Mets’ historic offseason likely not done with lack of OF depth

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Billy Eppler was given the day off Sunday by his boss — which meant no phone contact with owner Steve Cohen — after the wildest offseason week in Mets history.

The second-year Mets general manager added $360 million in new contracts beginning Monday at the winter meetings with Justin Verlander’s deal and ending late Saturday night with Japanese ace Kodai Senga reaching an agreement with the club.

The numbers are staggering, including a $345 million projected payroll for next season (as calculated for competitive balance tax purposes), which doesn’t include a $76.2 million bill as a second-time offender surpassing the top luxury-tax threshold.

But those numbers are almost assured to increase in the coming days and weeks as the Mets look to put the icing on their historic winter.

Brandon Nimmo’s return on an eight-year contract worth $162 million filled a glaring need in center field, but a look at the Mets’ roster shows the club thin on outfield depth.

Michael Conforto
Getty Images

So it wouldn’t be surprising if the Mets are set to dip into the free-agent or trade market for an outfielder that can join Nimmo, Starling Marte and Mark Canha. The Mets also have Jeff McNeil, who can play a corner-outfield position as needed and Khalil Lee, who struggled offensively last season for Triple-A Syracuse.

The free-agent market includes names such as Michael Brantley, Andrew Benintendi and Michael Conforto, all of whom would bring a left-handed bat.

There is skepticism within the organization that a Conforto-Mets reunion can materialize given the outfielder might want an escape from the narrative that he erred last offseason in rejecting the qualifying offer from the club. Conforto went unsigned into the lockout and injured his right shoulder in January, preventing him from signing a deal in spring training. He underwent surgery on the shoulder in April and searched for a new team late in the season, but never struck a deal.

Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf remain the DH combination, but it’s fair to question whether that will remain the case headed to spring training. Vogelbach, who arrived before the trade deadline from the Pirates, was solid against right-handed pitchers, but struggles against lefties. The Mets could still look to trade Ruf, who was a disappointment over the final two months after arriving in a trade with the Giants. The Mets also have Mark Vientos, who arrived from Triple-A Syracuse late in the season, but don’t seem prepared to just hand the rookie slugger a job in spring training.

Yankees
Andrew Benintendi
AP

Francisco Alvarez’s bat could provide a boost from the right side, but the Mets have to decide how to best implement the rookie catcher in the lineup. The team has Tomas Nido and James McCann, the latter of whom still could be traded to create space for Alvarez. McCann has $24 million remaining on his contract and the Mets would likely eat a sizable portion of that.

Senga’s arrival on a five-year contract worth $75 million raises questions whether the Mets will keep Carlos Carrasco or trade him and give Tylor Megill and David Peterson a shot in spring training to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Jose Quintana, who signed a two-year deal worth $26 million with the club. The Mets last month picked up Carrasco’s option for next season worth $14 million, and the right-hander could provide value for a club in need of a starting pitching that is willing to surrender major league talent or prospects.

The Mets addressed the bullpen with David Robertson’s arrival on a one-year contract worth $10 million that followed a trade with the Rays for left-hander Brooks Raley. It’s likely the Mets will look to further extend that depth, but it’s unclear if Robertson’s arrival precludes the possibility of a reunion with Adam Ottavino, who was the team’s best setup reliever last season.

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