The curveball that COVID-19 has thrown at Major League Baseball this season may lead to some league changes, which could benefit the New York Mets greatly.
Thanks to the coronavirus, Major League Baseball could make alternate arrangements to the start of the 2020 season. Many ideas have been floated, including games with no fans, played at Spring Training parks. This would mean a realignment in the schedule with teams playing at Grapefruit and Cactus League parks. The New York Mets and Yankees might even wind up in the same grouping.
Considering the mix of American and National League teams, this could mean a league-wide designated hitter. Despite the more challenging schedule, the New York Mets would welcome that idea.
With the loss of Zack Wheeler to Philadelphia, as a free agent and Noah Syndergaard to injury, playing against teams with a DH sounds like a challenging task. The thing is, for the first time in a long time, the New York Mets strength is in their bats and not in their starting rotation. Last year, their offense ranked as high as fifth in home runs and second in the National League in OPS+. These numbers included just 107 games played by Robinson Cano and none from Yoenis Cespedes.
The emergence of Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and JD Davis helped springboard a Mets offense heavily relied on Cespedes in the past. Micheal Conforto added his first 30 plus home run season, and Amed Rosario took a significant step in his development. So with a healthy Cespedes this season (on a contract year mind you) someone’s playing time was going to suffer.
In the outfield, the Mets have Michael Conforto cemented as an everyday starter in one of the corner spots. Brandon Nimmo most likely would work a platoon with newly acquired Jake Marisnick in center field. This leaves one spot open between Cespedes and Davis in the other corner outfield spot.
Davis proved with his breakout performance last year that he deserves to be an everyday player. He would get his shot if a universal DH is implemented by MLB this year.
In baseball, having too much of a good thing is typically always a good thing. On the other hand, it can get stressful for rookie manager Luis Rojas. If the DH happens this season, it could be an excellent way for the rookie manager to transition into his new role.
Not having to worry about double-switches and pinch-hitting for a pitcher late in a game would be welcomed. Also, not having to worry about starting the right middle-of-the-lineup outfielder day after day makes life even easier.
For Rojas, possibly the hardest part of this year’s job is managing the playing time of Yoenis Cespedes to ensure his health. The universal DH throws that stress right out the window for the New York Mets skipper. Pencil Cespedes’ name in the DH spot for 162 games (or X amount from the shortened season) and never look back.
JD Davis can get everyday playing time in the outfield or at third base when Cano needs a day of rest. The beauty is that between Marisnick, McNeil, or Dominic Smith, Cespedes wouldn’t even need to own a glove for the 2020 season.
A potential everyday New York Mets lineup would look something like this:
CF Brandon Nimmo
3B Jeff McNeil
1B Pete Alonso
RF Micheal Conforto
DH Yoenis Cespedes
LF JD Davis
C Wilson Ramos
2B Robinson Cano
SS Amed Rosario
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This everyday lineup, in addition to Jed Lowrie, Smith, and Marisnick available off the bench, is encouraging. The pitching staff will get tested this year. There is no doubt about that. Being one of the few National League teams that have American League-like length in the lineup will help the pitching staff from deGrom to Diaz.
Talks were ongoing about adopting a universal DH across baseball before the coronavirus pandemic. It appears to be a forgone conclusion when the current CBA is up after the 2021 season that the concept gets included.
With a potentially realigned schedule, it only makes sense to test it out now. If the universal DH becomes a reality, the New York Mets will welcome the change with arms wide open.