Mets shift focus to the bullpen, and how the Mets current spending tactics sets up their future
The Mets are well-positioned - both from a financial and contractural perspective - to sign anyone they choose at anytime
What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
The Mets are seeking an additional high-leverage reliever, and haven’t ruled out a reunion with Adam Ottavino or other options like Andrew Chafin, Corey Knebel, or Michael Fulmer (New York Post)
The Blue Jays and Chris Bassitt agreed to a three-year, $63 million contract - the Mets will receive draft compensation after making him a qualifying offer and signing elsewhere (ESPN)
The Mets believe Tylor Megill or David Peterson have a good chance of outperforming Carlos Carrasco in 2023, and Carrasco’s relatively low salary could make him appealing to other teams (New York Post)
Did you know? 📖
Some morning trivia for you…
The Mets had a 3.19 ERA as a team from 1968-1975. It was the fourth-best mark in all baseball for those eight seasons.
Here are the top ten team ERA’s from 1968-1975:
Orioles (2.97 ERA, 761-514 record) - 1969 and 1971 AL Champions, 1970 World Champions, lost 1973, 1974 ALCS to the A’s
Dodgers (3.07 ERA, 707-580 record) - 1974 NL Champions
Athletics (3.15 ERA, 735-553 record) - 1972, 1973, 1974 World Champions, lost 1971, 1975 ALCS
Mets (3.19 ERA, 657-632 record) - 1969 World Champions, 1973 NL Champions
Yankees (3.21 ERA, 669-617 record) - No postseason appearances during that span
Pirates (3.31 ERA, 710-578 record) - 1971 World Champions, lost 1970, 1972, 1974, 1975 NLCS
Cardinals (3.39 ERA, 674-615 record) - 1968 NL Champions
Twins (3.44 ERA, 664-619 record) - Lost 1969, 1970 ALCS
Angels (3.45 ERA, 594-694 record) - No postseason appearances during that span
Reds (3.53 ERA, 753-545) - 1975 NL Champions, lost 1973 NLCS
Despite having the fourth-best ERA in that span, the Mets didn’t crack the top ten in winning percentage, as their .510 pct was good for 12th-best - there were only 13 teams with an overall record of .500 or better.
The Mets’ approach to free agency could be a model for the future, if it works ✍🏻
It’s almost as if the Mets are making up for 20 years of lost time in the market place.
Mr. Cohen - with his financial might - has gone to the A-list in free agency to check the Mets’ boxes so far this winter, committing $364 million for six players in the short, medium and long-term. Only one of the players - Brandon Nimmo - are under team control beyond 2025, with only Nimmo and Kodai Senga committed beyond the two-year threshold.
All-told, the Mets 2023 luxury tax/CBT payroll is between $340-350 million. Add in the penalty the Mets will be paying - which is 90 cents on the dollar - and the effective payroll is closer to $425 million.
The crazy thing is, that number will unquestionably go up.
The Mets need more bullpen help. They need starting pitching depth. Both are particularly expensive in this market. They need outfield and bench depth. They could upgrade at DH (remember, Mets DH’s produced only 15 home runs and a .638 OPS in 2022, the latter of which was fourth-worst in the game).
And at this point, with the effective payroll sniffing the half billion mark, why should they stop here? What’s another $20 million or so at this point (plus tax)?
I know, it’s easy for me to say when it’s not my money. And believe me, I haggle with myself at the grocery store over paying $1.19 for my favorite yogurt versus the 10-for-10 special on the crap brand. So, I am really in no position to tell a billionaire how to spend their billions on millionaires.
But these figures are unprecedented in the sport. They have an aging roster with a rotation that averages more than 35 years old. They are under short-term obligations for many of their 30+ players, so the Mets are in a win-now situation like no other team in baseball.
And with this high-priced roster will come even higher expectations. At $425 million, the Mets have championship-grade expectations - it’s as simple as that. Mr. Cohen knows it, the front office knows it, the players on the roster know it too.
Here’s a little bit of context to the point - if the Mets match their franchise-mark of 108 regular season wins in 2023, and for the moment let’s assume they add nothing else to the roster, they will have paid $3,935,185 per win. The fewer they win, the more expensive each becomes.
Those are some pretty expensive post game handshakes. And, it’s perfectly fine by me.
So again, why stop there? The roster is incomplete - complete it.
Adam Duvall for designated hitter, anyone? Michael Brantley (the son of of former Mets coach Mickey Brantley, by the way) would be an outstanding, contact-first addition from the left side if healthy. Maybe JD Martínez, Will Myers, Justin Turner, or other players in that tier of free agency on short deals.
There’s a running narrative out there at the moment (well, a couple) the Mets have merely replaced the departed and are not better than they were a season ago, a season in which they won 101 regular season games although were eventually overrun by an outstanding Atlanta ball club and won just a single playoff game.
It’s easy to see the Mets roster through that lens, and certainly easy to challenge the Mets strategy of signing older players, especially to the rotation.
But forgetting for a moment that none of the three starting pitchers 34 and older in their rotation right now are under team control for more than two years thus limiting the liability and risk of taking on financial water with these players…well, point made there.
As for the, “they are not better than they were” notion, Rich MacLeod put pen-to-paper on that Sunday morning, extinguishing that notion:
The Mets haven’t even tackled their offense or most of their bullpen aside from re-signing Nimmo, yet.
Rather, the better argument should be, “the Mets are paying a lot more money to get better in 2023,” which is obviously fair and a no brainer.
The Mets have also been able to maneuver themselves into fitting the needs of the roster better with these moves. In the case of Senga, while there’s certain risk involved with him his stuff fills a need for the middle of the rotation to be more swing-and-miss than it was with Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker.
With Quintana, being left-handed addresses a dimension they didn’t have last season and his durability - especially with the need to manage that with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Carlos Carrasco - helps mitigate risk from a health perspective.
That’s not to say Bassitt and Walker aren’t good - they are. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t better options for the Mets rotation against their immediate competition.
Just by that measure, they have a better roster, which in-turn make them better. Their best players being present as much as possible makes them better, being more swing-and-miss makes them better, and mitigating risk makes them better.
So yeah I’d say they’re better, even if its one or two wins better, which would’ve been enough to win the division outright in 2022.
As I wrote over the weekend, if the Mets want to contend for a title in the short-term, then they need to commit a lot of dollars towards that goal over the next two years as they simply do not have enough major league-ready prospects to off-set their need to spend on external talent.
The only players the Mets have committed to beyond three years in the last two winters are Senga, Francisco Lindor, Edwin Díaz, and Brandon Nimmo, although Senga can opt-out after three years. The rest of the commitments can all be turned over quickly which creates new opportunities both externally and from within along flexibility in what is proving to be an unconstrained budget.
For instance, their financial fire power plus their ability to turn over high-dollar, short-term contracts puts them in a prime position to pursue Shohei Ohtani a year from now and Juan Soto a year after that. It also positions them well to extend Pete Alonso and/or Jeff McNeil right now.
For the record, I am in no way saying they will sign Ohtani, Soto, Alonso, or McNeil. But I am saying that with the fluid roster they have created, they are completely capable and well-positioned to be engaged with all of them.
In other words, it puts the Mets into the conversation for every single player in free agency year after year, plus affords all of their prospects a runway to be successful at the big league level.
And if it works and they can win a championship or two in the next few years, more owners should and will endeavor to operate like Mr. Cohen, even those who cry poor in an $11 billion industry.
And heaven forbid there’s an owner in Major League Baseball who is willing to flex his or her financial might and build a winner. They’re all billionaires, they can all afford to sign every single player who becomes a free agent - it’s a choice, that is all. They can cry poor all they want - they still won the financial poker game in the last collective bargaining agreement, as the players are only receiving a small addition to the already small minority share in revenue and profits (most of them are really rich too, I don’t feel bad for them). Baseball needs more owners like Cohen, who along with Billy Eppler has employed a modernized approach and methodology for risk taking in free agency which benefits both the club and the player financially.
Ok, my rant about that is over.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Braves acquired Sean Murphy from the A’s as part of a three-way trade, sending William Contreras to the Brewers and Manny Piña to the A’s (official release)
The Guardians made their two-year deal with Josh Bell official on Monday (official release)
The Twins agreed to sign Christian Vázquez to a three-year contract (New York Post)
Even after agreeing to sign Sean Manaea, the Giants are still in pursuit of Carlos Rodón (SF Chronicle)
The Yankees are expected to make a formal offer to Carlos Rodón very soon, but are having a hard time seeing Carlos Correa as a fit (New York Post)
The Giants and Twins are seen as favorites to sign Correa (MLB Network Radio)
The Pirates have tied an exceedingly high price tag in trade negotiations for star Bryan Reynolds (Athletic)
The Astros and D’Backs have discussed a trade involving Daulton Varsho (USA Today)
The Red Sox are looking at the trade market for significant upgrades (Athletic)
The Dodgers “are a possibility” for Dansby Swanson (New York Post)