The resumption of spring training 2.0 on Tuesday will bring an increased focus on roster construction for Mets officials.
With only 10 workout days remaining until Opening Day, following Monday’s mid-camp break at Citi Field, the biggest personnel question might be whether the team can count on Robinson Cano and Brad Brach as part of the 30-man roster that will begin the season on July 24 against the Braves.
Cano has been absent for the last week, after initially reporting to camp and working out over the first weekend. Brach has missed the entirety of camp. The Mets have provided no further information on either player.
The first concern is for the health of Cano and Brach amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unknown if either player is affected by the virus, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen indicated before the start of workouts that a member of the 40-man roster had tested positive.
If the Mets are without both players, it will leave team brass with decisions on how to fill a lineup spot and another in the bullpen.
The most obvious solution in the infield might be moving Jeff McNeil to second base — probably his best position — and installing J.D. Davis as the primary third baseman. Such an arrangement would open playing time in left field for Dominic Smith, operating under the premise that Yoenis Cespedes will take most of his at-bats as the DH this season.
But there is another route, dependent on how comfortable manager Luis Rojas is with Jed Lowrie’s progress and if the team intends to keep Eduardo Nunez, who arrived to the Mets last winter on a minor league contract. Some combination of Lowrie and Nunez could conceivably play second or third base, with McNeil at the other position.
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Even if the 37-year-old Cano returns to begin the season, there is the question of how many days per week he would play second base and if he would potentially see action at DH, moving Cespedes to left field on occasion. Cespedes, who hasn’t played in two years after undergoing surgery on both heels and sustaining ankle fractures during an encounter with a wild boar on his ranch, indicated last weekend that he would be comfortable playing left field if needed.
Brach, who returned to the Mets last offseason on a one-year contract for $850,000, provides a veteran arm that would figure into the bullpen’s setup-role mix if he’s healthy. Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia are the front-liners in that bullpen, but Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman are other veteran pieces, with Brach.
If Brach isn’t ready, it could benefit Daniel Zamora, Tyler Bashlor or Paul Sewald, all of whom appear on the bubble, even with rosters set to begin at 30. Walker Lockett could already be a lock to begin the season in the bullpen given that he is out of minor league options.
Beyond Nunez, the Mets have three other veteran position players in camp competing for jobs. The question is whether the Mets have room for Melky Cabrera, Matt Adams and Gordon Beckham, even with the expanded roster.
The Mets opened their alternate summer camp site at MCU Park in Brooklyn on Monday and added seven players to their 60-man pool. Matt Blackham, Stephen Gonsalves, Jake Hager, Jordan Humphreys, Franklyn Kilome, David Rodriguez and Thomas Szapucki were added, bringing the Mets’ pool to 58 players.