Edwin Díaz threw a bullpen session on the back fields at Mets camp today, opening his Spring Training build-up. The two-time All-Star told reporters he had no obstructions over the winter after missing the entire 2023 campaign.
“It was my normal offseason, I did my normal routine,” Díaz told reporters (including Tim Britton of the Athletic). “I won’t be afraid to jump, to run. … I feel great.” That was the general expectation, as Díaz considered making a push to return at the end of last season before shutting things down with New York well out of contention.
The Mets are hopeful of a better showing than last year’s 75-87 performance. Díaz’s return is one of the reasons for optimism that they can hang around the playoff mix. He was the best reliever in baseball in 2022, when he struck out more than half the hitters he faced en route to a career-low 1.31 ERA across 62 innings.
While the team is hopeful of at least remaining in the Wild Card race, they’ve opted against making another all-in push for 2024. President of baseball operations David Stearns has pointed to the upcoming season as something of a evaluative year which they expect to serve as a stepping stone to a full-fledged run in 2025. That’s perhaps most evident in the team’s approach at third base and designated hitter. They’ve left the door ajar to making a run at a veteran DH while suggesting that the likelier outcome is giving playing time to Brett Baty and Mark Vientos to gauge whether they can serve important roles on the ’25 team.
Stearns left open the possibility for “some level of competition” among the in-house options at the hot corner this afternoon (relayed by Tim Healey of Newsday). Baty enters camp as the heavy favorite for the starting job despite his disappointing season. The former first-round pick and top prospect hit .212/.275/.323 with nine home runs in 389 plate appearances over his first full big league campaign. New York sent Baty to Triple-A for a few weeks in August as his struggles mounted. He raked in that brief minor league stint but again struggled after being recalled in September.
New York hasn’t done much to bring in serious competition for Baty this offseason. Stearns mentioned Vientos, Joey Wendle and Zack Short as others who could pick up playing time at the hot corner. Vientos is regarded as a below-average defender who is better served at first base or DH. He’d see the bulk of the DH reps unless the Mets somewhat surprisingly add a veteran bat like J.D. Martinez or Jorge Soler in the coming weeks. Wendle inked a $2MM free agent deal after hitting .212/.248/.306 in his second season with the Marlins. Short was a November waiver claim out of Detroit.
While Baty’s season could go in a number of directions, the Mets can feel safe about getting excellent production out of the other corner infield spot. Pete Alonso enters his platform year as one of the sport’s preeminent sluggers. Last month, he and the team agreed to a $20.5MM salary to avoid a hearing in his final winter of arbitration eligibility.
Throughout the offseason, the Mets have downplayed the chances of discussing a deal beyond the 2024 campaign. Stearns reiterated that the club didn’t have much expectation of signing Alonso to an extension. He called it “probably the most likely outcome” that the three-time All-Star hit the open market (link via Chuck King of the Associated Press). “Look, when you have a really talented player, who’s really good, who’s entering his final year of club control, who happens to be represented by Scott Boras, these things generally end up into free agency and we understand that,” he added.
The Mets have expressed confidence they could retain Alonso after he hits the open market, following the process of fellow Boras Corporation client Brandon Nimmo. Assuming he posts a typical platform year, Alonso should handily surpass the $162MM guarantee which Nimmo secured and could search for a contract approaching or exceeding $250MM.