With increasingly frequent meetings between MLB and the MLBPA not bearing much fruit toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and an end to the owner-imposed lockout, it is becoming increasingly likely that the start of the 2022 MLB season will be delayed.

However, once an agreement is reached and major league spring training opens, there are still a number of blue chip free agents who will need to quickly sign contracts with teams. Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa and Trevor Story highlight the available position players, and there are myriad relief pitchers and starters available who can all be contributors to winning clubs.

When the post-lockout free agent frenzy begins, it is hard to say exactly what kinds of free agents the Mets will be able to pursue. Frankly that depends largely on where the new Competitive Balance Tax is set and what the penalties look like for exceeding it. So let’s put money aside and simply take a look at four free agents who would make sense for the Mets to sign. This exercise comes with the caveat that the Mets are probably done signing those top-tier free agents.

Nick Castellanos

The Mets are a lefty-heavy team who could benefit from a hard-hitting righty outfielder. Starling Marte was a step in that direction, but Castellanos would take things to a different level. Since 2016, Castellanos has put up a 122 OPS+, and a .286/.338/.515 line while averaging 45 doubles and 30 home runs per 162 games. His defense has always been a liability, but with the DH coming to the National League this year and solid defenders surrounding him, it could be a good tradeoff to get a middle-of-the-order bat. He turns 30 on March 4, and might make some sense for the Mets on a short-term deal if he is willing to seek that.

Clayton Kershaw

I admit this one is fantasy land. It is so inconceivable that Kershaw could be anything but a Los Angeles Dodger, but if he is truly going to seek another landing spot, the Mets should be in on him. They’ve learned the hard way over the years that you can never have too much starting pitching, and adding in one of the top left-handed starters in baseball history to the mix would be an obvious home run. Injuries over the past half-dozen years have slowed him down some, but he is still the guy who won three Cy Young Awards, finished in the top five for the award four other times and won an MVP in 2014. That’s a valuable presence both on the mound and in the clubhouse.

Joe Smith

Back to reality. It has been 15 years since Smith broke into the big leagues with the Mets in 2007, and a reunion with the 37-year-old sidewinder could be a shot in the arm for a bullpen that has some serious questions right now. After opting out of the 2020 season, smith struggled in 27 games with Houston last season. Following a mid-season trade to Seattle he found his groove, posting a 2.00 ERA down the stretch while striking out nearly a batter per inning. With 832 career appearances, Smith is the active leader in the category and has a history with Mets GM Billy Eppler, who crossed over with him for two years with the Angels in the mid 2010s.

Josh Harrison

If the Mets want to bring in a right-hitting veteran utility player, Harrison could be the answer. Since the start of 2020, he has played at least one inning at every non-pitcher position except for catcher. In 2021, he hit .279/.341/.400, good for a 106 OPS+ in 138 games with the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics. While he did struggle with the A’s after being traded mid-season, his games played total is his most since his 2014 NL All-Star season with Pittsburgh. He is the kind of low-risk, high-upside layer that could pay major dividends.

Honorable Mentions

Brad Miller, Kyle Schwarber, Matt Carpenter, Jose Iglesias, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Tommy Pham, Andrew Miller, Sean Doolittle, Joe Kelly, Alex Colome, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Pineda, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Andrelton Simmons.

Notably not mentioned anywhere here is Michael Conforto. That is not because he wouldn’t be a fit necessarily, but the prospects of him re-upping with the Mets once the lockout is done is something that is befitting of its own article.

The upshot of all of this is that there are in fact a great many players still available who will all have to sign when the lockout is settled. By having the wealthiest owner in the sport and not being afraid to spend, the Mets could be well-positioned to come out of the chaos with several players who can help get the team over the hump and back into the postseason for the first time since 2016.

It’s just a matter of when that will be allowed to happen.

8 comments on “Four potential free agent fits for the Mets

  • Wobbit

    The Mets do need a lefty starter. Kershaw will probably never hurt your team, but how much will he help? It just might cost a lot of money for not much help, especially beyond one season. Perhaps the money is better spent on a rising lefty, like Rodon, who could pay dividends for years.
    I guess I’m not sure where you get the idea that the Mets are a “heavy lefty” lineup. Alonso, Marte, Canha, Davis, and McCann, with a few switch-hitters, as opposed to McNeil, Nimmo, Smith, Cano? Three of those lefties might not even be in uniform, and several will probably not start. I’d choose Winker or even Schwarber over Castellanos.
    Bullpen? Again, we need lefties. Castro, May, Lugo, Diaz. Smith… plenty of RHers. How we gonna get Soto, Harper, and Freeman out in crunch time?

  • Metsense

    Castellanos has a draft pick attached to him. JD Davis has a similar OPS+, is RHB and cheaper. Vientos is also waiting in the wings. Spent the money for pitching,
    Kershaw made 22 starts and pitched 121.2 innings with 3.55 ERA. If he passes the physical then offers him 3/75.
    They wouldn’t be wrong if they signed Smith and also a lefty too. Hand?
    Harrison is a low risk signing that could replace Villar and cheaper too. He is good third baseman and average second baseman. The problem is that they’re not going to replace Villar because there isn’t any room on the roster….yet.

    • JimmyP

      Given Kershaw’s injury history, entering his age 34 season — and a Mets team that already has several older pitchers w/ injury issues — I don’t see how he fits the NY Mets moving forward. And certainly not for 3/$75.

      It’s an entertaining vision, absolutely.

  • Wobbit

    I like Villar as a utility backup… proved himself to me last season… ok defensively, switch hitter, some power, decent baserunner. Tough kid. Can steal a base. Harrison, not so much. Villar would cost more than Harrison?

    If they trade NcNeil, Villar is needed. Villar and Guillorme in and out of the lineup. Cano? Oh god… just an expensive DH.

    • Metsense

      It is right there on Baseball Reference that Villar made $3.55M and Harrison made $1 M last year. MLBTR predicts Villar for 2/$14 , which I think too much. Harrison hasn’t a market though he had a 106 OPS+ . Villar had a 102 OPS+. Harrison would hoped to get near $3.5 but realty would be $1.5M and Villar hopes to get a raise.

    • JimmyP

      I feel like readers at 360 in particular don’t care about this stuff, but my strong sense is there’s some very bad juju regarding Mr. Villar.

      Admittedly, he played well for us in 2021.

      He’s been with 5 teams in the past 5 years — and his on-field performance has not been bad. I mean, one recent season he led all of MLB in striking out on pitches that were balls. Last year, he got picked off base innumerable times. My gut says there’s something wrong in the clubhouse. Don Mattingly is on record for wanting him off the team, saying he didn’t go along with the program. There’s something off with this player. I don’t know if he’s divisive or what.

      But I think you can stare at numbers all day and it won’t shed any light on why team after team after team takes one look at this guy and runs away.

  • TexasGusCC

    I have mentioned several times about Kershaw, but I also admit the shoulder injury bothers me. It’s quite a gamble to lean on three pitchers that ended last year injured but these are the three to lean on. Signing Kershaw and Suzuki would make the Mets public enemy #1 in all the National League and make the Dodgers take notice. Then, the Mets will need to back it up but I’m not worried about that with Showalter. As long as the plan includes having suitable substitutes in two years when Scherzer is approaching 40, Kershaw will still be only 35 – but a well used 35 – and who knows if DeGrom will still be there because he will require a multi year deal. Would anyone offer 6 years at $45MM per year? That’s a jolt, but Cohen has no one to blame but himself for raising he bar for a 37 year old pitcher.

  • MattyMets

    My perceived list of priorities with my preferred FAs, assuming that payroll is not unlimited.
    1. lefty reliever (Andrew Chafin)
    2. lefty starter (Yusei Kikuchi)
    3. OF (Jorge Soler)
    4. utility IF (Jonathan Villar)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here