The New York Mets, in the regular season, lived up to expectations. They took the MLB by storm, racing out to a 10-and-a-half-game lead in the NL East on June 1. However, they stumbled as the season ended, and lost the division to the Atlanta Braves.
The Mets settled for a wild card spot, despite winning 101 games. They drew the San Diego Padres for their Wild Card Series matchup. However, New York’s season ended in a 6-0 loss in the deciding Game 3 of the series.
The Braves and fellow division rivals Philadelphia Phillies met in the NLDS. Philadelphia came out on top as they made an inspiring run all the way to the 2022 World Series.
Now, MLB free agency is here. The Mets could lose some big pieces in Brandon Nimmo and Jacob deGrom. It would not be surprising to see them shopping at the top of the market.
What about those players a bit further down the market, though? There are quality players to be had that won’t cost a pretty penny. Who should the Mets target in that corner of free agency?
Here are three rather sneaky targets for Mets fans to keep an eye out for this winter.
3 sneaky MLB free agents the Mets must target
3) Reliever Michael Fulmer
Michael Fulmer burst onto the MLB scene with the Detroit Tigers in 2016 with a ton of potential. After winning Rookie of the Year that year, many believed he could be a future ace.
However, it just didn’t happen. He had an All-Star season in 2017 before falling off in 2018. The 29-year-old pitched poorly in the shortened 2020 season.
After AJ Hinch took over for the retired Ron Gardenhire, Fulmer began to transition to the bullpen. The move has worked wonders, as he has become a reliable arm in late-inning situations.
The Tigers traded Fulmer to the Minnesota Twins at the 2022 MLB trade deadline. However, the Mets were one of the teams interested in his services.
Mets fans may not be totally unfamiliar with Fulmer, either. The Tigers originally acquired him from the Mets at the 2015 trade deadline as part of the package for Yoenis Cespedes.
The 29-year-old pitched to a 3.39 ERA in 2022 but walked a career-high four batters per nine innings. Despite that, he had 8.6 strikeouts per nine and allowed just four home runs all year. Fulmer would be a quality addition to the Mets’ bullpen.
2) Starter Jameson Taillon
The Mets have a bonafide ace in Max Scherzer to lead the team in the event deGrom moves elsewhere. Beyond that, there are some question marks, as Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker are both free agents as well.
If all three leave to move to different teams, then New York needs to add starting pitching. Taillon could likely only be one of multiple starting pitchers signed.
The 31-year-old hurler is not the top-of-the-rotation pitcher he had the potential to be. However, he is an incredibly reliable arm, and his 2022 season proved it.
Taillon made more than 30 starts in a season for the first time since 2018. Furthermore, he made 29 starts in 2021 for the New York Yankees. Encouraging signs for a pitcher who missed nearly two years of baseball because of Tommy John surgery.
In 2022, Taillon pitched to a 3.91 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 177.1 innings pitched. One issue the 31-year-old does need to work on is his issues with the long ball. He gave up 26 home runs in 2022, and 24 the year before that.
Despite that, Taillon is familiar with New York and is a very solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Even if deGrom returns, adding the 31-year-old would strengthen the Mets’ rotation.
1) Outfielder Cody Bellinger
It’s a bit weird writing about a former NL MVP, NLCS MVP, and World Series champion as an “under the radar” option so soon after he accomplished those things. And yet, here we are.
Bellinger won the NL MVP in 2019 after hitting 47 home runs and driving in 115 runs. In the following years, he hit 41 home runs and 134 RBI combined.
Still, the 27-year-old is an intriguing option after being non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. He plays a quality center field despite dealing with various injuries.
It’s tough to gauge what Bellinger can get on the open market. The Dodgers, rich beyond most team’s dreams, felt the $18 million he would have received in arbitration was too much.
However, there may be a team out there willing to pay a high salary on a short-term contract to see if the bat wakes up. The Mets have the financial ability to afford such a risk.
Furthermore, they have an opening on the roster to allow Bellinger the playing time. Nimmo is a free agent, freeing up center field for 2023 and beyond if he leaves.
It’s a risk, but the reward is extremely high. Bellinger returning to form gives the Mets one of the best hitters in baseball at a bargain price. A flier would make a lot of sense here.