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Mets in for ‘fire drill’ winter with number of free agents

The Mets will have an interesting winter, with Brandon Nimmo, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Edwin Diaz, Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo all free agents or potential free agents (deGrom and Walker have opt-outs, Carrasco has an innings trigger). As one Mets higher-up said, “It should be a fire drill.”

DeGrom seems dead set on opting out, and though he’s upset by his contract, the Mets also might not be as anxious to pay huge bucks after he missed a calendar year. Assuming he makes at least a few starts and finishes fairly healthy, though, there’s no reason to think there won’t be a strong outside market for him. If deGrom goes, $30.5 million will be freed up, but with so many free agents, it’s times like these Mets fans should be thankful for owner Steve Cohen.

Walker will exercise his own opt-out, and no surprise, the Mets are interested in bringing back the vastly improved starter. Bassitt is a straight free agent who should interest them, as well, though they haven’t tipped their hand yet. Diaz has been as good as any closer in the game, including Josh Hader. Nimmo has the second highest WAR among NL outfielders; they’d like him back, too.

Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom looks on from the dugout during the eighth inning at Citi Field at on June 14, 2022.
Jacob deGrom hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since July 7, 2021.
Jason Szenes/New York Post

The free-agent pitching market will be much stronger than the trade market, with Carlos Rodon (who will opt out assuming continued health), Sean Manaea and Jameson Taillon all also free agents. Justin Verlander will earn a $25 million player option if he reaches 130 innings, almost a foregone conclusion, and one market expert predicts he, too, will opt out. With Max Scherzer on the books at $43.3 million, Verlander could try to get that much. Just a guess, but it isn’t hard to imagine Cohen making a play for Verlander.

Xander Bogaerts surely will opt out, and Carlos Correa seems likely to opt out as well.

Mets president Sandy Alderson made clear on “The Show” a designated hitter and bullpen help are the top trade-deadline priorities. Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz, Trey Mancini and perhaps Willson Contreras could all fit that need, as could David Peralta and Mitch Haniger (the Mariners aren’t likely to be sellers, but they may move him). Though Cruz is beloved, he seems lower on the Mets’ list based on 2022 performance. Alderson suggested the Mets aren’t anxious to give up any of their top five prospects — naming Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty and Matt Allan.

The Mets are investigating Contreras, a top hitting catcher, though he may be seen more as a DH for them.

The Mets also have Andrew Benintendi on their radar, as his non-vaccination status isn’t as impactful since Toronto is in the AL.

The Padres and Brewers are also prioritizing a hitter, though as Alderson pointed out on “The Show,” it’s a better buyer’s market for hitting than pitching.

Keith Hernandez should be in the Hall of Fame. So should Don Mattingly.

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