Manager Buck Showalter and hitting coach Eric Chavez believe universal DH fits Mets lineup better
PORT ST. LUCIE — The solution to the moving parts and unknown roles in the Mets lineup has a name: universal DH.
Manager Buck Showalter and new hitting coach Eric Chavez both believe the universal designated hitter , which is expected to be included in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, is an advantage for the Mets lineup .
“The way [the lineup] looks like it will be, I think [the DH] will fit us better,” Showalter said this past weekend. “I was pulling for it for a lot of reasons. I think fans, just the game itself. But for us selfishly, I think it fits better. I could tell you who, but I would get in trouble again.”
Showalter is not permitted to talk about players on the 40-man roster while the owners’ lockout is still in place.
“I love it, personally,” Chavez said of the universal DH. “I always hated seeing pitchers get hurt. It’s a part of the game, I get the history part of it, but I think it’s better for the overall game. And definitely as of now, the way [the lineup] is set up, I think it’s definitely going to favor us this year.”
The way the Mets lineup is currently constructed, hitters J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith and Robinson Cano pose as the best DH candidates. Smith has already proven he can be productive hitting off the bench. Davis would likely thrive in a part-time DH role, seeing as how he has yet to find success as a third baseman for the Mets. And Cano, in his age-39 season, is set to return from a yearlong suspension following his second-career positive test for a performance enhancing drug. Currently, Cano’s efficiency, stamina and health throughout a full season are all largely unknown.
Since Cano will likely have a short amount of time to convince the Mets he still belongs in their lineup, and Davis and Smith are both trade candidates, it would be prudent of GM Billy Eppler to acquire another big bat. The Mets offense must turn around it’s misfortunes from last year — they finished 27th in the majors in runs per game — and the universal DH could very well be the answer.
Despite Steve Cohen’s $254 million spending spree in November, the Mets still haven’t closed the door on potential outfield additions.
“That’s something we’ve talked about. We are on the same page with everything where that is concerned,” Showalter said, referring to Eppler. “It’s an area that we are examining to see if we feel comfortable with it. We’re always going to look within first.”
Eppler and the Mets brass acquired center fielder Starling Marte and outfielder Mark Canha just before the lockout. Marte is expected to take over center field duties for Nimmo, while Nimmo shifts to left field and Canha plays right. That scenario only works if Michael Conforto signs elsewhere in free agency . If Conforto, and his agent Scott Boras , receive the dollar amount they’re looking for from the Mets and he stays in Queens, Canha will likely shift to a utility role while Conforto resumes his right field position.
Given the bulk of injuries the Mets dealt with last year, and the number of outfielders the team shuffled through to make up for lasting injuries to Nimmo, Conforto and Jeff McNeil, Eppler and company would probably sleep better knowing there’s extra depth at outfield. Beyond Khalil Lee, who debuted last season, there aren’t many solid internal options for the Mets. Perhaps another big outfield splash — in the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos or even Kris Bryant — is looming for Cohen’s Mets.
FORMER METS TO VISIT CAMP
Showalter is excited for former Mets players to act as guest instructors during spring training, whenever the lockout is over and major leaguers enter camp. David Wright will serve as a guest instructor, as will Mike Piazza and other familiar faces. Now we just need spring training to start.
“It’s great for the fans and the players will respond to that, embracing some of the history,” Showalter said.
FIRST FEMALE COACH
Among the hubbub of the first few days of Mets minor league camp at Clover Park was another exciting “first” for the organization. On Saturday, Gretchen Aucoin introduced herself to players and staff as the first ever woman coach in Mets franchise history, breaking a barrier across both the major and minor league system. Aucoin, who was hired by the Mets last month, will serve as a player development coach for the minor-league side before exclusively working with the St. Lucie Mets, the club’s Low A affiliate, once their season begins.