The task at hand is to revamp the Mets to prepare for the 2022 season. Spoiler alert. I will propose a few big moves but all in all I imagine my recommendations will be less splashy than some of the other off-season scenarios done by other writers.
The first order of business is to hire a President of Baseball Operations. My choice would be Matt Arnold, senior Vice-President and GM of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers are the NL Central champs this year, and have been a frequent playoff team in recent years. Arnold is in his early 40s with 20 years of experience in various positions with MLB organizations. MLB.com described him as the top lieutenant to Brewers President of Baseball Operations David Stearns. Arnold, or whoever is hired for the post, will then recruit candidates to fill key positions like General Manager and Manager.
Now onto the actual players, by position. The returning catchers are James McAnn and Tomas Nido, neither is star caliber. I’d have them split playing time, going with the hot hand. The good news is slugging prospect Francisco Alvarez should be a factor, maybe by 2023.
First base will remain in the capable hands of Pete Alonso. Hopefully he can improve on his weak spots like chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
At second base I’d cut Robinson Cano loose, either by somehow trading him and undoubtedly paying a huge chunk of his remaining contract, or if need be by biting the bullet and releasing him. I would open up the check book and ink mid-season acquisition Javier Baez to a generous free agent contract. He started off slowly after joining the team but he then caught fire finishing with a slash line (Mets only) of .299/.371/.515 with a DRS of 3 in his roughly 2 month tenure with the Mets..
Incumbent shortstop Francisco Lindor is going to be around for a long time thanks to his pricey long-term contract. Hopefully he can revert closer to his mean in batting performance next year after his sub-par 2021.
Jeff McNeill will get a shot at third base. He has his first disappointing MLB season, with a line of .249/.317/.358, after having hit .300 or higher in his previous three MLB seasons. He did have some bad luck, Statcast showed his hard hit ball % was 33.4, slightly higher than his lifetime mark. Free agent-to-be Jonathan Villar saw a lot of action at third this year and had some key hits for the Mets but overall his numbers were mediocre. He might be worth keeping around as a utility player, but he will probably try to get a starting slot somewhere.
Veteran defensive whiz Luis Guillorme should be the main utility infielder again, he is a plus defender and second, short and third. He has little power at the plate but he gets on base as his .374 OBP shows. J.D. Davis and Dom Smith spent time at third and first respectively last year, and both had disappointing years. I would try to deal one of them, whoever fetches the bigger return, which is probably Davis. Smith has spent time in the outfield and could see some time there as well as backing up Alonso first at first.
Left field needs to be upgraded, and here we will fish in the free-agent pond. Chris Taylor was a valuable piece for the Dodgers, he ended up playing 148 games this year at corner outfield, 2b, and 3b with passable defense at all those spots. His line was .254/.344/.438. He showed some pop with 20 homers. He should not be outrageously expensive, and has experience playing on a contending team.
Brandon Nimmo is the returning CF, and he had an excellent year. He made some defensive adjustments and proved he could be a quality fielder in center. He ended up with a positive 5 DRS figure for outfield play in 2021. He is one of the best lead off batters in the game,with a slash line of .292/.401/.437 last year.
Michael Conforto has been a right field fixture for the Mets since 2015, and is a free agent. He had a bad start this year but he did rebound. In Sept./Oct. He slashed .275/.359/.431, and was even a little better, especially in power for August. I would push to resign him, or maybe he will be back via a qualifying offer. If he goes elsewhere another outfielder would be needed, perhaps free agent Jorge Soler who played for the Braves this year.
Kevin Pillar would be a fit as the fourth outfielder, he’s good defensively and can play center. He has some power and he is a gamer, as his quick return from the terrible fast ball to the face he got in May. Whoever stays of Smith /Davis can get some outfield reps as well.
In 2021 the starting pitching was excellent the first half of the year and much worse in the second half. It’s no coincidence that Jacob deGrom was historically dominant in the first half and on the injured list for the second half. Hopefully when he returns in 2022 he can cut back a bit on all those 100 mph fastballs and squeeze out a full season. Noah Syndergaard pitched only token innings at the end of the year after slow recovery from elbow surgery but should be good to go in 2022. He is a free agent who seems partial to remaining a Met.
Marcus Stroman pitched very effectively this year, and I would make a strong effort to lock him up. Even if he returns, and especially if he does not, another quality arm will be needed. Here I would make the move of luring Steven Matz back home. He sparkled for Toronto this year, He had a 14-7 record with a .382 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. He was very durable, pitching 150 innings in 29 starts.
Tylor Megill, Taijuan Walker and Trevor Williams all started games and all did well, at least at times. I would have them available to battle for the 5th starter role, to fill in when the inevitable injury pops up, and as long relief options. Carlos Carrasco will also be in this mix, he had a bad injury plagued 2021, and will be 35 next season.
Speaking of relief, that was a team strength in 2021. Edwin Diaz will return as the closer, Seth Lugo and Aaron Loup make a fine pair of set-ip relievers. Pitchers like Trevor May and even the erratic Robert Gsellman could be factors. Relievers Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia underperformed and should be cut loose.
So to sum up my plan, I am proceeding under the assumption there is a good core to the team and that the 2021 struggles were due primarily to injuries and a few players having negative outlier seasons. I will provide stability to the front office by hiring a top notch President of Baseball Operations. I won’t overhaul the roster but I will strive to improve at some key spots including 3b, LF, and starting pitching. I would lock up the key free agents from the current roster.