The 162-game marathon is set to become more than just a sprint race, let alone a grueling endurance test. Will it be 80 games? Sixty games? Even less?
As MLB and the players’ association try to find common ground to provide a season after the layoff of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Mets hope to return to Port St. Lucie, Florida, for a preseason camp that would last about three weeks.
The shortened season would cut paychecks, but could be beneficial to many players. Among the Mets, here’s a look at who could win more than one shortened season:
The combination of a shorter season and likely DH implementation could put the often-injured outfielder in position to play a significant percentage of the Mets’ schedule.
First, Cespedes will have to prove to team officials that he is capable of handling the bases. When spring training was suspended, Cespedes had been practicing live batting, but there were questions about whether his surgically repaired heels could withstand the rigors of yard play and running. A universal DH would provide an optimal landing spot for Cespedes, eager to collect incentives built into his 2020 contract and show the rest of baseball that he would be a worthy addition as a free agent this offseason.
As the team’s best contact hitter, McNeil would have the best chance of putting a great batting average on the board in a short span.
No one has reached .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941, but he reduces the time frame to 50 or 60 games, and the feat becomes more achievable. McNeil peaked at .356 last July before a late-season dive, during which his power numbers increased, bringing him to .318. Although it wouldn’t be an apple-to-apple comparison, a player running at .400 on a shortened schedule would add a layer of excitement to the season.
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The right-handed veteran has struggled with shoulder problems throughout his career, and asking him to start 10-15 games would seem like a better proposition than hoping he can handle a full season in the rotation.
Wacha is the fifth de facto starter after Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery that will keep the marginal right out in 2021. That doesn’t mean manager Luis Rojas doesn’t risk Seth Lugo there, at least sometimes. But getting Lugo out of a relief post would be a gamble given the bullpen’s shortcomings last season.
If Wacha’s task is only 10-15 starts, the Mets will have a better chance of surviving Syndergaard’s absence.
Of the best prospects for the Mets closest to the big leagues, Giménez tops the list among position players. With the possibility of the rosters expanding in the shortened season, the 21-year-old infielder, who was expected to play this season in Triple-A Syracuse, may have a chance to contribute to the Mets.
Luis Guillorme was the main substitute shortstop in spring training, but Giménez would provide another option. He could also move to second base if Robinson Cano needs a day off or is inserted as DH.
Another pitcher recovering from injuries, Betances, if he’s ready, could accelerate hard for a shortened season without the worry of having to survive a full marathon. Betances, who missed most of last season from a shoulder impact and ripped Achilles, was working to improve his speed when spring training was suspended. If the right-hander is ready, he could provide another arm of power in the rear of the bullpen, joining Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.