Three more sleeps until Opening Day
We are three sleeps away from Opening Day!
Honestly, it can’t get here soon enough. The Mets are close to finalizing the roster they will take with them to Miami to start the season. Today, I will spend a lot of time unpacking the logic behind these final roster decisions, leaving a deeper discussion on the signing of Dylan Bundy for later this week.
Before we get into the newsletter, I want to thank everyone for your kind words and generous ideas in response to Friday’s issue. I also want to welcome several new paid subscribers. We are going to have a lot of fun together this season.
It’s a jam-packed issue, so let’s get into it!
🌴 GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE: The Mets closed out their Grapefruit League schedule with a 3–3 tie against the Marlins on Sunday. They finish the spring with an unassuming 10–14–4 record, playing many of those games without several star players who were tied up in the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets will play an intra-squad game today with Kodai Senga set to start for one team and cleared to throw his splitter again. The Amazin’s will play for real on Thursday afternoon in Miami at 4:10 pm against the Sandy Alcantara and the Marlins.
🎬 STARTERS, READY: Max Scherzer will take the ball for the opener, with the Mets slotting what will most likely be David Peterson in the second rotation spot so Justin Verlander is lined up to pitch the home opener on April 6. With two off days in the first 13 days of the schedule, it seems unlikely the team will use a six-man rotation through the first few turns. The order is set with Scherzer, Peterson/Megill, Verlander, Kodai Senga and Carlos Carrasco.
😕 OUCH! Not what the team needed in his final spring tune-up, but Justin Verlander survived two comebackers off his leg on Sunday. The star right-hander fired 95 pitches over five innings, looking a bit off his regular form, giving up three runs on eight hits and four walks.
“My foot went numb for a hot second,” Verlander said of getting hit by a ball in play. “You never want to deal with a lot of inflammation like that if you don’t have to. My left calf is still bugging me from when I got hit the first time, so now it’s a bunch of extra inflammation that I have to deal with. I’ll be working hard trying to flush that out.”
📝 SIGNING: The Mets added more depth to the starter ranks by signing former top prospect and another ol’ Buck Showalter friend Dylan Bundy to a minor league contract. Low risk, potential for reward. I will talk much more about this signing later this week.
After a weekend of roster activity, there’s little uncertainty remaining about who will stand along the foul line during player introductions on Opening Day. The roster is pretty much set, save two or three spots.
If you want to save yourself a lot of reading, you can simply peruse the graphic below to get a peek at the Opening Day roster and then jump to the Out of Town section. For those of you who like a lot of detail, buckle up and read on.
Before we get into the particulars about the remaining open roster spots, or discuss the decision to option Brett Baty & Mark Vientos and the lingering question about Darin Ruf’s future with the club, I think it’s important to put a few things in context.
🔷 First, in simple terms, GM Billy Eppler’s job is twofold:
To construct a major-league roster that is ready to compete for a championship over a marathon 183-day season;
To continuing to develop a farm system that is top-heavy in talent.
Who makes the Opening Day roster is mostly ceremonial in relation to both of those goals. That’s why I don’t get too caught up in debating whether this guy should make the team over that guy, because both guys will eventually get a chance, especially in the bullpen, as we will discuss in a bit. The long-term development of a player usually takes precedence over a perceived near-term need.
🔷 Building on the point above, a roster is fluid. An effective front office treats each roster decision with care, making sure to maximize when players are added to the roster, how they are preserved through the option and waiver process and when they are most likely to provide value.
For example, Jimmy Yacabonis, T.J. McFarland and Tim Locastro are three players who are out of minor league options, but also not currently on the 40-man roster. The last point is key! By sending them to the minors to start the season, as in before they are added to the 40-man roster, the Mets essentially gain an option on each of those players since they can option them under these parameters without passing them through waivers.