Free agency is officially underway, and with it comes endless speculation about who is going to sign where. What will the New York Mets look like the next time they take the field?
Sure, most of the predictions end up being completely wrong, but it’s a fun exercise nonetheless.
Let’s take a swing at what the Mets lineup will look like come Opening Day.
Batting first, second baseman Trea Turner
Starting off hot, I know, but bear with me. The Mets are likely going to be losing their leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo and looking for someone to fill his shoes. After a disappointing playoff exit too, Steve Cohen is probably looking to take a big swing for an impact bat. Mets fans are very familiar with what Turner, one of the premier players in the game, brings to the table. The only challenge might be outbidding the Philadelphia Phillies for him — but that could be even more motivation, keeping him from a division rival.
Batting second, center fielder Starling Marte
Marte is here to stay for another three seasons, and with Nimmo’s departure it wouldn't be surprising to see him move back to his native center. He did a solid job in right field last year, and at 34 years old the Mets might want to keep him there for the sake of his legs. Turner also has some experience in center earlier in his career, but that was all the way back in 2016. For the sake of this exercise, Marte moves back to the middle.
Batting third, shortstop Francisco Lindor
No surprises here. Lindor was excellent in 2022 and he primarily hit third, so no reason to change it up. Signed through 2031, Lindor is one of the faces of this franchise, and he’ll be hitting third for a long, long time.
Batting fourth, first baseman Pete Alonso
Just like with Lindor, this is a no-brainer. The Polar Bear hit 40 home runs and drove in an MLB-best 131 runs in 2022, as he was practically built to hit cleanup. No reason to change it up next season.
Batting fifth, right fielder Jeff McNeil
McNeil started playing a lot of right field down the stretch last season when Marte was hurt, and just like everywhere else he played, he was excellent. Ideally, McNeil plays second, but with the arrival of Turner, that’s not likely. Maybe Turner can make the transition to the outfield, but we don’t know if he can do that. McNeil, baseball’s 2022 batting champion, can.
Batting sixth, catcher Francisco Alvarez
Yes, Alvarez will be the Opening Day catcher for the Mets next season. The Mets let the genie out of the bottle when they called him up at the end of 2022, can’t go back now. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll be on the roster. Here’s another bold prediction: James McCann won’t be. If Alvarez makes the roster the Mets aren’t going to carry three catchers. It’ll be down to McCann and Tomas Nido. Yes, McCann is owed about $20 million over the next two seasons, but the team made it clear when they cut Robinson Cano that the best players will be rostered regardless of contracts. Nido is better, and it’s pretty clear too. He’s one of the best defensive backstops in baseball, and hit more than McCann last year anyway.
Batting seventh, left fielder Mark Canha
Canha is one of the most valuable players on the Mets. He plays all three outfield positions well enough, he gets on base a ton and hits for enough power, and he’s comfortable hitting anywhere in the lineup. Hit him first, hit him ninth, it doesn’t matter. He’ll turn in a competitive at-bat every single time. The Mets could also put him in center field if they don’t want to move Marte and then put McNeil in left.
Batting eighth, designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach
This is without a doubt going to be the most controversial spot in the order, and it makes sense. After getting largely below-average production out of the DH spot last year, a lot of Mets fans are going to want to sign a big-name bat to man the spot full-time. That said, if the Mets sign Turner then I think most of the other resources will go toward pitching. That leaves DH to still be a platoon. Vogelbach was actually really good for the Mets last year, hitting .255/.393/.436 after the trade. Yes he strikes out looking more than most and that can be frustrating, but you can’t argue with the on-base numbers — he’s a machine. He’ll continue to be the DH versus right-handed pitching.
As for left-handed pitching, that gets a bit muddier. Even though he’s under contract, it’s very hard to imagine a scenario where Darin Ruf is on the roster next year, that’s how bad he was. Mark Vientos is probably going to be a popular name among fans, but he also struggled mightily in his short time in the majors. Small sample size yes, but he showcased the exact concerns people had with his hitting profile from the minors. Against LHP, I believe the DH will be Alvarez. No one can catch 162 anymore, or even 140, but the Mets are going to want to keep his bat in the lineup. When there’s a lefty on the mound, I bet Nido gets the reigns behind the plate and Alvarez gets to DH. If the Mets face a southpaw on Opening Day, this will be the direction they go.
Batting ninth, third baseman Eduardo Escobar
This was a tough one, and I do expect to see both Escobar and Brett Baty get a lot of playing time in 2023, but for opening day, the veteran gets the nod. Escobar is one of the most respected players in the organization, and while he didn’t have a great 2023, it’s more than possible he can bounce back. He had an incredible final month of the season and was also maybe the only Mets player to hit well in the playoffs. He’s going to be a big part of the 2023 squad, as will Baty and as will Luis Guillorme. There could be a bit of a platoon situation, and Escobar could also take some DH at-bats.