Including tonight’s game at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, the Mets have 19 games remaining in this lost season. That’s not nearly enough time for GM Sandy Alderson to get answers to his most pressing questions heading into next season.
The following are thumbnail sketches to each potential position battle:
DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)
ROTATION: The Mets enter next season with health concerns for each starter, with the possible exception of Jacob deGrom. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are rehabbing after spending most of the season on the disabled list. Harvey has made two rehab starts on the major league level – one bad and the last one encouraging – and could make three more. Syndergaard was scratched from his most recent rehab start, but played catch today.
Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler remain on the DL and will report to spring training as questions. What else is new?
Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have not pitched to last season’s levels, but have shown glimpses of being viable commodities, but next year – barring the acquisition of a veteran arm capable of going 180 innings – one, or both, could enter the rotation, with the other going to the bullpen. Of course, wanting 180 innings and paying for a starter capable of that workload are two different things.
Rafael Montero has been a surprise and worthy of entering spring training competing for a rotation spot.
BULLPEN: The Mets have spots locked in for Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. I’m thinking either Lugo or Gsellman will get a long-relief role, with possibly Montero also getting a spot.
Paul Sewald, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Jacob Rhame, Chasen Bradford and Jamie Callahan likely won’t win a roster spot in the remaining games, but could make enough of an impression to where Alderson to write any of them into his plans for spring training.
Familia will go in as the favorite to close again, but that’s based on his resume over his current performance since coming off the DL.
CATCHING: Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki go in competing for the starter role. Plawecki has been especially impressive since his promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets have been patient, almost to a fault, with d’Arnaud, who hasn’t made the most of his opportunity. Plawecki has been more impressive in his limited window, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he won the job next March.
I don’t envision the Mets signing a veteran – like a Rene Rivera – and believe both d’Arnaud and Plawecki will make the 2018 Opening Day roster,
FIRST BASE: The plan was for Dominic Smith to win the job, but he hasn’t hit enough to make anybody believe he has this mastered. I’m not worried about Smith hitting for power, but simply raise his on-base percentage. As of now, who can’t see Smith platooning with Wilmer Flores?
I can’t see Flores winning the job outright – the Mets won’t commit to him – or for them sign a veteran this winter. Hopefully, Smith will show enough with his bat over the next 19 games to limit Alderson’s agita.
SECOND BASE: It’s wide open. Given that the Mets won’t make a free-agent splash, my first inclination is to think they will pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s option and he’ll go in as the starter.
Flores, Jose Reyes or Gavin Cecchini, could also compete or win a roster spot as a reserve.
T.J. Rivera will undergo Tommy John surgery, but likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Rivera can also play first and third.
SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario has made more of his opportunity than Smith has of his. This isn’t to say Rosario is a given, but you have to like the odds of him going into next year as the starter.
Currently, Reyes seems a good bet to make next year’s roster as a utility infielder, capable of playing second, shortstop and third base.
THIRD BASE: Ideally, David Wright will make a comeback, but nobody is counting on that happening. Wright underwent rotator cuff surgery, but the Mets aren’t counting on him returning, let alone, for Opening Day.
Flores, who is out for the remainder of the season following surgery to repair a broken nose. Depending on what happens with Smith, he could go in as the starter for next season.
Rivera, Cabrera and Reyes could all see significant time at third base.
LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes is out for the season with a strained right hamstring. He played in only 81 games this year – half a season – and considering he also missed significant time in 2016, his durability must be questioned.
First, Michael Conforto, and then Brandon Nimmo, replaced Cespedes, who isn’t a given to come out of spring training healthy. If he doesn’t, figure Nimmo to start in left.
CENTER FIELD: Unquestionably, Juan Lagares is the best defender, but his offense is a question. Actually, Lagares has hit better than expected, so I wouldn’t be reluctant to start him in 2018.
Alderson said Conforto was more than just a viable defender, but his recovery from shoulder surgery will keep him off the Opening Day roster, so that’s a moot point.
RIGHT FIELD: As much as I like the idea of bringing back Jay Bruce, I don’t see the Mets shelling out the bucks it would take to sign him.
With Conforto and Cespedes seriously injured, signing a power bat is imperative, but do you really expect Alderson to write some serious checks?
Personally, it might be a stretch to think they’ll spend enough to bring back Nori Aoki.
Assuming Cespedes is ready for the start of the season, Nimmo will likely open the year in right field.
Once Conforto is ready, I see him taking over in right.