The Mets acquired players on back-to-back days this week — first baseman/DH Daniel Vogelbach, then receiver Michael Perez — both from the Pirates. They also checked Juan Soto and at least thought of Shohei Ohtani, who both belong to a slightly different category.
The Mets know their chances of landing Soto are slim and Ohtani even slimmer. So surely it’s time to aim somewhere between what they got and what they dream of. Fortunately, there is a lot of common ground here.
Billy Eppler is one of those new GMs who works all the time (maybe not as much as his Padres counterpart AJ Preller, who can sleep at the stadium, but as much as anyone else). So I don’t tell him anything he doesn’t know. But let’s face it. The Mets need more help, even though they impressively snapped their three-game losing streak with an 8-5 victory over the Padres at Citi Field.
The team that seemed almost perfect at the start is starting to show obvious cracks. The formation that was hitting near .300 with runners in the scoring position has returned to the franchise norm lately by being much smaller in the big runs. The bullpen that already needed depth (not to mention a southpaw) lost hot rookie Colin Holderman in the straight trade for Vogelbach.
It’s pretty clear what the two needs are: another bat in the middle of the order and help from the bullpen. When you asked a Mets superior what the priority was, it was like asking which of his children he liked best. He just couldn’t decide.
The answer is obviously both. The Mets aren’t going to win it all without a strengthened roster and a bullpen, unless of course prayers are answered and Jacob deGrom ends this season like he started last.
Manager Buck Showalter says the Mets have a Grom plan and schedule that they won’t mention for obvious reasons (yes, of course, they’ve had to push him back many, many times). And Showalter adds, “If anything happens that deviates from that plan, we will.”
Truer words have never been said. They won’t risk deGrom’s billion-dollar arm any more (by the estimate of some who remember when), not when there’s still hope of starting that dream playoff rotation with deGrom and Max Scherzer, such a healthy one-two punch to rival Koufax and Drysdale, and a few others.
While it might feel like waiting for Godot, if deGrom can come back intact, there’s probably nothing in the commercial market they can do to compete with that.
Soto, of course, has a chance of being dealt. Just not very likely for the Mets. It’s very hard to imagine Washington wanting to see the best hitter in the game in the other dugout in its division for the next two and a half years, and probably much longer than that since owner Steve Cohen is the only man in baseball. who could probably lock Soto up, no questions asked.
Ohtani is a player Eppler knows well, having lured him to Anaheim (or Los Angeles if you prefer) rather than many other suitors who yearned for the two-way phenomenon, and who has only grown in value ever since. that he established himself as one of the best hitters. and one of the best pitchers in the game – not to mention perhaps the most incredible athlete and biggest draw the sport has ever seen. Current word, however, is that the Angels are ‘highly unlikely’ to deal Ohtani now – no surprise since their MO has been collecting Superstars, more so than winning matches.
And now back to the reality part of the column.
The pen was a problem almost from the beginning of things. They need a trainer, and especially a left-hander. David Robertson, whom Eppler has known since his Yankees days, would make sense to settle down.
As for the southpaw, much needed long before Joely Rodriguez had another tough outing on Sunday, they’re in luck. Lots of crummy-to-mid teams have viable southpaws in the bullpen, and they should add at least one from Matt Moore, Andrew Chafin, Tanner Scott, Joe Mantiply, Gregory Soto and an old friend Aaron Loup.
The hitter will be the hardest. While Vogelbach will help against right-handed pitchers (a plus 153 OPS against right-handed pitchers with the Pirates), they need more pop in a roster overly reliant on MVP candidate Pete Alonso, who must be tired of carrying the club (c It was his three-run home run and four RBI that saved the night on Sunday.) The Mets should consider Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz, Ian Happ, Andrew Benintendi, Trey Mancini and Willson Contreras for the role.
Francisco Alvarez has a power you just don’t see. Scherzer said he reminded him of Vladimir Guerrero’s power when he was in Double-A. But he’s struggled since moving to Triple-A. The Mets will therefore have to bring in a more proven product.
As with left-handed relievers, they are in good shape as long as there is enough supply to meet demand. Any of the six guys from the previous paragraph would suffice. But from there, the top picks would be Bell, Contreras, and Happ. Of course, they are not Soto or Ohtani. But any of this trio would do just fine.