Mets Notes: Senga, DH, McNeil, Extensions

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One of the bigger moves of the Mets’ active offseason was the signing of starter Kodai Senga to a five-year, $75MM guarantee. The 30-year-old righty is making the jump from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, where he posted a 2.59 ERA across 11 seasons. Senga was one of the highest-upside hurlers available in free agency, though there’s naturally some amount of performance risk until he translates his production against MLB competition.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports the Mets also expressed some concern about Senga’s medical evaluations before finalizing the contract in December. Further details aren’t clear, though Heyman notes Mets personnel have expressed confidence in Senga’s health prognosis for the upcoming season. That’s hardly surprising, as whatever concerns the organization had raised didn’t deter them from agreeing to the fourth-largest deal for a free agent pitcher this offseason. That contract also affords Senga an opportunity to opt out and retest the market after the 2025 season, though the Associated Press reports that’s contingent on the righty throwing a combined 400 innings over the next three years.

In other news out of Queens:

  • The Mets never pursued a full-time designated hitter upgrade this offseason partially out of a desire to preserve a path to at-bats for their younger hitters, writes Andy Martino of SNY. Top prospects Francicso Álvarez and Brett Baty each reached the majors late in the 2022 season. Each is a polished hitter but faces questions about their defense at catcher and third base, respectively. That’s also true of corner infielder Mark Vientos, who’s not quite the same caliber of prospect as Álvarez or Baty but earned an MLB look with a .280/.358/.519 showing at Triple-A Syracuse. Martino suggests the Mets aren’t likely to give them early-season looks at DH in hopes of each continuing to show progress defensively, though there could be a path to bat-only reps later in the year — or for veteran Eduardo Escobar to slide to DH if Baty seized the third base job at some point. Lefty-swinging veteran Daniel Vogelbach earned the larger share of a DH platoon to open the year with an excellent .261/.382/.497 showing against righties anyhow. Offseason signee Tommy Pham or last summer’s deadline pickup Darin Ruf are righty bats who could shoulder the load against southpaws. Ruf’s second-half struggles give Pham the upper hand in that regard, but Martino writes the Mets are at least likely to carry Ruf on the roster into Spring Training.
  • New York locked up one of their homegrown stars last Friday, signing Jeff McNeil to a four-year, $50MM extension to potentially buy out a trio of free agent years. General manager Billy Eppler addressed the deal earlier this week, expressing broad openness to negotiations with other important players who are early in their careers (link via Anthony DiComo of First baseman Pete Alonso is the most logical candidate for those kinds of talks as he enters his penultimate season of arbitration control, though neither Eppler nor Alonso’s representatives at Apex Baseball have indicated publicly whether discussions might take place over the coming weeks. Discussions with McNeil, at least, were a long time running before culminating in a deal. Will Sammon of the Athletic reports Eppler and McNeil’s camp at Paragon Sports International first opened extension talks in November 2021, just before the lockout froze communications between teams and 40-man roster players until March.

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