How DH Hurts Mets
Since Brodie Van Wagenen began assembling his team, the overture was this was a team well built for the DH. In 2020, because of a pandemic, the Mets actually did get that DH. After all that hypothesizing about how much it would help the Mets, the end result was a last place finish.
There are many reasons why, and assuredly many would point to the pitching. However, it went much deeper than that. One of the big issues was team defense.
Again, the Mets team defense was atrocious with a -22 DRS. That was good for fifth worst in the majors. Over the past three seasons, the Mets -171 DRS is the worst in the National League and second worst in all of the majors.
This is in large part to an organizational philosophy which pre-dated Van Wagenen. The thought was to acquire as many bats as possible and to find a position for them. The Mets have been all too happy to get players and just stick them somewhere on the diamond.
This has led to J.D. Davis at third and left. Dominic Smith in left field. Brandon Nimmo in center. Michael Conforto playing all three outfield positions. Jeff McNeil playing four different positions. This goes on and on, and in some ways you can trace this tomfoolery all the way back to Lucas Duda playing the outfield.
Perhaps part of this has been the result of Jeff Wilpon running the baseball operations. That said, there has been a prevailing thought process with the Mets to not make the difficult decisions and to hold onto all of their good players. They have found it more prudent to play players out of position resulting in horrible defense, and as a result, the team failing to live up to their sometimes lofty expectations.
Now, taking a look at the Mets current roster, you can say Smith at first base and Pete Alonso at DH is an embarrassment of riches. In Alonso and Smith, the Mets have two cornerstone cost controlled players. As an organization, this is quite an enviable position. When you have those two spots with such high caliber and ceiling players, you don’t want to move on from them. That goes double when you can play them each everyday at first base and DH.
However, that is part of the problem.
While the Mets are set at first and DH, they are a disaster at other important positions. They don’t have a starting catcher, and really, their depth at the position is a question mark. They have no one really capable of playing third base on an everyday basis. They lack anyone in the organization truly capable of playing center everyday. The Mets desperately need at least 2/5 of a starting rotation filled, and they also need to build a bullpen.
Beyond that, the Mets have zero depth at Triple-A, and their Double-A depth is questionable. Put another way, the Mets are a mess, and even with Steve Cohen’s deep pockets, not every one of these areas can be addressed in free agency. It just can’t.
No, the Mets need to be put in a difficult position to have to make hard decisions. Frankly, the trade market sets up extraordinarily well for that right now. At the moment, we know Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, and Blake Snell on the trade bloc. There are very likely other high profile players there for the taking as well.
Given how Van Wagenen ravaged the Mets farm system, there really isn’t the prospect capital to make those trades. Sure, you can trade a Brett Baty or a Mark Vientos, but if you do that, you take the paper thin depth you have and tear through it leaving you with next to no hope for the future. No, if the Mets are going to take that next step, they are going to have to take the surplus they have at positions like first, and they are going to have to make hard choices and make shrewd trades for top end talent at areas they have significant deficiencies.
If there is no DH, the Mets would almost be forced to move at least one of Alonso or Smith to get that top end player. However, with the DH, the impetus is not there. In fact, you could argue it irresponsible to not go into next season with both Alonso and Smith if there was a DH. As noted, therein lies the problem.
The Mets aren’t really in a position to trade top end talent for top end talent in a world where there is a DH. But, if they want real baseball in the National League in 2021, the Mets would be in prime position to do it, and teams would likely line up to grab one of Alonso or Smith thereby driving up the return the Mets could receive.
So yes, given the roster construct, you could argue the Mets are better with the DH. However, in terms of building the roster, the DH stagnates growth and creativity. The impetus to make a trade is gone, and with that, you likely lose out on the ability to make the Mets the best possible team they could be in 2021.
And besides all of that, the DH is bad for the Mets because it is bad for baseball. The short-sighted hope for 2021 needs to be counter-balanced against the next 10-100 years. When you look at it that way, pushing for a completely ineffective gimmick is just plain bad for baseball, and as a result, bad for the Mets.