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Whenever the MLB lockout ends and teams are again allowed to make free agent signings and trades that add players to the big league roster, the Mets will get back to the business of building their team for the 2022 season.
That should include adding at least one more reliable starting pitcher to a group that is loaded at the top but has question marks all over the place.
It should also include bolstering a bullpen that is pretty strong but can definitely use at least one more arm -- perhaps a left-hander -- who can be relied on in the late innings.
And when thinking about the kind of pitchers the Mets might add for 2022, the possibility that some of those signings and/or trades could block prized prospects isn't really there.
J.T. Ginn, the Mets' top-ranked pitching prospect, might make his big league debut at some point during the 2023 season, but could possibly simply fill an open spot if he arrives by then. Matt Allan, who would almost certainly be ranked ahead of Ginn had he not needed Tommy John surgery last season, likely won't be ready for the majors until 2024 or perhaps 2025.
As far as the rest of the Mets' pitching prospects go, some of them are depth options who are close to the majors (such as Jose Butto), while others have high ceilings but are far away (like Calvin Ziegler and Robert Dominguez).
But when it comes to the Mets' prized position player prospects and their proximity to the majors, that's something the front office will likely be taking into account as they continue to assemble the major league roster while potentially finding solutions at DH (if the NL adds it) and on the infield.
To be clear, the Mets -- who are in win-now mode -- should not be basing their big league roster-building decisions on the potential of prospects who could debut in the bigs soon but may or may not reach their ceiling. But the presence of those prospects should be a factor.
Below, we'll discuss each of those prospects, analyze how their arrival could impact the Mets, and what those arrivals could mean for how they build their roster for the remainder of this offseason.
Mark Vientos (MLB ETA 2022)
The 22-year-old Vientos is the closest to the majors of all of the Mets' impact prospects.
Coming off a season where he torched Double-A and Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .281/.352/.581 slash line with 25 homers in 83 games, Vientos will likely open the 2022 season back in Triple-A -- just a call away from the majors.
And when it comes to Vientos, who is a natural third baseman and started getting some time in left field and first base last season, his best fit on the Mets could be at DH -- if the NL adds it before this season as expected.
Instead, the Mets should look to fill the DH spot internally (Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis, and Robinson Cano could be options) or sign someone who can mash but who can likely be had on a one-year deal (like Nelson Cruz).
Brett Baty (MLB ETA 2023)
Like Vientos, Baty is a natural third baseman who got some exposure in left field last season. But unlike Vientos, who might profile more as a DH than a third baseman or left fielder, Baty should be able to stick at third defensively.
Currently, the Mets have shortstop filled for the next decade with Francisco Lindor and have Pete Alonso at first base. The signing of Eduardo Escobar to a two-year deal (he prefers to play third base but can also play second), means that the Mets can add one more infielder to play either third or second or go with an internal option such as Jeff McNeil.
And there's an easy case to be made that the Mets should simply give McNeil the second base job, let him do his thing, and reassess the fit after the season.
In the event the Mets sign Bryant, his versatility means they wouldn't necessarily be blocking Baty. But they would likely have to do some roster or lineup shuffling if Baty is ready in 2023.
Francisco Alvarez (MLB ETA 2023)
This one is pretty simple.
With Alvarez, the Mets have a prospect who is expected to be elite offensively while being able to stick behind the plate.
The expectation is that the 20-year-old Alvarez will spend most of the 2022 season with Double-A Binghamton.
Whether Alvarez's big league arrival is earlier in 2023 or later will of course be dependent on how he adjusts to Double-A pitching and perhaps Triple-A pitching (it's not unheard of for top prospects to skip Triple-A, as Michael Conforto once did).
Either way, despite the presence of James McCann -- who is entering the second year of a four-year deal -- Alvarez is the Mets' future behind the plate.
So they can sit back, let him develop, not worry about trading for or signing another starting catcher, and hope McCann rebounds.
In a world where McCann hits well in 2022, perhaps the Mets look to deal him. If not, he can be Alvarez's backup whenever he arrives.
Ronny Mauricio (MLB ETA 2023)
This is to take nothing away from Mauricio, but unlike Vientos (who's a more advanced hitter and is much closer to the majors), Baty (who appears to be the Mets' third baseman of the future), and Alvarez (who is definitely the Mets' catcher of the future), it's not clear exactly where Mauricio will fit with the Mets at the big league level.
A natural shortstop who is blocked by Lindor, he could play third (but Baty will likely be there), meaning Mauricio (who has only ever played shortstop professionally) could slide over to second base.
Having a potential impact bat like Mauricio at second base would obviously not be an issue for the Mets.
But his potential presence on the roster in 2023 should not be on their mind as much as the possible arrivals of Vientos, Baty, and Alvarez.
The Mets are understandably reluctant to deal from the top end of a farm system they're still rebuilding. But if they have the opportunity to obtain an impact pitcher while using Mauricio as the centerpiece, they should explore it.