NL East Notes: Mets, Cole, Jay, Braves

As the Mets have now managed to check off their most pressing needs at fairly reasonable prices, some attention has turned to the question whether the organization might now go on to spend on a starter. GM Sandy Alderson noted that “some opportunities arose for us that probably would not have been expected right after the end of the World Series,” as James Wagner of the New York Times reports. Given the noted health questions for the talented Mets pitching staff, the thinking goes, perhaps the team will look to score some rotation value and thrust itself into clear contention status. To this point, though, the Mets “have yet to engage in meaningful discussions” with free agent hurlers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). Rather, the focus seems still to be on finding some pitching depth.

More from the division…

  • At a recent Nationals Hot Stove event, GM Mike Rizzo plainly stated that, as things presently stand, right-hander A.J. Cole is his team’s fifth starter (link via “Our number five starter, you know, is A.J. Cole which I’m really looking forward to seeing where he’s at this year,” said Rizzo. “If you look at his numbers last year, his last seven starts were outstanding. He pitched in eleven games last year in the big leagues with eight starts and had a 3.81 ERA… Look at the other teams in our division. See where that ERA ranks on those other staffs.” Of course, fielding-independent metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all pegged Cole north of 5.00, due largely to a 4.7 BB/9 rate and a pedestrian 7.6 K/9 mark. One would think, too, that a strong Spring Training effort from someone such as Austin Voth or Erick Fedde could impact that plan, as could the addition of an arm via free agency or trade. At present, though, it’s certainly noteworthy that the job is Cole’s to lose. Cole figures to make the roster in some capacity, as he’s out of minor league options.
  • Jon Jay “appears to be a consideration” for the Marlins in free agency, FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes in his latest notes column. Jay has some local ties, having played his college ball at Miami, though it’s not entirely clear at this point how much the Marlins are willing to spend. Heyman suggests that their payroll is south of the $ 85MM mark at present, though between the commitments to Wei-Yin Chen ($ 10MM salary + $ 8MM deferred signing bonus payment this June), Martin Prado ($ 13.5MM), Starlin Castro ($ 10MM), Brad Ziegler ($ 9MM), Junichi Tazawa ($ 7MM), Derek Dietrich ($ 2.9MM), Justin Bour ($ 3.4MM), J.T. Realmuto ($ 2.9MM) and Miguel Rojas ($ 1.18MM) they’re at nearly $ 68MM. Add in the $ 13MM they owe Edinson Volquez, the remaining unresolved arb case of Dan Straily and a slate of pre-arbitration players to round out the roster, and it’d seem they’re still north of $ 90MM.
  • Heyman also notes that the Braves would add a third baseman if they can find a match on a one-year deal, but they’re comfortable using Johan Camargo there for a year while waiting for prospect Austin Riley to finish off his development in the upper minors. More generally, he adds that they’re looking more at “depth” signings than anything else at this point of the offseason.

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