The Steve Cohen era is upon us. The New York Mets have a new owner, and an owner who has vowed to treat the Mets like the big market team they are. There is more excitement among Mets fans than there has been in a long, long time.
Expectations are about as high as they can be. Cohen said his goal is to win a World Series within three-to-five years, but I think they can do it in one. Here’s how.
Trade for Francisco Lindor and sign him to an extension
The Cleveland Indians have made it very clear they are trying to trade superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor this offseason. He’s set to make almost $20 million and is on the last year of his deal before he hits free agency, and it looks like they have no intention of resigning him. This is where the Mets should step in.
This isn’t a far-fetched idea either, as the Mets are probably the frontrunner to trade for the 27-year-old. What would a package for him entail? Probably less than expected. As I said, Cleveland is looking to shed his salary and he’s going to be a free agent after this season, so they don’t exactly have a lot of leverage. For me, the ideal package would be something like Amed Rosario and Brandon Nimmo and then maybe a mid-level prospect.
Rosario really showed flashes in 2019, looking like he could be the shortstop of the future for New York. However, he had a disastrous 2020 and was essentially usurped by rookie Andres Gimenez, so it doesn’t look like he has much of a future with the Mets.
Nimmo on the other hand had a really good 2019, but he’s frankly just excess at his position. While he did play a lot of center field in 2020, he clearly doesn’t belong out there. Already just an average fielder, he’s being asked to cover too much ground when he’s really meant for one of the corners. There, the Mets just have too many good players, with Michael Conforto and Dom Smith being must-starts after their 2020 campaigns and playing time still needing to be found for Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis. There’s just no room for Nimmo.
Rosario still has three years left of team control and Nimmo has two, so they would be pieces Cleveland can build around for the coming seasons. Rosario is a bit of a reclamation project but Nimmo is a proven starter in the league, and they could use some outfield help.
Then, the Mets would get to add one of the best shortstops in the league to their lineup. Still pretty young, all signs point to Lindor still being able to produce at a high level for years to come. I know there’s a group of people out there who think of him as overrated, but he’s one of just 22 players to have an OPS+ over 100 for each of the past six seasons. Out of just shortstops, he’s one of two — him and Corey Seager. The only shortstops who have never had a full season under 100 OPS+ since 2015 are Lindor, Seager, Trea Turner, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Bo Bichette, minimum two seasons.
Lindor brings a level of production at the plate not often seen from shortstops, and he does it while sporting a platinum glove. This is a golden opportunity to bring in one of the best players in the game on both sides of the ball. I wasn’t alive for when the Mets traded for Mike Piazza, but this is what I imagine it would have felt like.
Then, like Piazza, the Mets need to extend Lindor. Can’t give up Rosario and Nimmo (plus a prospect) for a rental. They need to lock up Lindor for probably the next 6-7 years, ideally keeping him in Queens through 2027 at the very least.
Lindor is a superstar, and if the Mets have the opportunity to trade for him, they have to take it.
Sign George Springer
The Mets brought in one center fielder from the 2017 Astros last season in Jake Marisnick, so might as well bring in the better one this year. After trading Nimmo to Cleveland, the Mets officially have no options in center field. Springer could fix that.
While he isn’t amazing defensively he certainly gets the job done and would be much better out there than Nimmo. He has a great bat and is a very good leadoff hitter, something the Mets have also had a little bit of trouble finding over the last couple of years.
I don’t think his price is going to be crazy high either. It’s not going to be cheap, but he’s not going to get a mega deal. He’s coming off of a slightly down year (but by no means bad, he still finished No. 13 in the AL MVP race) and also probably still has the cloud of the 2017 Astros cheating scandal hanging over his head. Other teams might not be so willing to bring in one of the main perpetrators.
He’s also 31. The free-agent market hasn’t been kind to those on the wrong side of 30 in recent years, so teams might not be chomping at the bit to sign him. I do think he’ll be sought after, but I don’t think it will be a bank breaker. If the Mets can get him for something in the range of five years, $100-$125 million, I think it’s a no-brainer.
Sign Trevor Bauer
This might be the player I’m the most worried about signing. Oddly enough though, it seems like the most possible one.
Let’s be honest, it’s very possible Bauer just had the best season he will ever have. In fact, not possible, likely. Not many people replicate 1.73 ERA seasons. However, the Mets don’t need him to replicate it, they just need him to be good.
Bauer is probably going to get a huge deal — if he decides to sign a multi-year contract. He’s stated in the past that he wants to sign one-year contracts every year and essentially bet on himself, so he could stick to that statement.
However, his value will likely never be higher than it is right now. He could decide he’d rather capitalize on a Cy Young season and cash in with a multi-year deal rather than risk injury or a decrease in production.
He’s also said he really likes what Cohen has done with the Mets so far. He released a 17-minute long YouTube video all about it, titled “Steve Cohen’s BRILLIANT Start.” And that wasn’t even the first time he hinted he’d want to play for the Mets.
On WFAN, Mets Team President Sandy Alderson said he thought Bauer would be great in New York, and that his personality would be great because “we’re in the entertainment business.”
Bauer responded to Alderson on Twitter with this: “Nah…baseball isn’t entertainment. It’s boring and personality isn’t allowed. And this Bauer guy is going to be terrible in the New York media. Big head case. Couldn’t handle it.”
Sounds to me like he wants to play in the blue and orange. The Mets had a ton of starting pitching problems in 2020, Bauer could seriously help them.
Add in the fact it sounds like he wants to play for the Mets and it should be a very easy decision for the front office.
Sign another starting pitcher
As I said, the Mets had serious starting pitching problems last season. It probably cost them a spot in the playoffs. Aside from Jacob deGrom and David Peterson, there was no one they could count on. Now, this year, it’s already looking better. deGrom and Peterson are returning and after opting-out of the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman accepted his qualifying offer and should be back. They are also regaining the services of Noah Syndergaard, who missed last season with a torn UCL.
If the Mets can sign Bauer, that would form an awesome five-headed monster. However, they shouldn’t stop there. Injuries, as everyone knows, will happen, and the Mets need to have an insurance policy. Syndergaard probably isn’t going to be ready for the start of the season anyway, so they need a fifth starter.
There are a couple of options. First on my list would be Masahiro Tanaka. The 32-year-old has spent his entire career a couple of subway stops away and has had a really solid 7-year career so far. On a good team, I’d say he’s a low-two to high-three in the rotation. If the Mets could give him something in the ballpark of three-years, $45 million, I’d be all for it.
Charlie Morton is another good option, as the veteran has seemingly only gotten better with age. He did have a down year in 2020, but he only threw 38 innings, so I don’t know how much you can look into it. I would be very open to giving him something like a two-year, $20 million deal.
However, if they get Bauer and don’t want to commit that much to another starter, they could go for one of Jose Quintana, Jake Arrieta, Corey Kluber or Tyler Chatwood. They would all come for cheaper and could probably be moved to the bullpen if all of the other five starters are healthy.
Sign a catcher … but maybe not Realmuto
I’m open to signing Realmuto, I am, but I just don’t know how worth it he will be based on the contract he will likely fetch. Don’t get me wrong, he is the best catcher in the game, but he is going into his age-30 season, so for how much longer will he really be at the top of his position?
I won’t be upset if the Mets sign him, but it just feels like one of those deals that could come back to haunt the Mets a couple of years down the line. I’d rather the money that would be used to sign Realmuto be put towards any of the three stars mentioned above.
I’d rather the Mets go for someone along the lines of James McCann, who, while he is slightly older than Realmuto, be significantly cheaper and much less of a long-term commitment. I’d even be open to someone like Yadier Molina, who is still one of the best behind the plate even though his bat has dropped off in recent years.
Ideally though, the Mets bring in McCann for a couple of seasons until Francisco Alvarez is ready to be called up.
Bolster the bullpen
Like any good team, the Mets are going to need a good bullpen. They have a couple of spots already locked up with good arms, like Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz (look at the stats he was actually good). They also have a couple more taken just because they’re making too much money not to be on the roster, like Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia. Even Brad Brach is likely a lock to make the team. They just need a few more reliable arms.
I would like if the Mets brought Justin Wilson back, he’s been really solid over the past couple of seasons and would be a much-needed southpaw. I would also love if they could bring in a guy like Alex Colome, who has just been an absolute model of consistency over his eight-year career. If not Colome, Blake Treinen, Brad Hand and Kirby Yates are all other good options.
Another possibility would be trading Steven Matz for a pen arm. After an absolutely horrible 2020, they likely won’t be able to get much for him, but if a rebuilding team wants a reclamation project and is willing to give up a solid reliever, I’m all for it.
Sign Michael Conforto to a long-term extension
Finally, one of the must-have moves from this offseason has to be giving Conforto an extension. The 27-year-old right fielder has turned into an absolute star for the Mets, and he’s coming off what was probably the best season of his career to this point.
The Mets’ first-round pick in 2014 and now going into his final year of team control, they should lock up their homegrown outfielder for the foreseeable future. He can hit for average, he can hit for power and he can even play a pretty solid right field. As the team representative in the MLBPA, he’s an excellent spokesman for the team. He’s just got the full package.
He is a Scott Boras client, so that may make things interesting, but Conforto has gone out of his way to state he will make up his own mind when it comes to signing a new deal. Hopefully Boras won’t be too much of an obstacle.
He’s come a long way since he hit two home runs in a World Series game as a rookie, it’s time he got paid.
There it is. There’s my wish list for the Mets this offseason. If everything I said happens, the Mets would have one of the best offenses and pitching staffs in the entire league.
The rotation: deGrom, Bauer, Stroman, Syndergaard, Peterson and then one of the other options I mentioned earlier.
The lineup: Springer (CF), Lindor (SS), Conforto (RF), Alonso (1B), Smith (DH), Davis (3B), Cano (2B), McCann (C), McNeil (LF).
I don’t know if there’s a single team in the MLB that’s beating that combination.
Obviously, this is a lot. It is highly, highly unlikely everything I just said comes to fruition. If the Mets come out of the offseason with one of the Lindor, Springer and Bauer trio, sign McCann and extend Conforto, I will be very happy. If they get two of the trio I’ll be ecstatic. If they somehow get all three, I’ll be at a loss for words.
Cohen said he was going to treat the Mets like a big market team but that they weren’t going to spend like drunken sailors which is without a doubt the smart thing to do. I don’t know if I’d consider what I laid out completely drunken sailer-esq, but it’s definitely at least a buzzed sailor.
It’s a new era in Queens. The Steve Cohen era. Things just feel different. This is going to be a fun offseason.