Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
There was buzz before the 2019 season that the DH could soon be implemented in the National League, with some speculating that the DH coming to the NL could've been one of the reasons why the Mets were comfortable taking on five seasons of then-36-year-old Robinson Cano.
Now, the buzz is back, with Jim Bowden of The Athletic reporting Monday that there is a "growing belief" among some general managers that the DH could come to the NL as soon as 2021. While the NL adding the DH as soon as next season is possible, SNY's Andy Martino believes it could be more likely to happen for the 2022 season.
Either way, unless the Mets trade Cano between now and then, they will be one of the teams to benefit the most from the NL adopting the DH. But the positive ripple effects for the Mets wouldn't stop with how it might impact Cano. Among the scenarios...
Cano becomes the full-time DH
The most logical move if/when the DH comes to the NL could be shifting Cano -- under contract until 2023 -- from second base into a full-time DH role.
Cano, 37, dealt with lower body issues in 2019, when he was limited to 107 games. And his defense at second base -- whether due to getting older, his injuries, or potentially some combination of the two -- suffered. In 804.1 innings there, he was worth -6 DRS. Extrapolated over a full season, that would have been his worst defensive performance since 2008.
If the Mets hope to extract as much value as possible out of Cano, the smart play could be sliding him to DH, which could lead to fresher legs/better offensive production and the ability to shift other players around. That could mean...
Jeff McNeil slides to second base
McNeil got most of his starts in the outfield in 2019, but he is expected to play primarily third base in 2020, with J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto expected to be in the outfield from left to right.
Under team control through the 2024 season, McNeil graded out as average or slightly above average defensively in left field, right field, third base, and second base in 2019. That kind of versatility -- to go along with his offensive prowess -- makes him extremely valuable.
While McNeil would likely succeed at any of the four spots on the field he's comfortable in, moving him to second base could make the most sense because it could mean that...
Third base opens up for Ronny Mauricio
Mauricio, widely viewed as the Mets' top prospect and a top 100 prospect in baseball, is on track to be ready for the majors by 2022. Currently a shortstop, Mauricio could potentially transition to third base as he physically matures.
Even if Mauricio remains at shortstop, something will likely have to give when he reaches the majors since Amed Rosario is currently there. If Mauricio is still profiling as above average at short, perhaps the Mets will transition Rosario to the hot corner if they believe he can handle it.
Know who else plays third base? Nolan Arenado, who has an opt-out after the 2021 season. But I digress...
A left side of the infield of Mauricio and Rosario (or one of those players and Arenado!) and a right side of the infield of McNeil and Pete Alonso would be legit.
The above options aren't the only ones the Mets have, though.
J.D. Davis could become DH instead of Cano
With Davis under team control through the 2024 season and his defense below average in left field and well below average at third base, it can be argued that he is an even better fit as DH than Cano.
The Mets opting to use Davis as the DH would of course mean Cano staying at second base unless he is traded. However, there's a scenario where Davis becomes DH, Cano stays at second base, and third base still opens up for Mauricio.
With Michael Conforto under team control through only the 2021 season, there is a possibility that he could be traded or depart via free agency before the DH is implemented in the NL. That would conceivably allow McNeil to shift back to a corner outfield spot.
Conforto not being in the Mets' future plans would be unfortunate since they should really be looking to sign the 26-year-old to an extension, but the point remains.
Either way, the DH coming to the NL sooner rather than later would be a welcome development for the Mets, who would then have easy ways to deal with situations that might otherwise become headaches.