Even though they’re fighting for their playoff lives, the New York Mets have quite a good problem brewing within their ranks.
The 2019 season has led to the emergences of Jeff McNeil and JD Davis, two younger bats that have developed into two of the team’s most invaluable offensive assets.
While he looks to be emerging from the first real slump of his career, an 0-for-15 stretch, McNeil still ranks fourth in the National League with a .322 average to go with a .389 on-base percentage and emerging power that has yielded 17 home runs this.
Davis became first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s acquisition of the season as the 26-year-old that couldn’t break into the Houston Astros’ ranks was picked up by the Mets for lower-level prospects.
In his first 119 games this season, Davis slashed .301/.367/.513 with 18 home runs — a rare find and steal for a Mets organization that has often come out on the short end of trades in recent years.
Add their success with the booming arrival of slugging first baseman Pete Alonso and the Mets have something special in the works.
The problem is — looking ahead — there just isn’t enough room to ensure everyone gets the playing time they deserve as it stands.
Davis, a natural third baseman, and McNeil, a second baseman, have been forced to play most of the season out of position as corner outfielders due to the injuries suffered by Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Nimmo, and to a lesser extent, Dominic Smith.
Nimmo returned to the Mets over the weekend after a neck injury held him out since May, adding another name to an already-crowded unit that features Davis, McNeil, and Michael Conforto.
Upon Nimmo’s reintroduction to the team, Callaway slotted McNeil at third base while moving veteran Todd Frazier to the bench.
Joe Panik has taken over at second base, McNeil’s natural position, while Robinson Cano continues his recovery from a torn hamstring.
Taking Cano’s contract as a part of the Edwin Diaz deal has added some wrenches in the Mets’ plans. The struggling veteran and his massive contract, when healthy, was taking a starting slot away from a more promising, productive bat.
As soon as Cano returns — whether that’s within the week, 2019 season, or next year — the remaining four years and $96 million on his contract will ensure that the Mets won’t be able to get him off the books and depth chart.
That will ensure that either McNeil or Davis will continue living in the majors out of position as a corner outfielder.
But then comes the impending return of Yoenis Cespedes.
The oft-injured slugger that carried the team in 2015 and 2016 has appeared in just 119 games over the past three seasons.
In the final year of his deal, the 33-year-old will be keen on showing the baseball world that he is still capable of being the 30-plus home-run threat during the middle of the decade.
He’s poised to make $29 million this season, which will be a lot of money to put on the bench when he returns to health in 2020. Slotting him in left field would then force the Mets to relegate Davis to the bench assuming Conforto and Nimmo would start alongside Cespedes.
McNeil would be the starting third baseman while Cano remains at second, making a projected 2020 Mets lineup look like this:
1. Jeff McNeil- 3B
2. Amed Rosario- SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes- LF
4. Pete Alonso- 1B
5. Michael Conforto- RF
6. Robinson Cano- 2B
7. Wilson Ramos- C
8. Brandon Nimmo- CF
Davis would have to be the first bat off the bench and would still get at least 350 at-bats per season as a reserve outfielder and infielder. However, it would be a tough pill to swallow after such a promising campaign.
The Mets really don’t have many other options for the time being considering just how difficult it would be to move the sizable contracts of Cano and Cespedes this winter.