The Mets’ Amazin’ Offseason
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Since the news of Steve Cohen’s official purchase of the New York Mets first broke on October 30, 2020, fans have agreed that his arrival has been nothing short of refreshing to see. It’s hard not to be excited after all, when your new owner has an expected net worth of $2.4 billion, which is higher than the net worths of the next three richest owners in the MLB combined. It’s also a stark contrast to the previous ownership of the Wilpon family, which a majority of the Mets fan base had dubbed the “coupons,” simply due to their inability to reel in any big name players and provide a payroll for a team in one of the greatest sports markets in the world.
Cohen, however, immediately put himself in the spotlight. He brought back the well-respected and highly knowledgeable mind in former General Manager (GM) Sandy Alderson as the president of operations. Alderson, for reference, was the acting GM when the Mets had drafted their current young core of Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo, among others. Cohen also wanted to expand and dramatically update the Mets analytics department, as the Mets had the second smallest analytics department in the league at the time of the purchase. He also wanted to replenish and maintain the already weakened farm system. Thus, Alderson himself said to expect a lot more free agent signings rather than trades at the start of the offseason, which, by the end of the offseason, was only partially true. Cohen had also expressed that he wanted to build a sustainable, winning team, and in order to do so, the Mets needed to develop and build their young talent. He believed that a team couldn’t just win a championship roster by “spending like a drunken sailor” and buying every single free agent off the market like some fans expected. But even so, the Mets still proceeded to successfully fill in and check off their most pressing needs in these past four months, a sign that the team is heading in the right direction once again.
The Mets offseason was highlighted by a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Indians, in which they acquired a perennial all-star in shortstop Francisco Lindor and a very solid rotation piece in Carlos Carrasco. Conversely, the package the Mets sent to Cleveland had a much lower value than the rest of the league expected, as the Mets’ top eight prospects in their farm system remained untouched. Trading only shortstops Amed Rosario, Andrés Giménez, and prospects RHP Josh Wolf and OF Isaiah Greene (ninth and 10th in the Mets system respectively), according to Forbes, a rival league executive said shortly after the deal was officially completed, “They stole him. Total steal. It's ridiculous. People should be fired in Cleveland for doing that trade.” The trades didn’t just end there either. In fact, by the end of the offseason, the Mets had almost been just as active on the trading block as they had on the free agency market. They worked on replenishing their farm system with the acquisition of Khalil Lee from the Kansas City Royals, who immediately shot up to become their number eight prospect, and even traded hometown LHP Steven Matz for three pitching prospects. They also traded for much-needed major-league-ready pitching depth in RHP Jordan Yamamoto from the Miami Marlins and LHP Joey Lucchesi from the San Diego Padres, both of whom had respectable 2019 seasons before struggling somewhat during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Though the trade market did play a major role in the Mets offseason, don’t let that distract you from the significant moves they got out of free agency. To fill their vacancy in the catcher spot after Wilson Ramos’s departure, they signed veteran catcher James McCann, who was widely regarded as the second-best available option in the market, to a four-year, $40 million contract. The Mets also further bolstered their bullpen with strikeout artist Trevor May, inking him to a two-year, $15 million contract. His strikeout rate of 14.66 per nine innings ranked seventh in the majors, and his 43 percent whiff rate was ranked eighth. Adding Aaron Loup gave the Mets a lefty specialist in the bullpen after the departure of lefty Justin Wilson, as he joined the team on a one-year, $3 million deal. They then signed a high potential and reward player in the right-handed starter Taijuan Walker, who found recent success in the 2020 season, pitching to a 2.70 ERA after recovering from Tommy John the season before. Walker gives the Mets another extra option for the starting rotation and was signed to a two-year, $20 million deal. Finally, they proceeded to acquire outfielders Albert Almora Jr. and Kevin Pillar, as well as utilityman Jonathan Villar to help further bolster the Mets bench.
Though they did miss out on all the major free agents that highlighted this year’s free agency class such as George Springer, Trevor Bauer, and J.T. Realmuto, the Mets continued to express a willingness to spend when possible, a huge difference from the previous ownership group. All three players had reportedly received, at one point this offseason, a major offer from the Mets, but Alderson also showed his unwillingness to overpay when unnecessary, and these situations included getting into bidding wars for prices that just seemed unfavorable and illogical for the team to commit to. The Mets, however, most solidified their willingness to spend when they offered Bauer a contract that would’ve made him one of the highest paid pitchers for the next two years, which would’ve completely blown the Mets past the luxury tax. Bauer ended up choosing his hometown Dodgers instead. On the bright side, by not signing any huge contracts this season, Alderson also confirmed that it would only increase the chances of maintaining the core squad of players they currently had, due to the fact that Lindor, Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman are all on track for free agency next year. Acting GM Zack Scott confirmed that he usually prefers to discuss contract extensions during spring training, and therefore, it is highly likely that they’re currently in talks. If the Mets are able to extend either Conforto or Lindor, it would make the offseason that much better.
By the end of the offseason, the Mets had completely overhauled their roster, changing 17 on their 40-man lineup and making it one of the busiest offseasons they’ve had in years. So what’s next for the team? Currently, PECOTA Projections has indicated that the Mets will be the clear frontrunners of the NL East division for the 2021 season at 92 wins. FanGraphs has the Mets sitting comfortably at 92 wins this year. I also believe that the Mets will be at least a 90 win team this year, likely between the 90-95 win range. The new additions give the Mets one of the strongest teams fans have seen in years, definitely in contention with the 2015 World Series Mets. Plus, with Syndergaard’s eventual return to the rotation in June and the return of another dominant reliever in Seth Lugo in May, the Mets will only continue to add to the depth and strength of their team. However, with the NL East being arguably the hardest division in baseball this year, it will be incredibly difficult to determine if the Mets will perform as well as they look on paper. The Mets still seem to have a reputation of underperforming their expectations, so the first goal is to dethrone the Atlanta Braves, who have won the NL East the past three years. The next obvious challenge is to win the NL division as a whole, which will not be an easy task with the NL West having two powerhouses of their own in the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. And finally, the ultimate goal is to win the World Series. As Cohen said, “If we don't win a World Series in 3-5 years, that would be disappointing.” And there’s almost no doubt that he’ll continue to do whatever he can to fulfill that goal for the team and the fans. Either way, whether that comes now or in the near future, it is now an amazin’ time to be a Mets fan.