Mets must sort out roster ahead of MLB playoffs

Mets must sort out roster ahead of MLB playoffs

With the final two weeks of the season, the Mets and Braves will settle the National League East race. 

Along the way, several internal Mets races will be decided as well. 

With 11 games to go in their regular season, the Mets know they will be in the postseason, but they do not know their playoff position or their full playoff roster. 

As the Mets head to Oakland for a three-game series beginning Friday, let’s take a look at the battles that have not been resolved through 151 games: 

Who is the fourth starter? 

Carlos Carrasco or Taijuan Walker? 

The top three — Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom (in some order) and Chris Bassitt — appears set. Carrasco and Walker have two starts apiece remaining to demonstrate they belong in the postseason rotation. Carrasco has been better this month but was knocked around (three runs in four innings) Tuesday in Milwaukee. 

Mets pitcher Carlos Carrasco delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Brewers at American Family Field on Sept. 20, 2022 in Milwaukee.
Mets pitcher Carlos Carrasco delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Brewers.
Getty Images

It is possible the Mets could use all five starters for a potential NL Championship Series — which will have just one off day because of the condensed schedule resulting from the lockout — but they likely would at least open the playoffs with four starters. 

The fifth starter likely would become a reliever, which presents the question: 

What does the bullpen look like? 

Walker or Carrasco could help, but each would represent just one more unknown for the group. 

The back of the bullpen is set with Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino. Seth Lugo is the third-most trusted and an ironic option to become the lefty specialist: Lefty batters are hitting just .158 against Lugo. Would the Mets be comfortable not carrying a southpaw and using a righty against the opponent’s best lefties late in games? 

With rosters going from 28 to 26, the Mets likely would carry 12 or 13 pitchers. To complement the previous eight listed pitchers, they would choose four or five from the following: 

Trevor May and Mychal Givens — assuming a healthy return off the COVID-IL — likely have the inside track. Can lefty Joely Rodriguez (unscored upon in his past six innings with nine strikeouts) nail down a spot? Can fellow lefty David Peterson make a successful transition from the rotation to the bullpen? Will wild cards Tylor Megill, Drew Smith or Trevor Williams emerge? 

Speaking of emerging… 

Who is the righty DH/pinch hitter? 

The Mets bet on Darin Ruf, who was acquired at the trade deadline even with Mark Vientos at Triple-A. Ruf is hitting .148 in 60 plate appearances since, which led to Vientos getting called up anyway for at-bats against opposing lefties. 

The rookie has begun his career 1-for-18. 

Mets third baseman Mark Vientos (27) hits an infield RBI single allowing center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) to score during the fourth inning against the Pirates, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
Mets third baseman Mark Vientos (27) hit an infield RBI single.
Corey Sipkin/New York Post

The upcoming series in Oakland likely will feature three opposing southpaws in Cole Irvin and former Yankees Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears. Perhaps this weekend will help the Mets gain clarity in whom they should lean upon. 

If both continue to scuffle, righty-hitting Francisco Alvarez, who has been hot in Triple-A, would be a long shot worth watching. The top prospect likely would not be used as a catcher, a position that also offers a dilemma. 

Will they have an everyday catcher? 

Tomas Nido started Sunday and Monday. James McCann started Sept. 12 and 13. Those were the only instances in which a Mets catcher started back-to-back games this month. 

Though neither Nido nor McCann distinguished himself offensively for the first five months of the season, both have swung better in September — particularly Nido, who is batting .361 with his only two home runs of the season this month. 

Mets catcher Tomas Nido grounds out against the Brewers in the fifth inning during a game at American Family Field on Sept. 21, 2022 in Milwaukee.
Mets catcher Tomas Nido grounds out against the Brewers.
Getty Images

If Nido keeps hitting, would the Mets promote the ostensible backup to be the starter? Or does McCann and his experience warrant a timeshare that extends into the postseason? 

Last month, there was thought the Mets could carry a third catcher who would allow the starter to be pinch hit for, but Nido and McCann have swung that notion away. 

So who gets the 26th roster spot? 

It may depend upon whether the Mets feel comfortable with 14 position players and 12 pitchers. 

The penciled-in position players: McCann, Nido, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Luis Guillorme, Eduardo Escobar, Francisco Lindor, Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, Daniel Vogelbach and a righty DH. Tyler Naquin likely belongs, too. 

Has Terrance Gore cemented a spot as a late-inning pinch runner who creates havoc on the base paths?

If so, would the Mets still carry Naquin in a five-outfielder construction that likely would mean 14 position players and 12 pitchers? 

If so, the bullpen competition would become tighter.