Last Updated on October 27, 2022 by Lil Ginge
Well, that was painful. And now, after a disappointingly brief postseason appearance, the Mets have more roster decisions to make for the 2023 season. More decisions than a Targaryon trying to choose a family member to marry. There are trades that could get done. Free agents to pursue. And a number of 2022 Mets players are now free agents, as well. The nerve of them.
Look, the Mets had a great run in 2022, winning 101 games and getting to the playoffs for the first time in years. I’m thrilled with that result. More thrilled than Darth Vader would have been had he found out that Padme was safe (she wasn’t). They were a legitimately great team last year, and they should do what they can to keep as much of it intact as possible without sacrificing sustainable success in the future.
But that doesn’t mean keeping everyone.
The Mets need to prioritize which free-agent players are most important to 2023 and beyond and do what they can to try and keep these players. Others? Yeah… might be time for some goodbyes.
In this article, I run down my top four 2022 Mets that I think they should absolutely try hard to keep. IF it makes financial sense. These are players for whom a small overpay may be worth it, in the end, to try and retain their services on the field.
That certain Mets free agents don’t make my top four list – ahem, perhaps a certain starting multi-time Cy Young starting pitcher – may strike you as me being a little crazy. But if that’s the case, it’s likely because some combination of their age and potential cost makes them riskier – and probably more expensive – than betting your life savings against a new Taylor Swift release topping an albums chart.
Four Free Agent Players The Mets Should (Try To) Retain
Brandon Nimmo had a career year in 2022. The Mets should reward him for it. On the season, Nimmo hit 274 / 367 / 433 with 16 home runs, 64 RBIs, and 3 stolen bases. That combined for a 143 wRC+ and plus defense for a total of 5.4 fWAR.
Nimmo has always been a great baseball player, especially as a leadoff on-base machine. Paired with Starling Marte, that’s a lot of on-base potential at the top of the lineup for mashers like Lindor and Alonso to drive home.
But, the knock on Nimmo has always been his ability to stay healthy. But in 2022, Nimmo put up a stellar 673 plate appearances on the year, proving he can stay on the field and play fully healthy all season.
To boot, Nimmo put up a 333 / 385 / 500 in the Mets’ abbreviated postseason appearance this year. The Mets stunk in the playoffs, but it was far from Nimmo’s fault. He proved he can play when the brightest lights are upon him.
Sportrac pegs Nimmo’s market value at $56.4 million / 4 years for an average annual value of $14.1 million. At that total value, a deal with Nimmo seems like a no-brainer for billionaire owner Steve Cohen. And Nimmo is only 29, making it likely Nimmo will stay relatively healthy and productive over the course of the contract. No, the Mets should not keep Nimmo at any cost. But at a reasonable deal that tracks Nimmo’s market value, it’s a no-brainer.
I’m not generally in favor of big deals for relief pitchers. But star closer Edwin Diaz has more than earned his keep with the New York Mets after a stunning 2022 season. Diaz was the class of the Mets’ pitching staff, going 3-1 with 32 saves, a 1.31 ERA, and an unbelievable 0.90 FIP for a 2022 fWAR of 3.
Just to clarify, 3 fWAR for a relief pitcher is better than the average Mariano Rivera season. No other relief pitcher in 2022 had more than 2.4 fWAR – that was Emmanuel Clase of the Cleveland Guardians, for the record.
Diaz is currently 28 years young and in the prime of his career. There is no reason he can’t continue being a superstar for the Mets over the next 3 to 5 years. Since the 2021 season, the Mets have gotten precisely what they wanted from Diaz when they traded for him. Maybe they’ve gotten more than they wanted.
Mets fans only saw 2.2 innings worth of Diaz in the sadly short postseason. But Diaz more than did his job, throwing 2.2 innings worth of 2.74 FIP baseball, giving up precisely zero earned runs in that span.
Diaz’s market value is currently pegged at 4 years and a total of $64.5 million. Like Nimmo’s projected value, this will hardly break the bank for owner Cohen at an average annual value of $16.1 million during that span. The Mets absolutely must retain Diaz at such a valuable rate.
3. Carlos Carrasco
Did you know: Carlos Carrasco had a better season for the New York Mets than Jacob deGrom? Not because Carrasco is a better pitcher than deGrom, who is still pretty much a beast. No Carrasco had a better season simply because he pitched above-average baseball for three times as many innings as Jacob deGrom pitched at all.
Carrasco undoubtedly had a disappointing season with the Mets in 2021, going 1-5 with a 5.22 FIP in 53.2 innings. But, Carrasco’s bounce back in 2022 was quite good, as Carrasco put up a 15-7 record with a 3.97 ERA, 3.53 FIP, and 152 strikeouts for a total of 2.4 fWar. The league average ERA is 3.97.
No, Carlos Carrasco did not pitch in the Mets’ abbreviated 2022 postseason. But considering how Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt wound up performing, maybe he should have. The Mets certainly could have used more consistency out of their starting rotation to help bolster them beyond their wildcard round loss.
Luckily for the Mets, they have a vesting option on Carrasco that would allow them to keep him at a salary of $14 million in 2023. This is another no-brainer. The Mets should exercise Carrasco’s 2023 option and make him a mid-rotation stalwart again next season.
4. Chris Bassitt
Like, Carlos Carrasco, Mets starting pitcher Chris Bassitt has a vesting option in 2023. But unlike Carrasco, Bassitt’s vesting option is mutual. And after the stellar mid-rotation season Bassitt had for the Mets in 2023, holding down the fort while Scherzer and deGrom both missed partial seasons with injury, Bassitt is sure to opt out and look for a new contract on the free agent market.
The Mets should not let him get away if they can keep him for a reasonable deal. Bassitt has been a reliably good and remarkably consistent starting pitcher since his 2018 season with Oakland. In 2023 for the Mets, Bassitt put up a 15-9 record with a 3.42 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 167 strikeouts for a total of 2.7 fWAR in 181.2 innings. In comparison, Jacob deGrom only totaled 2.2 fWAR on the season.
It’s fair to be critical of Bassitt’s rather terrible and disappointing playoff appearance this season, in which he pitched a total of 4 innings of 6.75 ERA baseball, earning the final loss of the Mets season. But small sample sizes will do that to you, and these things happen. Scherzer also had a terrible game in the postseason, remember? It does not indicate that he “can’t perform” in the playoffs or that he won’t be good next time.
Sportrac estimated Bassitt’s market value at 3 years, $62.7 million, a very reasonable contract for a starting pitcher. That yields an estimated $20.8 million average annual value of the three year span. And the Mets got away with a steal paying him only $8.8 million for 2022.
Sure, at Bassitt’s $20 million per year, you may only get half the performance of a Jacob DeGrom. But as a middle-of-the-rotation anchor, that’s really all the Mets need. And since Bassitt is already 33 years old (a year younger than deGrom by the way), limiting the contract to just three years seems prudent.
The Mets Will Have To Let Some Players Walk
The Mets won’t be able to keep everyone, because budgets. Obviously, they should do what they can to retain the aging and injury-prone deGrom. I guess. But doing what they can means offering him a financially sane deal, not paying him more than it would take to lure Chris Hayes to host a show on NewsMax.
The Mets will also have to fill most of their bullpen internally or via trade. Bullpen pitchers – except high-quality closers and set-up men, are remarkably inconsistent from year to year. It doesn’t make sense to spend a fortune on the free agent market to sign middle relievers who may go from good to terrible faster than Tom Brady went from retirement to probable divorce.
And as the Mets continue to bolster their support for current roster role players like Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, they can also look to other free agents on the market. Like my hero, Justin Verlander, who is not only a Godly baseball player but married one of the world’s most beautiful models. Or a certain record-breaking New York Yankee. Or… Michael Conforto? Yeah, probably not him.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out my article “Eppler Kicks Off the Mets Season with the Right Movies”.