The Mets made a flurry of moves on Wednesday in what continues to be an active offseason for the new regime.
First, they announced they’ve officially signed outfielder Albert Almora Jr. to a major league deal. The deal is worth a base of $1.25 million and then can get $100,000 if he gets 200 plate appearances, 250 PA’s, and 300 PA’s per Jon Heyman.
Almora will serve as the Mets defensive minded reserve outfielder, he has been 13 outs above average in center field over the last five seasons. Offensively, the 26-year-old has struggled to a 84 OPS+ in the big leagues. Though he has been a bit better against left-handed pitching with a .734 OPS.
Almora does have one minor league option remaining and is under team control through the 2022 season.
In the corresponding 40-man roster move, the Mets designated right-handed pitcher Corey Oswalt for assignment. The 27-year-old had a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings for the Mets in 2020 and has a 6.19 ERA overall in 83 big league games.
Oswalt is out of options and there’s a chance he makes it through waivers. Teams from the KBO have shown interest in the past, but all of their foreign player spots are currently filled.
The second move the Mets made on Wednesday night was jumping into a three-way with the Red Sox and Royals. In a deal that sent outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals and outfielder Franchy Cordero to the Red Sox, the Mets were able to scoop up a nice prospect.
The Mets sent right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski (№ 26 in their system) to the Red Sox and received outfield prospect Khalil Lee (№ 8 in Royals system). Mets will also send as player to be named later to the Red Sox.
Lee, 22, was the Royals third round pick in 2016 out of Flint Hill School in Virginia. He’s a left-handed hitter and thrower, that has played all three outfield spots, with the most games coming in center field.
Lee spent the entire 2019 season in Double-A Arkansas, where he was two and half years younger than the league average. In 546 plate appearances, he slashed .264/.363/.372 with 21 doubles, three triples. eight home runs, and 51 RBIs. He also tied for second in the minors with 53 stolen bases, and was caught 12 times.
While Lee did walk 65 times in those 129 games in 2020, he also struck out a whopping 154 times. He was ranked №8 and №9 in the Royals system by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America respectively. For further perspective, Baseball America had the Royals farm system ranked №14 in baseball and the Mets at №23.
Baseball Prospectus had Lee as their №61 prospect in baseball going into the 2019 season. Lee’s highest rated skill is his cannon of an arm, BA has it at a 70. They also reported that he worked with Royals’ coach Mitch Maier at the alternate site in 2020 to improve his jumps. As you can tell by the 53 steals, Lee possesses above average speed.
Two things to watch for Lee are his ability to make contact (struck out 34% in 2019) and lack of in-game power (.409 career minor league SLG). He does show off above average raw power in BP and flashes it at times — like this video shared by Jacob Resnick from the Puerto Rican Winter League.
Lee instantly becomes the Mets top outfield prospect behind Pete Crow-Armstrong and gives them a much-needed option in the upper minors. I would have him as the Mets №6 prospect, right after PCA and right ahead of Mark Vientos. MLB Pipeline has placed Lee at №7.
Lastly, to make room for Lee on the 40-man roster (he was added by the Royals in 2020), the Mets designated catcher Ali Sánchez assignment. The defensive specialist made his major league debut with the Mets in 2020, he went 1-for-9 with a walk and three strikeouts in five games.
The recently turned 24-year-old is the Mets №20 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Interestingly, another player that was talked about for this potential move was fellow catching prospect Patrick Mazeika, ranked №23 by MLB Pipeline.
Taking a deeper look, the Mets already have a glove-first catcher on the 40–man roster in Tomás Nido and have another right-handed hitting, strong defensive prospect in David Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 24, was re-signed to a minor league deal by the Mets earlier this offseason. The former Rays prospect had a 1.060 OPS in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason. Rodriguez is an athletic catcher that blocks well and has an above average arm.
Meanwhile, Mazeika is a 27-year-old catcher that also has experience at first base. The Mets eighth round pick in 2015 from Stetson has hit .278/.371/.424 in five minor league seasons. He’s been mostly a line drive hitter that uses all fields and limits strikeouts.
On the defensive side, Mazeika has shown great improvement in his receiving skills over the last two years, including ranking second among Eastern League catchers in framing during the 2019 season.
The Mets 40-man roster is currently full, and they will have to make a move when the signing of veteran infielder Jonathan Villar becomes official. Mets can start putting players on the 60-day injured list when pitchers and catchers begin on Feb. 17.
I’ve talked to multiple sources over the last few days that indicate the Mets aren’t done. They continue to look at potential upgrades to the starting rotation, bullpen, third base, and outfield in free agency and the trade market. Sandy and Co. have been active in their pursuit of building a better Mets team in 2021 and for the long-term, and I don’t expect they’re done yet.