by Paul West
The Mets have weathered the storm: injuries; a team-wide hitting slump; a head-to-head matchup with a red-hot Atlanta team right before the break; and a head-to-head against the (formerly) MLB-leading Yankees. And after completing a two-game sweep of their crosstown rivals, they sit on top of the NL East with more of a lead than they had a week ago. They’ve established themselves as clearly one of the best teams in either league, and have proven they can go toe to toe with anyone.
There are, however, needs to address as the trade deadline approaches; and balancing those needs with the attendant risks of any move they make is more important than following popular narratives or chasing back-page props. The Mets had arguably MLB’s best offseason because they did just that: signed solid roleplayers like Eduardo Escobar and roster depth like Chris Bassitt, while other teams chased bigger names who haven’t thus far panned out.
The Mets’ biggest needs are lineup protection for their most dangerous hitters; someone who hits lefties well, as thy aren’t as good in that department as expected (or in previous years); and relief pitching to assist a heavily taxed bullpen. They need the aforementioned bat in the form of someone who’ll primarily DH, as the Mets’ defense–including the oft-maligned Pete Alonso, far from a Gold Glover but not the liability some believe–has been one of their strengths. And while Juan Soto has been the Golden Goose of trade deadline discussions, there’s a less-hyped player who’d be just as good a fit (unless, of course, Shohei Ohtani is actually available as some suggest): Josh Bell.
Bell has actually been the Nationals’ best hitter this season, batting over .300 with good power numbers and even a handful of triples. He hits lefties and righties well, and he plays a serviceable first base so he’s an option to give Alonso an occasional fielding break. His intangibles also fit well with the Mets: he’s level-headed, smart, and can perform in the clutch. The Astros–the only top-tier team who’s given the Mets trouble this year–are reportedly interested in Bell, which is another reason the Mets should be. Slotted into the middle third of the order, he would force-multiply the hitters in front of him-and the fact that he’s a capable switch-hitter would mean opposing managers couldn’t more easily plan their lefty-righty matchups. He could reasonably be the Mets’ everyday DH, which would leave Dom Smith, JD Davis, and Daniel Vogelbach as dangerous pinch-hitting options off the bench. Bell is an unrestricted free agent next year, but he certainly won’t be as pricey as Soto, whom many still think is a future Hall of Famer; and at only 29, he’s just entering his likely prime (again: if Ohtani is on the table, he’s the ultimate ‘push all your chips to the middle’ player).
The Mets will probably make more than one move in the coming week, but Josh Bell is the one they need to consider first.