PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Projecting the New York Mets' roster is not an overly dramatic exercise this year. After all, the rotation and starting position players are set. However, trades and injuries could make for some interesting late developments. So let's take a first stab at which 25 players will be on the roster at Kauffman Stadium on April 3 when the Mets open the season against the Kansas City Royals on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
This is easy. It's only the order that is a challenge at all.
1. Matt Harvey
2. Jacob deGrom
4. Steven Matz
Manager Terry Collins already has identified five locks:
7. Addison Reed
10. Hansel Robles
Robles actually will begin the season with a two-game suspension, so the Mets will only be able to carry 24 players for the two-game series in Kansas City.
As for the final two relievers:
11. Erik Goeddel
12. Sean Gilmartin
With the Mets likely to carry a long reliever/spot starter, and with Rafael Montero already dispatched to minor league camp, it would appear Gilmartin and Logan Verrett will compete for one spot. The other will join Montero in Triple-A Las Vegas' rotation.
Goeddel just threw off a mound Saturday for the first time since suffering a lat strain, and he is not due to be in a Grapefruit League game until March 20 -- exactly two weeks before Opening Day. The best alternative to Goeddel if he is not ready or underwhelms would appear to be former Milwaukee Brewers closer Jim Henderson.
It would be simpler to carry Goeddel and start Henderson in Triple-A, assuming Goeddel is healthy, since Henderson is on a minor league contract and would otherwise need to be added to the 40-man roster. And Henderson does not have an out in his contract until June 15.
Also, lefty specialist Josh Edgin, in the final stages of a return from Tommy John surgery, is projected to return May 1. So it pays to start the season with the player who can be optioned to the minors -- Goeddel -- once Edgin is activated.
The Mets will be able to free one 40-man roster spot right away, since Zack Wheeler will be placed on the 60-day DL before Opening Day. If a second spot is needed, it likely would come from a trade of a position player. More below.
Starting lineup (vs. right-handed pitching)
Asdrubal Cabrera seems more likely than not to open the season on the disabled list, since he must remain idle for at least two weeks while letting a strained patellar tendon in his left knee heal. So Wilmer Flores moves into the starting shortstop role. Here's the probable lineup (albeit acknowledging that there will be a designated hitter in Kansas City):
13. Curtis Granderson, RF
14. David Wright, 3B
15. Yoenis Cespedes, CF
16. Lucas Duda, 1B
17. Neil Walker, 2B
18. Michael Conforto, LF
19. Travis d'Arnaud, C
20. Flores, SS
Let's start out with an easy one:
21. Juan Lagares
Lagares should start in center field against left-handed pitching, with Cespedes sliding over to left field and Conforto chipping away at Granderson's playing time in right field against southpaws.
The final four is where the deep thinking comes into play.
22. Kevin Plawecki
Collins acknowledged Saturday that Mets officials will debate whether it makes more sense to start Plawecki at Las Vegas to ensure regular playing time. And with the Mets playing only twice during the first five days of the season, and with off days every Thursday in April, there is some logic to Plawecki beginning the season in the minors. Still, the goal is to win at the major league level, and Plawecki is a better option than Johnny Monell (who is not on the 40-man roster and would need to be added).
23. De Aza
When the Mets signed De Aza to a $5.75 million contract in December, they envisioned him platooning with Lagares in center field and did not foresee Cespedes returning. Now he has no real role other than lefty pinch hitter. About a half-dozen teams have expressed interest in De Aza, but it sounds like the Mets would want the acquiring team to pick up the full salary. And, reading between the lines, if one Met is traded, it appears Tejada may be more likely than De Aza, since the Mets lack outfield depth. Eric Campbell or even Travis Taijeron might be the beneficiary if De Aza is dealt, but let's keep De Aza on this projected Opening Day roster.
24. Matt Reynolds
The St. Louis Cardinals are among the teams interested in Tejada, and let's say he opens the season elsewhere. Reynolds, a shortstop, would appear to be the big winner. Reynolds returned Saturday to Grapefruit League action after missing four days with a tight right hamstring.
Even if Tejada remains, assuming Cabrera opens the season on the DL, Reynolds may sneak onto the roster for a week.
But the Mets do feel comfortable trading Tejada, even with Cabrera's injury, because they believe in Flores as the starting shortstop until Cabrera returns, and they feel OK with their shortstop depth with Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini.
If Tejada is dealt, that has to benefit someone. And why not Campbell, who already is on the 40-man roster? He can man any number of infield and outfield positions and happens to be a career .293 pinch hitter, with a .426 on-base percentage.