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Mets Opening Day Roster Coming Into Focus

With the Mets season less than a week away, the Mets made some impactful roster decisions on Saturday morning: Phil Bickford was designated for assignment, Shintaro Fujinami was option to the minors, Austin Adams was reassigned to minor league camp, and Luke Voit, Jose Iglesias, and Tomas Nido have all been informed they are not making the team. Let’s take a look at what this means for the players and for the team.

Phil Bickford was the Mets only arbitration-eligible player whose case actually went to a hearing this past offseason.  Bickford won his hearing, earning him a $900,000 contract instead of the $815,000 contract the Mets submitted. Because his case went to a hearing, however, the money was not guaranteed. When the Mets signed J.D. Martinez earlier this week, they needed to make room on the 40-man roster, and Bickford was the casualty. He will be paid for his spring training work up to this point. Since he was out of minor league options, the Mets had to designate him for assignment. Bickford now has seven days to be traded or placed on waivers. If he’s not traded or claimed off waivers, the Mets can assign him outright to the minor leagues, although he can reject the assignment and become a free agent.

Shintaro Fujinami’s preseason has been incomplete and messy, which is not a far cry from his experience in his rookie season last year, even though the circumstances were quite different. The Japanese reliever got a late start to spring training, beginning with work visa issues that were then followed by a personal matter that required a return to Japan.  He finally began his spring at the beginning of March, about three weeks after pitchers and catchers reported. In five spring games, Fujinami logged 3.2 innings, giving up 5 earned runs on 4 hits and 4 walks. He did strike out 5 batters though. Control issues plagued Fujinami throughout his rookie season and the Mets were hoping to help him address his wildness while harnessing his 100+ MPH fastball potential. Understandably, he will have to work on this in minor league camp and then will Triple-A Syracuse, most likely.

Austin Adams offseason has been an interesting roller coaster. In November, the 33-year-old pitcher signed with the a non-guaranteed split contract with the Mets. This meant he would earn different salaries depending on whether he’s with the major league club or in the minors. Then, after the Mets signed reliever Jake Diekman in early February, Adams was designated for assignment. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A. Adams accepted the assignment, as well as a non-roster invitation to spring training. In 6 spring training games, Adams threw 5.1 innings, striking out 11(!), walking only 1, while giving up 4 runs on 7 hits. It’s possible that if Adams hadn’t already gone through the release/minor league assignment process earlier in the offseason, the Mets might have considered keeping him with the big-league club. Instead, Adams will begin his season in Syracuse and will probably make it back to the majors at some point during the season.

As for veterans Luke Voit, Jose Iglesias, and Tomas Nido, they each now have a decision to make. On Saturday morning the Mets informed them that they will not make the Opening Day roster. They can now choose to begin the season in the minors or opt-out of their contracts with the Mets and become free agents. Each of these players was signed by the Mets as insurance policies in case any of the players above them on the 40-man roster sustained injuries, opening up a spot. Good news for the Mets, not such good news for these guys, the team seems to have made it through spring training relatively unscathed (at least from a position player standpoint). Voit and Iglesias are both in their early-mid 30’s, and Nido is just 29, although in catcher-years that’s essentially mid-30’s. They now have the option to join the Syracuse Mets and play in the minors while waiting their turn to be called up, or they can look to catch on with a different team.

The addition of J.D. Martinez earlier this week should make the Mets lineup a little stronger, the bench a little deeper, and will certainly impact the team’s roster plans. All should be clear in just a few days.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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