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With two weeks to go until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, there has been no agreement between the league and players on the implementation of the universal DH for the 2021 season.
On Monday, the MLBPA rejected the league's proposal for a 154-game season that would start roughly one month late due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That proposal included the universal DH and expanded playoffs, which will not be part of the 2021 season unless the two sides reach an agreement between now and Opening Day.
With the Mets set to report to spring training on Feb. 17 and the regular season scheduled to begin on April 1, the universal DH is not currently in the cards. And if the Mets do not have the DH at their disposal this season, it will present a number of problems, including...
A Pete Alonso/Dom Smith conundrum
The plan for Pete Alonso and Dom Smith if there is a DH is pretty clear. One player would be at first base with the other at DH.
It would probably make the most sense for Smith to be at first base with Alonso serving as DH, though the Mets operated the other way around most of the time in 2020.
If there is no DH, a serious problem emerges -- and it's one that would reverberate all over the diamond.
The Mets cannot sit either Alonso or Smith, which means Alonso (who can only play first base) would be at first, while Smith (who can only play first base or left field) would be in left.
The above would mean the Mets using a well below average defender in left, which is less than ideal. And if Smith is in left...
What happens in center field?
The Mets clearly need to add a starting center fielder who can handle the position defensively, and they have been in talks with Jackie Bradley Jr.
If there is a DH, things are simple. Bradley (or whomever the Mets add) would play center, allowing Brandon Nimmo to slide to left field. Michael Conforto would of course be in right field.
If there is no DH, Smith would be in left, leading to a scenario -- if the Mets sign Bradley or another starting-caliber center fielder -- where they have four starting outfielders for three spots.
The Mets cannot justify using a player like Bradley off the bench, especially when Nimmo's defense in center field is not passable.
At the same time, Nimmo is one of the Mets' best offensive players and their ideal leadoff candidate.
What about 2022 and beyond?
While most of the focus is understandably on this season, the Mets would be in a serious bind if the universal DH isn't implemented in 2022 and beyond.
As difficult as it would be to navigate the 2021 season without the DH, the Mets would be in even worse shape heading into 2022.
With Nimmo set for free agency after the 2022 season, would the Mets look to trade him to open a spot in the outfield for Smith?
And would the Mets simply have to choose at that point between going forward with Smith or Alonso at first base and being open to trading the other?
It should also be noted that Robinson Cano will be coming off his one-year suspension in 2022, but the Mets should be treating him as a sunk cost and not factoring him into their on-field plans in any way.
As was the case in 2020, when the MLBPA and the league agreed to the expanded playoffs on the eve of the season, a compromise could still be reached that allows for the universal DH in 2021.
If the above happens, the Mets will be in great shape.
If it doesn't, they will have some incredibly tough decisions to make.