The New York Mets continue through the offseason with many holes yet to be filled. Aside from the additions of Harrison Bader, Adrian Houser, and Luis Severino, the recent transactions have been minor and non-guaranteed. While the 40-man roster is far from a finished product, there remain players still under contract who are question marks entering the 2024 season.
Every team in Major League Baseball has players on its roster that are essentially ‘trying out’ in March and April. If a player of small expectation fails to perform, the team can just cut ties before too many games pass them by. The Wilpons were always reluctant to take this approach, keeping players like Juan Lagares on the roster for too long in 2019 because of their contract obligation. The most recent example of this is Robinson Cano coming off his 162-game PED suspension in 2022, though Cohen had no problem paying him $20.25 million to not play.
This season serves to be no different but with more players with something to prove. The Mets are yet to add a multi-year contract this offseason, meaning we can make the argument most of the roster is a try-out for 2025. With prospects such as Drew Gilbert and Luisangel Acuna on the horizon, who figures to be on a short leash right out of the gate in 2024?
1. D.J. Stewart
Though the Mets have added Bader, the outfield conundrum is still in flux. Coming off a second-half surge in 2023, D.J. Stewart has earned himself an opportunity to make the big-league ballclub in 2024. In 58 games played, Stewart hit for a .244 batting average with 11 home runs and 26 RBI. His defense in right field was solid, committing just one error across 42 games started.
Should Stewart make the Mets’ opening-day roster, he will have to earn his playing time from Bader and Starling Marte. While DH is an option for Stewart, the Mets are still in talks with J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner to best fill this role. The team still holds out hope that Mark Vientos adapts to the major league level and becomes the long-term answer.
Given his career-long track record of being a low-batting average, high-power threat at the plate, Stewart figures to be on a short leash to start 2024. Having been tendered just a 1-year contract, the team has nothing to lose financially by giving the 30-year-old a chance. The best-case scenario is that Stewart becomes the Joey Meneses of the Mets: a lifelong minor-leaguer who his stride later on in his career.