Are there any jobs actually up for grabs?
The Mets will officially open spring training on Wednesday with almost everybody, it seems, locked into spots on the 26-man roster.
But there are jobs to be won, especially at the back end of the bullpen. And, of course, an injury in camp could turn a position that was thought settled into a spirited competition.
All that considered, let’s project the Mets’ 26-man Opening Day roster:
Infielders (5): Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Escobar — all of whom are headed to the World Baseball Classic — are set with Luis Guillorme returning as the super-sub who can play second, third and shortstop. The wild card is Danny Mendick, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and probably won’t be an option until late in spring training.
Outfielders (4): Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Tommy Pham are etched in as long as they are healthy. McNeil has been a solid corner option and allows the Mets to construct a roster without a fifth pure outfielder. That Marte and Canha can both play center field if needed adds to the flexibility. The organization also has speedy Tim Locastro, who can play all three outfield spots.
Catcher (2): The only question is whether Francisco Alvarez can win a job and join Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido on the roster. Alvarez is viewed at this point as needing experience behind the plate, but if the Mets aren’t getting enough right-handed offensive production and Alvarez looks good swinging the bat, it will be difficult to keep him at Triple-A Syracuse.
DH (2): Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf are the lefty/righty combination. If Ruf has a rough spring, the clamor will grow for the Mets to trade or release him, following his disappointing two-month stretch after arriving at the trade deadline last year.
Starting pitchers (5): Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana and Carlos Carrasco have the jobs, but David Peterson and Tylor Megill will get plenty of innings this spring to build up as rotation depth.
Bullpen (8): Edwin Diaz, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley are locks. Drew Smith and John Curtiss are probables. The Mets view Elieser Hernandez as Trevor Williams’ potential replacement in long relief. We’ll give the eighth spot to Buck Showalter favorite Tommy Hunter, who was a solid midseason addition last year on a minor-league contract. But the team has no shortage of options for the last two spots, including Rule 5 draft selection Zach Greene, Jeff Brigham, Stephen Nogosek, Joey Lucchesi and Sam Coonrod.
Baty back on track
Brett Baty will be among the most interesting players in camp this spring.
The rookie, who appeared in 11 games for the Mets last August, is behind Escobar on the depth chart at third base, but a strong showing in Port St. Lucie at the very least will enhance his chances of claiming the starting job early in the season if Escobar isn’t producing.
Such a possibility wouldn’t have existed if Carlos Correa’s deal with the club materialized. Correa ultimately re-signed with the Twins after agreeing to a deal with the Mets that fizzled before it became official because of concerns about his right ankle.
But Mets farm director Kevin Howard is convinced Baty would have been just fine in the organization, regardless.
“I don’t think the Correa thing affected him as much as people think it did, just because [Baty] is so athletic and so versatile,” Howard said. “When his bat is ready to be in the big leagues, I think any opportunity at multiple different positions, he could do it.
“The only difference in the Correa thing for him, I think he’ll primarily play third base and not get moved around as much, which is what I think he wants, so that’s a good thing. But I also think if we ask him to play left field every day tomorrow, not only would he be willing to do it, but he would be really good at it.”
The value of experience
Terry Collins has spoken to the Marlins about a potential advisory role. The 73-year-old former Mets manager worked with Marlins general manager Kim Ng with the Dodgers in the early 2000s and has a deep background in player development. The Marlins are said to also be considering Jim Riggleman and Dave Wallace for advisory roles.
Collins had a special assistant’s title with the Mets for two seasons after stepping aside as manager in 2017. He’s remained a visible part of the Mets as an occasional SNY studio analyst and a fill-in on the team’s radio broadcasts.
The recent trend of teams looking for old-school baseball evaluators was accentuated this offseason with the Yankees’ hiring of Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya for front office roles. Though the analytics era is not going anywhere, teams are also rediscovering the value of traditional scouting and player development. Collins, who resides full-time in Port St. Lucie, would have an easy time transitioning into a role with the Marlins if hired: The team’s spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., is only 30 minutes south.
Buck Showalter: ‘I was a cheater’
Buck Showalter received a Thurman Munson award this week at the foundation dinner in the former catcher’s name. It was noted at the event that Showalter broke Munson’s record for batting average in the Cape Cod League by hitting .434 with the Hyannis Mets in 1976.
Later, Showalter received a telegram from Munson congratulating him on the accomplishment.
“[Munson] did it with a wood bat and I did it with an aluminum bat,” Showalter said. “He didn’t put that in the telegram, but he said that. That was the first year I ever used an aluminum bat. I was cheating.”
Showalter said he still has the telegram. The Yankees captain died on Aug. 2, 1979, after crashing the plane he was piloting while practicing takeoffs and landings. Showalter spent his entire professional playing career in the Yankees’ minor league system before becoming the team’s manager for four seasons beginning in 1992.
A welcome return
If Carlos Beltran wants to work with players in spring training, he’s got an open invitation from Showalter. The Mets still have not officially announced Beltran’s return to the organization in a front office role, but the former All-Star agreed this week to become part of general manager Billy Eppler’s cabinet.
“I’ll take [Beltran] as much as he and Billy are willing to give me,” Showalter said. “I like him a lot. That’s a great addition for us. … It’s as much as Carlos is willing to do, I’ll take him.”