New York Mets Opening Day is a whole winter away and yet we can already see some potential casualties on the 40-man roster. With still plenty of vacant spots, David Stearns doesn’t have to rush to eliminate anyone in a squid game-inspired match of red light, green light too quickly.
Eventually, as the roster continues to get stockpiled further, even some of the additions made by Stearns will be cut loose. As it stands, it’s these five Mets who are in most danger of losing their 40-man roster spot before we get to the start of the 2024 season.
It’s going to take a severe injury for Zack Short to remain on the 40-man roster. The addition of Joey Wendle confirmed it. Short no longer has a place on the major league roster in Flushing.
Once viewed as a possible Luis Guillorme replacement, the Mets went out and got an even better and more proven player to fill whatever void he left following the decision to non-tender “the bearded one.” Short’s lack of minor league options makes him a DFA candidate with the only exception being a guy like Wendle or one of the other infielders begins the season on the IL.
Even then, Short’s time with the Mets will be…short. A waiver claim by the club, the right-handed hitting utility man serves no purpose on a roster that already has Wendle. The Mets could find themselves struggling to offer enough playing time to their younger players on a regular basis. Short would only take a roster spot away from one of those players.
If there’s any guarantee of a player losing a roster spot, it’s him. This is a numbers game. He drew the low one.
The Mets seem to really like Sean Reid-Foley. Even after designating him for assignment in the past, they brought him back all while knowing he was already injured. Reid-Foley made his way back onto the major league roster at the end of the 2023 season where he pitched much better. He could be in contention for an Opening Day roster spot in the bullpen. With the way this offseason is trending, affordable arms like him may make up a good portion of the relief corps.
Reid-Foley runs into the same problem as Short. His minor league options have been exhausted in the past. If the Mets want to have him stick around but not be in the major league bullpen, a DFA pink slip is required.
The fact that Stearns has kept him around this long has very little meaning. Not yet eligible for arbitration, he’s an arm to take a closer look at in the spring. The important thing for the Mets, if SRF does make the roster, is to build a bullpen around him with guys who can actually get sent to the minors. The exhaustive management of a bullpen without the luxury of demoting anyone will make the Mets more irrelevant faster than anyone wants to see.
Phil Bickford is an interesting case for the Mets. He came over in a summer trade as they were subtracting from the roster. Able to make it this far into the offseason, it’s easily explainable as he’ll be another affordable arm for the bullpen. Stearns is familiar with him already. Bickford was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization and managed to scrape out an inning in 2020 and another in 2021 before getting claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Based on what we’ve been seeing Stearns do already, Bickford might be the kind of player he’d actually look to add to the team. He had an excellent 2021 season with Los Angeles after the waiver claim. In 2022 and 2023, he served as more of a mop-up guy. As long as he has those stretches of success like he did in the final month for the Mets in 2023, Bickford can be a useful pitcher in certain situations. Who else is going to pitch in blowouts with Luis Guillorme gone?
Unless the Mets swap Bickford for a player with minor league options (again, he has none), he might be worth keeping around. His advantage over Reid-Foley is that he has pitched significantly more in the big leagues and had some consistent success.
Working against him could be the fact that Stearns has DFA’d him in the past.
The last two players on this list do have minor league options and yet it might not be enough to save them from making the front page of MLB Trade Rumors for the worst reasons. Josh Walker, now 29 with only 10 innings of MLB experience, is one of those optional relievers who might not be good enough to hold onto.
The lefty showed some positive signs at times last year. The 1.84 ERA in the minors was too good to ignore showcasing him in the majors. Unfortunately, he pitched to an 8.10 ERA in his 10 innings while in the show.
Walker becomes a roster casualty as the Mets look to add outside help. He becomes one more so when the team reports to St. Lucie and roster cuts begin to take place. Several of those outside additions made by Stearns this offseason are on minor league deals. DFA’ing Walker is one way to get them onto the major league roster.
Injured throughout much of his professional career, Walker only recently transitioned into a relief role full-time. His lack of control has held him back in the past. His superb strikeout rate does help make up for it a little bit.
There’s a good case to keep Walker around. What might ultimately seal his fate is if Stearns and the coaching staff don’t think he’s even worth another look.
Reed Garrett was a mostly forgettable member of the 2023 Mets. A June waiver claim, he went on to pitch to a 5.82 ERA in 17 innings of work across 9 games. Next year is his age 31 campaign. Fortunately for him, minor league options should have Garrett as a contender to make somebody’s 40-man roster even if it isn’t the Mets.
Keeping Garrett around for depth is fine, however, the upside of what he can offer seems rather limiting. In 44.1 MLB innings he’s 1-1 with a 7.11 ERA. He may get free Slurpees for this performance, but it’s not enough to choose him over someone else.
Saving Garrett’s roster spot on the Mets could be the lack of other internal options. Because they do still have room on their 40-man roster and Garrett is cheap and able to stay in the minors, replacing him with a shot-in-the-dark fellow veteran from outside of the organization might be as necessary.
One more positive is that the Mets will probably want to have some veteran able to take a bullet for them in a game where they simply need to get through it. Rather than throw a kid on the mound for a tough love learning experience, Garrett is the sort of pitcher who can grind it out and get us through to the end. Like the rest of the pitchers on this list, the case of whether he survives or not will involve his past performance, who the team adds, and what he looks like in the spring if he’s able to make it that far.
This article was originally published on risingapple.com as 5 Mets players already in danger of losing their 40-man roster spot.2023-12-10T22:06:27Z dg43tfdfdgfd