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Solution to Mets outfield puzzle being held hostage by DH fight: Sherman – New York Post

The Mets have steadily addressed their checklist this offseason even while paralysis has overtaken most other clubs.

They wanted to fortify the rotation, bullpen and catching while improving depth and defense. They have chipped away with Marcus Stroman accepting the qualifying offer and by obtaining Carlos Carrasco, Trevor May and James McCann.

And they wanted a centerpiece superstar that elevated the roster and verified to the fanbase that a new day was upon the franchise with Steve Cohen as owner. Ladies and gentlemen, Francisco Lindor.

They are not done. They still need, at minimum, further depth. But here is the most important transaction the Mets need next:

MLB/Players Association — Announced the designated hitter for the National League in 2021.

That decision would allow the Mets — more than any other NL team — to maximize their current roster and more efficiently make further improvements.

On the field, the next area for the Mets to tackle is center field. Except how do they address center without knowing if there is a DH? Because add a George Springer or Jackie Bradley Jr. and consider the domino effect:

Brandon Nimmo shifts from center to left, Dom Smith goes from left to first and Pete Alonso goes … Where? To the bench? Back to the minors?  Onto the trade market? To first and and Smith sits?

The best Mets roster has Nimmo going from a below-average defensive center fielder to at least average in left with Smith’s fine first base glove moving Alonso to full-time DH. Putting Springer in center within that alignment gives the Mets one of the majors’ best overall starting positional groups. Think of this lineup: Lindor, Jeff McNeil, Springer, Michael Conforto, Alonso, Smith, J.D. Davis, Nimmo, McCann. It can be arranged in other ways, but the Mets go from overly left-handed to a regular lineup that goes switch hitter at the top, then left/right the rest of the way.

Lorenzo Cain; George Springer; Jackie Bradley Jr.
Lorenzo Cain; George Springer; Jackie Bradley Jr.
Getty Images

In a market in which the teams and top players have not seen eye-to-eye on value amid a pandemic, the Mets have still not engaged seriously with Springer. That could change. Or they could emphasize defense and fine — but not great — offense by signing Bradley Jr. Or what if they believed that Lorenzo Cain — even after opting out of most of last season — remains the righty Bradley Jr.: elite defensively and fine offensively? How desperate are the Brewers to remove the final two years at $35 million on his pact?

Cain, 36 in April, is due $17 million this year and $18 million in 2022. You know who else is owed $17 million in 2021? Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances combined. To escape the $18 million in 2022 would Milwaukee take Familia and Betances? Just Familia ($11 million) or just Betances ($6 million) plus a middling prospect?

There are different ways to go — a trade for the Cardinals’ Harrison Bader or the White Sox’s Adam Engel? But first and best of the Mets would be: MLB/Players Association — Announced the designated hitter for the National League in 2021.

Except forget this happening soon. The expectation is that the sides will eventually agree to the universal DH. But the distrust and dislike between MLB and the union is such that they might not concur that Friday follows Thursday. Plus, history has shown that nothing substantial gets agreed to by these parties without a deadline nearing — or even exceeded.

But where are the levelheaded statesmen to rise above the animus? I can understand hating the DH and wanting to keep the pitcher hitting in at least one league. However: 1) it is inevitable that the DH will be formalized in both leagues, most likely no later than with a new collective bargaining agreement in place for 2022. 2) If there ever was a time for a universal DH, the 2021 season is it.

The most important immediate health issue is protecting personnel from COVID-19. But second is protecting pitchers. I understand the union’s mantra of wanting to play and be paid for a full 162 games in 2021. But I am not sure that if I ran the union that I would want 162 games and that goes beyond that a later start would potentially allow more vaccinations and a safer workplace. Pitchers are going to be asked to jump from workloads based on a 60-game regular season and no minor league season back to a full 162. How many injuries is this going to evoke? How many pitchers will each team need to survive 162 games even if some are shortened with seven-inning doubleheaders?

This plays as a pro-owner position because MLB wants a shorter season for financial reasons. So to avoid that, let’s just assume 162 and the need to protect pitchers as much as possible within that: add the DH. Pitchers hardly hit any more any way. None hit last year when the universal DH was used. You know what May 9, 2018 is? The only time Carrasco has taken at-bats in a game since July 2017. In a year, when their arms are going to be tested beyond normal, pitchers should have the rigors of unfamiliar at-bats removed.

The problem: MLB sees the DH as an item that the union wants because it has in the past been a well-paying job and, therefore, the union has to horse trade for MLB to install a universal DH. The union believes that MLB wants the DH also and why give up something when the other side might agree without needing to do that?

Here is why: 1. Pitcher safety. 2. To try to unlock a part of the free agent market. Full- or part-time DHs such as Michael Brantley, Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion would improve their marketability if 30 teams were bidding rather than 15. The union does not want to give expanded playoffs that MLB wants for the DH. Fine. Be proactive for the good of your body — and especially pitchers’ bodies — and find something else that MLB will accept. Then MLB needs to accept. Because it is best for the product and health of the sport.

And no team needs the Hatfields and McCoys of baseball to do the right thing more than the Mets.

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