Fate of DH could alter Mets’ offseason plan
Not every piece is falling into place for the Mets this winter.
As a team that benefited from the universal DH’s implementation last season, a less than ideal scenario is now unfolding for the Mets with MLB’s recommendation to NL clubs they proceed this offseason under the assumption the DH will disappear for 2021.
As presently constituted, the Mets have an ideal DH situation with Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith, both of whom received a significant number of at-bats from the spot last season. J.D. Davis is another player who fits into the DH mold.
And that is before the Mets potentially upgrade their lineup by using new owner Steve Cohen’s fat wallet to sign perhaps George Springer or DJ LeMahieu. The Mets also could sign J.T. Realmuto or James McCann, offensively productive catchers who might figure into occasional DH duties.
One tantalizing lineup with the designated hitter would include Springer in center field, Brandon Nimmo in left, Smith at first base and Alonso as the DH. But with the DH subtracted, Alonso likely becomes the first baseman, with Smith forced to left field, still an unnatural position for him. Nimmo would become a bench player or perhaps trade bait.
“If you sign Springer then you take a couple of pieces together and maybe trade for a starting pitcher or a reliever or fill another need, but I think this is a challenge a lot of teams are going to have,” a talent evaluator from a National League team said. “I would go with the assumption you are not going to have a designated hitter and if you wind up getting it then you are pleasantly surprised, but I would have to go under the assumption we’re not going to have it and construct my roster that way.”
Last season Smith, who emerged as the Mets’ most productive hitter, caught 11 percent fewer balls than the average left fielder, according to the website baseball savant. The Mets preferred Smith as the first baseman or DH.
“I’m always a work in progress and always trying to make myself better and more valuable and just become a well-rounded player,” Smith recently told The Post. “Defense is something that I know, numbers-wise, metrically, I was not good at it. I know that I am a way better defender than what they say, so that is just something definitely I want to work on, just my speed more and my routes and my jumps and stuff like that. Work on my arm — get my arm stronger, so I’m definitely working on all that.”
A further potential logjam was avoided with Robinson Cano’s positive test for a banned performance-enhancing drug that will cost him the 2021 season. The Mets are saving $20 million with the suspension, but also gain additional lineup flexibility.
The DH’s removal would almost certainly eliminate the Mets from pursuing Marcell Ozuna, whose days of playing the outfield on a regular basis could be behind him. Ozuna’s right-handed bat otherwise could have been a backup plan if the Mets don’t land Springer.
Of course, there is the possibility MLB and MLBPA will strike a deal that would return the DH to the NL in exchange for some concession from the players.
“If I were [Ozuna] I would hold out as long as I could, because I would rather be talking to 30 teams instead of 15,” the talent evaluator said. “Until they tell me one way or the other, I’m not signing anywhere if I am one of those guys. I don’t want to limit my base.”