Sports

Mets’ offense has chance to be dynamic this season

Lost in the wreckage of the Mets’ last-place NL East finish in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season was the team’s offensive heft.

Though maddening struggles to hit with runners in scoring position early in the season pushed their runs total toward the middle of the pack, the Mets finished third in MLB with an .807 OPS, behind just the Braves and Dodgers. The Mets’ .272 batting average ranked first.

After adding another dynamic bat, Francisco Lindor, to a core that includes Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and James McCann, it’s easy to project this lineup, on paper, as the most formidable in franchise history.

“Lindor is one of the top five players in the game, and then they have a solid defensive catcher [McCann] that can swing the bat a little bit,” a talent evaluator from a National League team said. “The offense is the team strength for sure.”

Alonso endured a choppy sophomore season after setting a major league rookie record with 53 homers, but Conforto and Smith, in particular, emerged to help give the Mets a lineup that crushed right-handed pitching.

http://www.globefact.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/francisco20lindor20and20pete20alonso.html
http://www.globefact.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/francisco20lindor20and20pete20alonso.html
AP; Corey Sipkin

In need of balance, the Mets pursued George Springer’s right-handed bat, but weren’t about to equal the Blue Jays’ six-year offer worth $150 million to the veteran outfielder. The backup option, Albert Almora Jr., brings a strong glove, but little offensive sizzle to center field.

Missing on Springer might have been more palatable to the Mets had they rebounded to sign the top starting pitcher on the market, Trevor Bauer, but last year’s National League Cy Young award winner avoided the flirtation and took a three-year contract worth $102 million from the Dodgers.

If there is a silver lining on the Mets’ failed attempt to land Springer, it’s the additional resources that can be allocated toward Conforto, who can become a free agent after this season.

“I think it was a great thing the Mets didn’t get Springer,” the talent evaluator said. “Not that he wouldn’t make them a better team, but it was a superfluous kind of move. He’s a guy that is going to play center for a year or two and then move to a corner, and even though he’s a pretty good leadoff guy and hitter and all the other things he brings to the party, that is not their biggest need.”

Run prevention remains the biggest concern after a season in which Marcus Stroman opted out and Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery. Carlos Carrasco was hardly a throw-in to complete the Lindor trade — the right-hander will likely begin the season as the No. 2 starter, behind Jacob deGrom, with Stroman back to anchor the middle of the rotation after accepting the Mets’ qualifying offer worth $18.9 million. In the bullpen, the Mets’ big addition was Trevor May, on a two-year contract worth $15.5 million. They also added lefty Aaron Loup. Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and Miguel Castro return. Seth Lugo’s loss to elbow surgery to start the season will be a blow to the bullpen.

There are questions about rotation depth, and unless the designated hitter is implemented in the NL, the Mets will likely play Smith in left field and Alonso at first base, weakening their defense.

“I think the DH impacts them more than any other club, and it significantly impacts them because you could have two below-average defenders on the field,” the talent evaluator said. “And particularly at first base, it’s the most underrated position on the field, it comes back to haunt you. You can’t really live with a below-average defender there, it just impacts too many games.”

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