Welcome to what could become one of the best – or worst – teams that the New York Mets have put together in the past decade. Depending on what type of team decides to show up on the diamond each and every game, depending on their luck of missing serious injuries (looking directly at you, Yoenis Cespedes), and depending on how the rest of the National League East division fares, this team could really succeed or suck seeds in 2020.
Having finished only three games out of contention for the second Wild Card spot this past season, the Mets rode a late-season charge on the back of the NL Rookie of the Year, first baseman Pete Alonso, and trade-deadline acquisition Marcus Stroman to make a swift comeback in the standings during the months of August and September. While they ultimately fell short, they showed the rest of the league that they are only a few players away from being a divisional winner and a regular in the playoffs moving forward.
Starting pitcher Zach Wheeler represents their most important free agent this winter, and while his services would be welcomed back in the Big Apple with open arms, the likelihood of Wheeler coming back may be quite slim, mostly due to the fact of there not being a ton of big-time arms out there for teams to sign. Besides Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole, Wheeler looks to fall into the same category as Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner in terms of second-tier starting pitchers who are looking to take advantage of a scarce market.
With that in mind, the Mets are in need of a few final pieces to top off their roster – here are three players that would represent ideal free agency targets for this team this winter.
Mike Moustakas – 3B
Potential Deal – 2 years, $23 million
While Mike Moustakas was unfortunately frozen out of any sort of a long-term agreement last winter, he played out a cheap, one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, who had originally acquired him from the Kansas City Royals at the trade deadline in 2018. With the type of offensive outburst that he had yet again this past season in Milwaukee, a pay raise should easily be in his future.
The Brewers, having lost Yasmani Grandal to the winter’s first big-time free agency deal with the Chicago White Sox, have publicly stated their interest in bringing the Moose back to Miller Park and letting him roam yet again. But if the Moose is looking to make more money, then the Mets would be a likely team to call him up and see what his price is.
Currently, Jed Lowrie is listed as the team’s starter at third base, and his upper-30’s body is looking to be hitting a wall, so the likelihood of him making a meaningful impact on this team moving forward may be hard to expect. Moustakas would be a solid veteran addition to this team for not too much money, and it would also provide a left-handed power bat to help break up the lineup and take some pressure off of Alonso’s shoulders.
Julio Tehran – SP
Potential Deal – 3 years, $30 million
A member of the NL All-Star team in 2014 and 2016, starting pitcher Julio Tehran has completely fallen off the train as a member of the Atlanta Braves and would become the ultimate reclamation project for the Mets moving forward, at a reasonable price. For the 29-year-old starter, Tehran would become the team’s fourth or fifth starter in their rotation, which is a great role that could coax a comeback performance out of him.
While unfortunately boasting a fastball that sits underneath 90 miles per hour, Tehran’s role has gone from staff ace to middle rotation savant to now being looked at as merely an innings eater. His high ERA (sitting around 4.00 on average) and disappointing lack of control has increased his volatility, but in a bad way.
For the Mets, they are set enough in their rotation that they could look to fill a spot at the back end with a project-type of player that has the stuff and has proven his stuff in the past, while not overpaying for him in the process. While taking a divisional rival’s player is always sweet, if Tehran can find even a sliver of how he performed during his All-Star days, then this could become the winter’s best value signing.
Steve Cishek – RP
Potential Deal – Two years, $11 million
The final player on this list is a reliever, and with how Steve Cishek has been performing the past few seasons, this could be a great signing for any team that were to bring him in. With his side-arm action throwing opposing hitters for a loop, the former Chicago Cubs reliever would look great in a Mets uniform for 2020 and beyond.
With the batter minimum rule coming into effect and limiting the effectiveness of certain types of relievers, Cishek has the shutdown stuff to mow down a stretch of right-handed hitters without even breaking a sweat, an ode to his .199/.265/.288 domination of right-handed hitting. Walking batters, specifically left-handers, is an issue that has followed Cishek throughout his entire career, but his spin rate and veteran presence more than justify his $5.5 annual salary across two seasons with this framework for a potential deal.
The Mets have been willing to make the unexpected moves, and while having them become players for Cole, Anthony Rendon or Strasburg seem highly unlikely, the possibility is still there that they will come out of free agency with a few valuable pieces that can help push this team over the edge and back into the postseason.