Who should the Mets' DH be in 2023? Breaking down the external and internal options

J.D. Martinez Jose Abreu Francisco Alvarez Mets treated art October 2022
J.D. Martinez Jose Abreu Francisco Alvarez Mets treated art October 2022

For most of the 2022 season, one of the Mets' glaring issues was the DH spot, which was wild when you consider that they seemed to have an embarrassment of riches for that role going into the year.

Forgetting Robinson Cano, who was quickly DFA'd, the Mets had the righty-swinging J.D. Davis and lefty-swinging Dominic Smith (who are both defensively challenged) as seemingly strong fits to DH. But that didn't work out.

Davis, who hit .285/.384/.436 for the Mets in 2021, slashed just .238/.324/.359 in 66 games for New York in 2022 before being traded to the San Francisco Giants, where he caught fire and finished the season hitting .263/.361/.496 with eight homers in 49 games.

And Smith, who hit .299/.366/.571 for the Mets in 139 games spanning 2019 and 2020 but had a down 2021, sagged even worse in 2022, hitting .194/.276/.284 in 58 games before eventually being demoted to Triple-A Syracuse.

The struggles of Davis and Smith left the Mets scrambling, and they eventually swung a trade for lefty-swinging Daniel Vogelbach, who did a solid job as the long end of a platoon while getting most of the starts at DH against right-handers.

Shortly after trading for Vogelbach, the Mets dealt for righty Darin Ruf, but Ruf struggled badly in his role as the primary DH against left-handers, leading the Mets to try some options from the minors.

Daniel Vogelbach
Daniel Vogelbach

The Mets gave Mark Vientos a chance, but he struggled in what was very limited exposure over 41 plate appearances.

New York also called up top prospect Francisco Alvarez with six games left in the season -- and carried him on the postseason roster. Alvarez got just 14 plate appearances during the regular season, though he hit a mammoth home run and ripped a double off the wall for his two hits.

Now, the Mets have a choice to make on Vogelbach when it comes to the relatively inexpensive team option they hold on him for 2023. It should be an easy call to pick up that option, but it also seems like an easy call to do so with the plan being for Vogelbach to be a bench bat -- not the regular DH against righties.

And if the DH is primarily a bench bat, where could the Mets turn to fill the spot next season?

THE INTERNAL CANDIDATES

One Mets prospect not discussed above was Brett Baty, who showed some flashes after his big league call-up in 2022 before a thumb injury ended his season prematurely.

And while Baty, who has absolutely crushed right-handers during the last two years in the minors, would be an ideal fit as the lefty end of a DH platoon, he is viewed as the Mets' likely third baseman of the future. And if Baty is going to be the third baseman of the future, it would be odd to not keep getting him plenty of reps there, where he can continue to hone his defense.

So let's scratch Baty off the list as a DH option.

Francisco Alvarez
Francisco Alvarez

With Baty off the list, the internal candidates (if Vogelbach is mostly a bench bat) would likely be Vientos and Alvarez.

Much like Baty, Vientos has tormented left-handed pitching in the minors. He crushed them in 2022, slashing .330/.408/.732 with 13 home runs in 112 at-bats. And Vientos, who can play third base and has gotten some exposure in the corner outfield, will very likely be a DH-only player at the next level. So the Mets wouldn't be stunting his defensive development by turning to him at DH.

But it's fair to wonder if the Mets are ready to trust Vientos with a large role in 2023. And if they're not, the only real internal option for DH might be Alvarez.

Alvarez might be the Mets' Opening Day catcher in 2023. And if he's not, it's fair to believe that he'll be up soon after and be entrusted with the job.

However, the Mets will likely want to give Alvarez plenty of days where he's not dealing with the rigors of being behind the plate, so penciling him in for some DH at-bats seems wise.

Still, even though Alvarez might be on the cusp of a big league breakthrough and potential stardom, the Mets putting all their eggs in that basket would not be prudent.

J.D. Martinez
J.D. Martinez

THE EXTERNAL CANDIDATES

There are plenty of DH options about to hit free agency, including Trey Mancini, but the ones who make the most sense for a Mets team in need of more power are Jose Abreu and J.D. Martinez.

The Mets should be in search of a DH who can hold his own against both lefties and righties, and Abreu and Martinez fit the bill.

Abreu, who is entering his age-36 season, is a career .292/.354/.506 hitter who slashed .304/.378/.446 in 2022. Abreu's power was down a bit this past season, since he hit just 15 homers, but that was offset by the 40 doubles he smacked.

A look at Abreu's advanced numbers from 2022 also tell a very nice story, with him among the best in baseball when it came to average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard hit percentage, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, and strikeout rate. He was also above average in barrel percentage, walk rate, and whiff percentage.

Martinez, who is entering his age-35 season, hit .274/.341/.448 with 16 homers and 43 doubles in 2022 after slashing .286/.349/.518 with 28 homers and a league-leading 42 doubles in 2021.

One concern regarding Martinez revolves around the back issues that have hampered him at times, perhaps making Abreu the Mets' best bet at DH in 2023 if they don't go internal.