Ahead of a busy offseason, six more roster spots are now available for the New York Mets. Days after the World Series ended, New York placed pitchers Peyton Battenfield, John Curtiss, Elieser Hernández, Bryce Montes de Oca, Denyi Reyes, and outfielder Tim Locastro on outright waivers. The moves come a couple of weeks after the team outrighted six other players off the 40-man roster.
Mets Roster Clears Up Before Offseason
Due to service time, only Curtiss, Hernández, Reyes, and Locastro can elect free agency if they clear waivers. Montes de Oca and Battenfield don’t have enough time in the majors to control their future. If unclaimed, they will remain in the Mets organization. New York now has 33 players on its 40-man roster.
Bryce Montes de Oca
Montes de Oca might be the most surprising name on the list. The towering 6-7, 266-pound 27-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in March. He missed the entire season but is on track to return in mid-2024.
Montes de Oca has only thrown 3 1/3 MLB innings in his career but has overpowering stuff. In the minors, the righty recorded great strikeout numbers thanks to a 100+ mph fastball with great movement. While his great movement has led to many walks, the Mets hoped he could develop into a high-leverage reliever in the 2023 bullpen.
The Mets now hope that Montes de Oca sneaks through waivers unclaimed and continues rehabbing with the organization. Stearns might figure that teams will be nervous about claiming Montes de Oca because of his lengthy injury history and current lack of health.
If he stays with the Mets and fully recovers, New York will likely call him ahead of the trade deadline. Montes de Oca has the upside as a great under-the-radar weapon for a contending Mets team next year.
However, he could intrigue non-contending teams with serious pitching needs, like Oakland or Colorado. Montes de Oca has a high upside, league minimum salary, and five years of team control. A rebuilding club might feel it’s worth spending a roster spot on him now and hope he realizes his potential by the time the rebuild ends.
Stearns once acquired Curtiss in Milwaukee, and some thought the previous interest and familiarity would help Curtiss stay on the roster. That was not the case, although a reunion via minor-league deal remains possible.
Curtiss comes with two years of team control. He earned $775,000 last season, and MLBTradeRumors projected him to make $1 million in arbitration this winter. For a rich team with little pitching depth, the cost likely isn’t too much for a reliever with previous major league success. Curtiss represents a low-risk, high-reward option.
Still a guy pic.twitter.com/pI6ncWhhhh
— We Gotta Believe (@GottaBelievePod) April 11, 2023
Curtiss struggled in the majors (4.58 ERA in 19 2/3 innings) and minors (7.17 ERA in 21 1/3 innings) and finished the year on the 60-day IL due to an elbow surgery. That being said, it’s understandable that Curtiss struggled some after missing the entire 2022 season. Also, Curtiss said he was hurt and struggled to adapt to the new Triple-A strike zone.
Steve Cohen bought low on Curtiss once before. Will he be inclined to do it again?
The oft-injured Locastro provides average outfield defense and below-average hitting. However, he earns jobs due to his elite speed. With a career 90 percent stolen base success rate, teams mainly use Locastro as a pinch runner late in games.
Tim Locastro has 476 career MLB at bats…
…and has been hit by pitches 39 times!
No one else in MLB history has been hit by as many pitches without at least 1,100 at bats to go with it.
It’s completely insane. pic.twitter.com/iFeh6TLQla
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) April 2, 2023
Locastro hit well in Spring Training and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. However, he missed significant time due to injuries and appeared in 43 games. His offensive production resulted in a 102 OPS+, likely due to a high hit-by-pitch rate, small sample size, and hot September.
The Mets have younger and cheaper players with similar speed and higher offensive upside in the upper levels of the organization. Locastro does not fit the Mets well now and will likely sign a minor-league deal with a team this winter.
Reyes, Hernandez, and Battenfield
Reyes pitched better for the Mets than his 7.78 indicates—a couple of bad innings in a slight sample bloat his ERA. Reyes spent most of the season in Triple-A as inexpensive emergency depth. Though he showed some good signs, the Mets will likely devote a roster spot on a higher upside option.
Hernandez and Battenfield were acquired as depth by the previous front office regime. Even if the Mets replace them with other depth options, Stearns should sign his guys rather than keep Billy Eppler’s.
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