After announcing Carlos Mendoza’s hiring as manager, the New York Mets’ busy offseason continued to roll along this week with trade rumors, free agent pursuits and coaching staff news.
On Friday night, the Mets trimmed their 40-man roster to 27 players after non-tendering a handful of players, notably including designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach.
Here are the latest notes featuring news on the pitching market and thoughts on the Mets’ non-tender decisions.
Severino to the Mets?
The Mets are among the teams that have shown interest in right-hander Luis Severino, league sources said.
Severino, a two-time All-Star who has spent his entire eight-year career with the Yankees, profiles as a popular bounce-back candidate. Despite a rough 2023 season in which he produced a 6.65 ERA/6.14 FIP, Severino has attracted interest from several clubs, league sources said. Part of the appeal comes from his age (29) and a lot of prior success; he had back-to-back top-10 finishes for the Cy Young Award in 2017 and 2018.
Since then, injuries have robbed Severino of time. He had Tommy John surgery in 2020. He missed a couple of months in 2022 because of a lat strain. Last season, an oblique injury ended his year in September.
Given the Mets’ need for multiple starting pitchers, it makes sense for them to at least be in the mix on Severino — he is likely just one of several pitchers they are considering from different tiers. The Mets should be in on various free-agent pitchers as well as trade candidates from the upper, middle and lower tiers of the market. Of course, the Mets may or may not end up with Severino, but it’s nonetheless interesting that they’d consider a high-upside play like him.
It’s plausible that Severino, who has shown ace-caliber stuff in the past, may look to sign some kind of short-term contract in the hopes of posting a strong rebound season and thus resetting his value.
Bye bye, Vogelbach
In a move that was probably best for both parties, the Mets non-tendered designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach.
For a loud segment of the Mets’ fan base, Vogelbach represented a lot that went wrong in 2023. The team disappointed on a profound level, so their issues went beyond Vogelbach, who was just a role player. Still, Vogelbach experienced a deep slump during May and June yet continued to receive consistent playing time as the Mets’ season spiraled in the first half. He picked things up with more respectable numbers in July and August, but by then it was too late.
Given Vogelbach’s lack of a defensive position, his limited skill set and his presence being a growing target of fan derision, it made sense for the Mets to move on. Other opportunities elsewhere should exist for Vogelbach, who offers strong on-base skills because of above-average strike zone recognition and carries a good reputation in clubhouses. In New York, however, his time had run its course.
The Mets should pursue upgrades for their lineup, and DH jumps out as a potential area for improvement. Last year out of the DH spot, the Mets received a 100 wRC+, which equates to just league-average offensive production.
Mets agree on one-year deal to avoid arbitration with DJ Stewart
Stewart, a left-handed batter, hit 11 home runs with an .840 OPS in 185 plate appearances. The 29-year-old figures to contend for a bench role.
The Mets also non-tendered infielder Luis Guillorme and three righty relievers
Guillorme again battled injuries last season and the gifted fielder also took a step back defensively. Given his struggles and the Mets’ options in the infield — including Ronny Mauricio — it was not surprising to see the Mets move on from Guillorme, who had spent parts of the past six years with the organization.
The Mets also non-tendered Jeff Brigham, Trevor Gott and Sam Coonrod. Brigham’s lack of command and overall struggles after an initial burst of success in 2023 made him a strong non-tender candidate while Coonrod and Gott were probably tougher calls. Coonrod’s stuff tends to intrigue evaluators — former manager Buck Showalter said multiple times he would’ve made the team out of spring training if he hadn’t gotten hurt — but he has failed to stay healthy in each of the past two seasons.
Mendoza’s coaching staff will continue to feature some continuity
Club sources confirmed that Eric Chavez and Jeremy Barnes will serve as the team’s hitting coaches. SNY first reported the news. The setup resembles what the Mets’ staff looked like in 2022. Last season, Chavez moved from hitting coach to bench coach with Barnes handling the main hitting coach responsibilities.
Both Chavez and Barnes seem to be well-liked and respected by players. In particular, some veterans saw Barnes grow into the enhanced role — he was an assistant hitting coach in 2022 — by learning more about players’ personalities and how to reach them.
“He had a different title from last year, so when you have a different title, a bigger title, you’re not going to go under the radar anymore,” Francisco Lindor said of Barnes toward the end of the season. “With that being said, he handled it very, very well. I am super proud of him. This is his rookie season as a big-league hitting, like, with the actual title and not as an assistant to the hitting coach. He definitely grew. He learned. He got better. In talking to him the last couple of days, he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve learned this, I’ve learned that.’ And that’s all you can ask for.”
Mets still need to hire a bench coach and a bullpen coach
The Mets and former Brewers bullpen coach Steve Karsay had some kind of communication regarding the bullpen coach job, but regardless of New York’s level of interest, the belief is that a position with a West Coast club — including a pitching coach spot — would present a better fit for Karsay because of family reasons, a person familiar with his thinking said.
For the Mets’ remaining coaching staff openings, it would be wise for them to continue to add a mix of personnel who are bilingual and/or carry major-league experience.
It’s also possible that the staff expands, similar to other clubs. For instance, several organizations have added an assistant pitching coach or a third hitting coach.
Priority No. 1: Get Yamamoto
The strong sense from several people within the industry is that Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the star pitcher from Japan, profiles as the Mets’ top pitching target. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. In addition to possessing top-of-the-rotation stuff in the eyes of evaluators across the league, Yamamoto stands out in free agency because he is only 25 years old.
ESPN reported that Yamamoto was expected to be posted on Monday, meaning his 45-day negotiating window for teams would start on Tuesday.
Last month, The Athletic detailed the factors involving a potential Mets pursuit of Yamamoto, including Kodai Senga’s interest in having him join the rotation.
But what happens if the Mets don’t land Yamamoto? It’s unclear how aggressively New York would pursue the next tier of options featuring Blake Snell and Aaron Nola. Could the Mets instead look at the trade market? Focus more on the next year’s batch of free agents, which includes star pitchers like Corbin Burnes?
Mets looking to acquire Rays’ outfielder
The Mets and Rays engaged in trade discussions about outfielder Manuel Margot, league sources confirmed. The New York Post reported talks between the two teams on Thursday. Margot isn’t the flashiest name — he has posted an OPS+ below 100 in seven of his eight big-league seasons, but has great speed and plays solid defense — but what should stand out from the news is the Mets’ interest in upgrading their outfield depth.
Someone like Margot could offer insurance for right fielder Starling Marte while also providing some coverage in center field if the Mets want to improve their depth’s defense up the middle or further monitor Brandon Nimmo’s workload.
There are a few other options via free agency and the trade market that the Mets could explore if they were inclined to add depth in center field.
“Brandon is a really good center fielder,” Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns said last week at the GM Meetings. “I think he’s proven that. If there are ways that we can make our team better that has Brandon playing some corners, we’ll explore that. But I certainly have confidence that Brandon can play center field.”
Mets still need relief arms
Across the league, teams are generally focused on the starting pitching market now, but in light of the Mets’ subtraction to their bullpen, it’s worth reiterating that they’ll also need reinforcements there as well. If the Mets look to add depth to their bullpen via free agency, then someone like right-hander Phil Maton could make some sense from a speculative standpoint as a target.
As it stands, the Mets’ back-end options beyond closer Edwin Díaz include lefty Brooks Raley and right-hander Drew Smith. The Mets need additional high-leverage options in the bullpen and Maton, a right-hander who spent the past three seasons with the Astros, stands out as a sensible candidate.
Last year, the Mets’ bullpen lacked diversity and featured too many pitchers who leaned on the same pitches at similar speeds. Maton, 30, offers some contrast. He doesn’t throw hard and instead gets the job done by using a low arm slot and terrific extension. Last season, Maton’s Baseball Savant page lit up with intriguing results; he ranked in the top percentiles of weakest contact allowed.
Similar to the outlook for the Mets’ rotation, many options for the bullpen exist. But Maton — or someone similar to him — makes sense for the Mets because of his different features and durability (he has logged at least 65 innings in each of the past three seasons). The Mets could use someone like him who could offer some stability.
(Top photo of Luis Severino: Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)