Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns slightly tipped his hand as the Winter Meetings began in Nashville in terms of how he’s going to construct his roster in 2024.
Starting pitching and bullpen help are among his top priorities, and understandably so. The Mets currently have Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, and Luis Severino in the rotation along with uncertainties like David Peterson, Tylor Megill, and Joey Lucchesi.
The bullpen doesn’t have much more support, either. As a healthy Edwin Diaz ramps up for a return, New York has Brooks Raley and Drew Smith as the only relievers with considerable MLB experience.
The Mets will be busy on those fronts at the Winter Meetings, but Stearns is also going to be opportunistic in finding upgrades for his starting lineup — most notably at the outfield and DH position. In the meantime, he provided an idea of where some of the club’s current multi-positional players will play.
Based on those comments, here is how we could see the Mets’ lineup shaping up in 2024.
2024 Mets predicted lineup
1) Brandon Nimmo, CF: Nimmo had one of his most productive offensive seasons last year in the pros, though it didn’t come with his quintessential lead-off-man approach. He belted a career-high 24 home runs with 68 RBI in the first season of an eight-year contract, though his on-base percentage (.363) was the lowest it’s been since his rookie season. His defense, which took major steps forward in 2022, regressed slightly in 2023, which will be something to watch closely.
2) Starling Marte, RF: Stearns was frank when asked what he’d expect from the 35-year-old Marte, whose 2023 season was derailed by a lingering groin issue stemming from offseason surgery and migraine problems: “I don’t know.”
It’s a fair analysis, but the Mets should give the veteran one more shot to recreate an All-Star campaign that he posted in 2022 where he was an invaluable piece of a 101-win club as the cemented No. 2 hitter of its lineup. He’s under team control for the next two seasons where he’s due just under $20 million each year.
3) Francisco Lindor, SS: With Marte’s return to his usual spot, Lindor can settle back into his No. 3 position, which was upheaved last year. One of the elite shortstops in the game, the 30-year-old is coming off his first-career 30-30 season and just the fourth player in franchise history to reach that benchmark. In 296 plate appearances in the No. 3 spot last year, Lindor posted an .872 OPS with 14 home runs and 46 RBI (69 games).
4) Pete Alonso, 1B: The premier slugger in baseball should be the Mets’ Opening Day first baseman in 2024 — and for many years after that if they can work out an extension in the next year. Regardless, Alonso has been the most prolific home-run hitter in baseball since he arrived in 2019, recording three 40-plus-home-run seasons on his way to a league-leading 192 home runs in the last five years. He’s on pace to smash every franchise home run record and should make plenty of moves to do so this season.
5) Teoscar Hernandez, DH: The Mets can check off a pair of needs if they’re able to sign the free-agent Hernandez this offseason. Since 2018, the 31-year-old has averaged 24 home runs with an .801 OPS — the kind of bat that can help lengthen the Mets’ lineup and provide some desperately needed danger in the No. 5 spot behind Alonso. Hernandez also provides above-average range in a corner-outfield spot with arm value that was ranked in MLB’s 88th percentile last season, which would be quite the help with depth should injuries strike.
6) Jeff McNeil, 2B: McNeil is versatile enough to see time in a corner-outfield spot, but Stearns admitted that the left-handed bat is going to see the lion’s share of starting time at second base this season. There’s plenty to prove for the 31-year-old in 2024. After winning a batting title in 2022, his average dropped by 56 points while his OPS fell from .836 to .711.
7) Francisco Alvarez, C: Battling inconsistencies in his first full MLB season, the Mets’ starting catcher of the future belted 25 home runs while his framing was in the 95th percentile in all of baseball. However, his strikeout rate was in the 25th percentile and his whiff rate was in the 15th. It’s still a promising enough starting point for what is expected to be a long, successful career, but now the name of the game is steadiness.
8) Ronny Mauricio, 3B: Stearns’ plan in 2024 is to keep the third-base competition in-house between Mauricio, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos. All three might not make it to spring, however, as the logjam could be alleviated by a trade to help bolster other areas of the roster. Speculation suggests it will come down to Baty and Mauricio for the starting job with the latter appearing to have the higher ceiling.
Mauricio has already shown a bat with a higher upside than Baty, who was given the starting job after the Mets traded Eduardo Escobar to the Los Angeles Angels but was sent down to the minors after some mighty mid-season struggles. Mauricio hits the ball hard with an average exit velocity of 90.7 mph in his brief 26-game MLB debut, but his plate discipline must be worked on. He posted a 42.4% chase rate, a 30.9% whiff rate, and a 28.7% strikeout rate. Baty has comparable stats with a 31.5% whiff rate and a 28% strikeout rate.
Mauricio, though, will also have to prove that he’s capable of playing third base full-time, which is a significant ask for a natural shortstop who was getting a bulk of his minor-league time last year at second base. He committed one error in 44.2 MLB innings at third base.
9) Jung Hoo Lee, LF: This might be the most significant wild card of this predicted lineup as the 25-year-old prepares to make the jump from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) after being posted on Monday. The Mets have interest, but how effective he’ll be in North America is a major question mark. Lee has a career .340 batting average over seven seasons in Korea, but that talent is more comparable to Double-A. Regardless, there is no denying his ability to make contact, which could be a solid piece to lengthen the bottom of the Mets’ lineup.
A center fielder in the KBO, Lee’s transition to life in MLB could be made easier with time in left field where his glove and range should be just fine.
Joey Wendle: A super utility man and former All-Star, Wendle will be the club’s new Luis Guillorme after signing a one-year, $2 million pact with New York last week.
Brett Baty: Baty obviously shouldn’t go very far given the responsibilities that we’re hypothetically putting on Mauricio, but he’s going to have to put it all together soon. He batted just .212 last season, including a 23-game stretch from late July to early August in which he batted just .122 (9-for-74) with two home runs, six RBI, a .451 OPS, and 27 strikeouts — which in 74 at-bats is a punchout rate of 32.4% — that ultimately led to his demotion to Triple-A. He was called back up on Sept. 1 but still batted just .200 with a .591 OPS in his final 22 games.
DJ Stewart: Out of nowhere, Stewart became a rare bright spot in a lost season for the Mets, posting an .840 OPS with 11 home runs and 26 RBI in 58 games. The Mets brought him back on a 1-year, $1.38 million deal and he’s the kind of player to perfectly fit in Stearns’ mold to rise from obscurity to become an important piece of a contending team. He can play the corner outfield or DH at times if necessary.
Omar Narvaez: Narvaez lost his starting job quickly after an early injury opened the door for Alvarez, who proceeded to run away with the No. 1 catcher’s role. He was one of baseball’s best framing catchers over the previous three seasons, which has obviously rubbed off on Alvarez.