Mets roster projection: Final bullpen and bench spots up for grabs

With just two weeks left before Opening Day, the New York Mets’ roster features some intriguing decisions remaining for the bullpen and the bench. Beyond those intricate questions, the group appears mostly set. Still, the Mets’ front office always monitors the market in an attempt to be proactive. An addition, even this late, shouldn’t be ruled out.

Here’s a look at where the roster stands with insights from evaluators on how some players have looked in spring training.

Catchers (2): Francisco Alvarez, Omar Narváez

Alvarez had about as good a performance in a spring training game as possible last Thursday, throwing out three base stealers (including two with Adam Ottavino on the mound) and cracking a home run. He has as much breakout potential as any young player in the sport.

Narváez should be a capable backup. The Mets don’t have a third catcher on the 40-man roster. Tomás Nido is still in the organization and could be added to the roster when needed. Hayden Senger has also had a nice camp and could be in line for a major-league debut later in the year.

Infielders (6): Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, Brett Baty, Joey Wendle, Mark Vientos

McNeil’s injury raises doubt about his availability for Opening Day. The Mets continue to resist adding outside players who could push Baty and Vientos for playing time. With two weeks to go in spring, the jobs at third and DH remain theirs for the taking.

Brett Baty, pictured, and Mark Vientos appear to have a clear path for substantial playing time. (Jim Rassol / USA Today)

Infielder Zack Short, whom the Mets claimed off waivers in the offseason, is out of minor-league options and will have to be designated for assignment if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. Jett Williams and Luisangel Acuña had solid camps and should be options for the major-league roster by the end of the season.

Outfielders (5): Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, Harrison Bader, Tyrone Taylor, DJ Stewart

Marte hasn’t eased concerns about his production with a 2-for-18 line this spring. Taylor looms large for the Mets this season: He’s done well in irregular playing time in the past, and he’s the next option should Marte fail to rebound or Bader land back on the injured list.

We still lean toward Stewart for the last spot on the bench, despite a tough spring. That’s largely because he can play the outfield, unlike veterans Luke Voit and Ji Man Choi. However, Stewart has an option remaining, and both Voit and Choi have opt-out clauses if they don’t make the active roster at the end of camp. Voit’s opt-out date is March 23, per a league source. Choi’s left-handed bat, in particular, is a serious contender here. Choi’s base salary if he makes the majors is $2 million and it can go as high as $3.5 million if all incentives are reached, per a league source.

And don’t rule out an outside addition in the final days of camp, the way the Mets added reliever Dennis Santana late last spring.

Starting pitchers (5): José Quintana, Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, Adrian Houser, Tylor Megill

Only a few days remain in the three-week shutdown period that the Mets announced for Kodai Senga after their top starter received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his throwing shoulder. So, New York will have to decide soon whether Senga will resume throwing as expected.

Either way, the Mets need to replace Senga. Megill looks like the best candidate for the role. Megill’s splitter, a new pitch for him, and his improved mechanics offer sources of optimism, though he will need to do a better job of throwing strikes.

Megill and José Butto have opened some eyes — within the organization and outside of it. Butto, like Joey Lucchesi, lingers within the next wave of options for the rotation. Evaluators have pointed to Butto’s changeup as an improved pitch.

Relief pitchers (8): Edwin Díaz, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley, Jake Diekman, Drew Smith, Jorge López, Michael Tonkin, Sean Reid-Foley

Díaz’s return to game action on Monday stands out as the highlight of the spring.

The Mets have two spots up for grabs.

Tonkin, who signed a split contract over the offseason and is on the 40-man roster, appears to be a sensible choice for one. He can also provide more than one inning, which may come in handy, especially after Senga’s injury. The other spot figures to feature a battle between a few right-handers out of minor-league options: Reid-Foley, Yohan Ramirez, and Phil Bickford.

In the event of an injury or if the Mets simply eye another move before the season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them trade from their reliever depth.

Shintaro Fujinami deserves consideration for one of the final bullpen spots, too, because of his big-time velocity, but he can be optioned to the minor leagues.

Smith’s pitches — particularly his changeup — against left-handed batters have impressed evaluators. That could be a small key for Smith; in 2022, left-handed batters failed to record a hit off his changeup (he threw it 32 times against them), but they feasted off the pitch in 2023 (he threw it 79 times with a .412 batting average against it).

Lefty Nate Lavender has created the most buzz around camp. The Mets last week reassigned him to minor-league camp. However, he has continued to pile up highlights, including striking out Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt in the same inning. The Mets have two lefties in Diekman and Raley plus they have candidates without minor-league options so Lavender seems poised to start the year in Triple A. He’s a good candidate to contribute meaningfully at some point as a reliever who can log multiple innings.

(Top photo of Francisco Alvarez: Jim Rassol / USA Today)

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