What’s Next For Mets After Bauer Decision? (www.mlb.com)

As Thursday night turned into Friday morning, it appeared as though the Mets were inching toward a deal with

.

Bauer agreed to a three-year, $102 million contract with Los Angeles, a source told MLB.com, a deal that will pay Bauer $40 million in 2021 and $45 million in ‘22, with the ability to opt out after either of the first two years.

Even after missing out on Bauer, the Mets — who have added Francisco Lindor, James McCann, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor May and Aaron Loup this winter — are still in the midst of a strong offseason.

So where do the Mets turn now to finish off their roster for 2021?

Given their offer to Bauer — which was roughly the same as the Dodgers’ offer, albeit structured a little differently — the Mets are clearly in the market for another starting pitcher. Although the top free-agent arm is no longer available, there are some notable arms remaining on the market.

Jake Odorizzi headlines that group, followed by James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Odorizzi doesn’t have the superb platform year to fall back on that Bauer did, but their career numbers are strikingly similar.

Odorizzi: 62-56, 3.92 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 2.78 K/BB, 192 starts

Bauer: 75-64, 3.90 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 2.82 K/BB, 195 starts

Odorizzi is likely to land a three-year deal for far less money than Bauer received, and while injuries limited him to four ineffective starts in 2020, the right-hander has been a reliable mid-rotation presence throughout his career. Signing him might not be easy, as several clubs have interest in the soon-to-be 31-year-old.

Injuries have been a long-standing issue for Paxton, who made just five starts in 2020. The 32-year-old left-hander has been a solid starter throughout his career (3.50 ERA through 2019), but he’s topped the 150-inning mark just twice since breaking into the league in 2013.

Walker missed most of 2018 following Tommy John surgery, then battled a shoulder issue in 2019, limiting him to just one inning. But a solid 2020 — he went 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts, including a 1.37 ERA in six starts following a trade to the Blue Jays — has the 28-year-old attracting interest around the league.

Veteran southpaw Rich Hill has also reportedly been on the Mets’ radar. Hill, who turns 41 on March 11, put together another solid season in 2020 with the Twins, pitching to a 3.03 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings.

With Jacob deGrom leading the rotation followed by Marcus Stroman and Carrasco, the Mets aren’t in need of a No. 1 starter. Bauer would have given New York a serious 1-2 punch behind deGrom, but with Noah Syndergaard due back from Tommy John surgery this summer and David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi providing depth, there’s no urgency to add another ace to the group despite their failed pursuit or Bauer.

Assuming they address the rotation, the Mets’ other area to watch is in the outfield, where they’re are seeking some depth. The uncertainty surrounding the National League’s use of the DH clouds things a little; the Mets currently have Dominic Smith in left field, Brandon Nimmo in center and Michael Conforto in right, but the inclusion of the DH would move Smith out of the outfield.

Should the DH be in play, Jackie Bradley Jr. becomes an attractive option. The Mets have been in contact with his agent, Scott Boras, but his market remains a little muddled. As a left-handed hitter, Bradley represents a less-than-ideal fit for New York’s outfield, which is entirely left-handed. Right-handed-hitting free-agent outfield options include Kevin Pillar and Jake Marisnick, who played for the Mets in 2019.

Adding a backup outfielder — preferably a versatile player who could also back up some infield positions — makes sense for the Mets. Marwin Gonzalez, for example, is the type of player they could look to add to the roster.

Aside from those two spots, the biggest priority should be signing Lindor and/or Conforto to contract extensions. Lindor has said he won’t negotiate any extension once the season begins, setting a deadline of sorts for the Mets to lock up their new superstar.

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