Odorizzi and Paxton are both on the wrong side of 30 coming off a poor 2020. Bauer is a career 113 ERA+ who is going to get $35 MM a year for throwing 75 great innings in 2020. Walker’s career ERA+ is 108 and also had a great 2020 over 55 innings. Not great options, but I’d take a flyer on Walker on a short deal at an AAV 1/3 of Bauer and leave CBT space to sign Lindor long-term before spring training begins.

  • Wobbit

    When you consider that Lucchesi was among the best LHers in ERA, and that Thor is returning by midseason, I’m actually ok with the SP as it stands now. Thor will enter the picture after the starters have made over ten starts… that should determine who stays and who goes. We need lefties to start in a series against the Phillies and Braves. SP has been upgraded with Carrasco and Lucchesi. No Bauer, but better than Porcello, Wacha and Matz.

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