Mets fans had high hopes when Steve Cohen, now the wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball, officially took over for the much-maligned Wilpons in November. They shouldn’t be disappointed with the results so far.
Major League Signings
- James McCann, C: Four years, $40.6MM
- Taijuan Walker, RHP: Three years, $23MM
- Trevor May, RHP: Two years, $15.5MM
- Kevin Pillar, OF: One year, $5MM
- Jonathan Villar, INF: One year, $3.55MM
- Aaron Loup, LHP: One year, $3MM
- Albert Almora Jr., OF: One year, $1.25MM
- Sam McWilliams, RHP: One year, $750K
- Total spend: $92.65MM
Trades And Claims
- Acquired SS Francisco Lindor and RHP Carlos Carrasco from the Indians for INFs Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, RHP Josh Wolf and OF Isaiah Greene
- Acquired LHP Joey Lucchesi from the Padres for C/OF Endy Rodriguez in a three-team trade
- Acquired OF Khalil Lee from the Red Sox for RHP Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later in a three-team trade
- Acquired RHPs Josh Winckowski, Sean Reid-Foley and Yennsy Diaz from the Blue Jays for LHP Steven Matz
- Acquired RHP Jordan Yamamoto from the Marlins for INF Federico Polanco
- Acquired cash from the Cardinals for C Ali Sanchez
- Claimed LHP Stephen Tarpley from the Marlins
- Claimed RHP Jacob Barnes from the Angels
Notable Minor League Signings
- Jose Martinez (split contract), Caleb Joseph (split contract), Jerry Blevins, Mallex Smith, Jose Peraza, Arodys Vizcaino, Jerad Eickhoff, Tommy Hunter, Mike Montgomery, Brandon Drury, Trevor Hildenberger, Wilfredo Tovar, Tom Windle
- Francisco Lindor, SS: 10 years, $341MM
- Rosario, Gimenez, Matz, Justin Wilson, Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha, Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilson Ramos, Robininson Chirinos, Rene Rivera, Jed Lowrie, Jake Marisnick, Jared Hughes, Eduardo Nunez, Guillermo Heredia, Brad Brach
After purchasing the franchise for $2.4 billion, one of Cohen’s first orders of business was to retool the Mets’ front office. That meant bringing back former general manager Sandy Alderson as team president, parting with previous GM Brodie Van Wagenen and hiring ex-Red Sox, Cubs and Diamondbacks executive Jared Porter to replace him.
Based on what Porter accomplished with those clubs, giving him a prominent role looked like a reasonable move, but it couldn’t have gone worse for the Mets. Just over a month after the Mets appointed Porter, they fired him in light of allegations that he sexually harassed a female reporter when he was with the Cubs. They subsequently named another offseason hire and former Red Sox executive, Zack Scott, as their acting GM.
If you take away the front office ugliness, which is certainly hard to do, it was a productive offseason for an organization trying to escape a four-year playoff drought. Once Cohen grabbed the reins, expectations were that the Mets would spend at the top of the free-agent market, though that ultimately didn’t come to fruition despite efforts to sign elite free agents such as right-hander Trevor Bauer, center fielder George Springer and catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Even though they lost out on top-class free agents, the Mets were quite active on the open market, where they addressed several areas of need. Their biggest pickup in terms of dollars was catcher James McCann, who parlayed a terrific 2019-20 run with the White Sox into a four-year, $40.6MM guarantee. It’s fair to be skeptical of the 30-year-old McCann, who wasn’t all that effective as a Tiger from 2018-20, though he did enter this past winter’s market as the consensus No. 2 catcher available because of his performance in Chicago. Mets fans surely would have preferred for their team to land Realmuto, who wound up re-signing with the division-rival Phillies on a five-year, $115.5MM pact, but he didn’t put pen to paper until late January, and Alderson indicated that the Mets weren’t willing to wait around for JTR to make a decision. They now have McCann, who signed in mid-December, and Tomas Nido as the top two backstops on their roster.
The Mets didn’t fare as well – at least on paper – in center, where they didn’t add Springer or Jackie Bradley Jr. They instead signed stopgaps Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr. for a combined $6.25MM. Neither is a surefire everyday player for the Mets, who can still regularly deploy Brandon Nimmo at the position alongside Michael Conforto in right and Dominic Smith in left. The Nimmo-Conforto-Smith alignment is the Mets’ best outfield bet in terms of offense, though they’ll be sacrificing some defensive ability when they turn to those three. Pillar isn’t the defensive marvel he was earlier in his career, though he’s still competent in the grass and as a hitter, while Almora earned plus marks in center as a Cub from 2016-20.
As for starting pitching, while there’s no Bauer – for whom the Mets finished as runners-up to the Dodgers – they weren’t inactive in that aspect of free agency. The Mets retained Marcus Stroman, who accepted their $18.9MM qualifying offer after sitting out 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns, and signed former Mariner, Diamondback and Blue Jay Taijuan Walker to a reasonable three-year, $23MM deal. Neither will pitch to the Cy Young level that Bauer did last year, but Stroman’s an established mid-rotation starter and Walker has looked like one at times. That wasn’t all for the Mets’ newly made starting staff, which swung separate trades for longtime Indians standout Carlos Carrasco and former Padres southpaw Joey Lucchesi.
The plan was for Carrasco to join Stroman, Walker, ace Jacob deGrom and either Lucchesi or David Peterson in the Mets’ rotation as they await the return of Noah Syndergaard from Tommy John surgery, but Carrasco suffered a hamstring tear last month that could keep him out until at least May. Syndergaard may be back within a few weeks after that, which will perhaps give the Mets a rather formidable rotation down the stretch. If all goes according to plan, there should at least be quite a bit of depth – something New York’s rotation has lacked in recent years.
Of course, Carrasco certainly was not the headlining piece in the deal that transferred him from Cleveland to New York in early January. Rather, the trade centered on superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was down to his last year of team control – in which he’ll earn $22.3MM – and was not going to sign an extension with Cleveland.
With no chance to retain him for the long haul, the Indians sold one season of Lindor for a package of young players – Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Josh Wolf and Isiah Greene. Rosario and Gimenez were very promising prospects for the Mets in recent years, but trading them, Wolf and Greene for Lindor made sense for the club – especially if it was confident it could prevent Lindor from testing the free-agent market next winter. The 27-year-old four-time All-Star was in line to become arguably the leading player in the 2021-22 class when the Mets acquired him, so they took a risk when they made the trade.
As of a few days ago, there was little optimism Lindor and the Mets would hammer out an extension by his April 1 deadline, but the Cohen-led club found a way. At the proverbial 11th hour of negotiations, the Mets agreed to a 10-year, $341MM deal with Lindor – by far the largest contract in Mets history and one that counts as the third-biggest guarantee MLB has seen. It’s the type of exorbitant signing that would not have occurred during the Wilpons’ reign atop the Mets.
Thanks in part to Lindor’s entrance, the addition of McCann and their aforementioned outfield, the Mets are heading into the season with an offense that looks tough on paper. Granted, the unit will be without second baseman Robinson Cano, who thrived in 2020 – his second year as a Met – because of a 162-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. The silver lining is that the Mets won’t have to pay Cano the $20.25MM they would have owed him for this year, but it will hurt to lose him based on last season’s output.
Cano’s temporary exit aside, the club will still welcome back first baseman Pete Alonso, second baseman Jeff McNeil and third baseman J.D. Davis as starters. All three can hit, though the Mets did show interest in replacing Davis during the offseason when they pursued Justin Turner and DJ LeMahieu in free agency and considered trading for the Cubs’ Kris Bryant. Turner and LeMahieu re-signed with the Dodgers and Yankees, respectively, while the Cubs didn’t trade Bryant. However, as an impending free agent, Bryant’s among those who could interest the Mets if they’re still looking to upgrade at third during the summer.
The Mets should score their fair share of runs with this cast of hitters, but whether their bullpen will be able to lock down leads late in games is another question. New York added former Twin Trevor May and Aaron Loup, previously a Ray, in free agency. The two of them carry quality track records, though it’s debatable whether those pickups will be enough for a team that will begin the season without Seth Lugo after he underwent bone spur surgery in the middle of February. As far as healthy holdovers go, the Mets will need another big year out of closer Edwin Diaz, who rebounded tremendously from a disastrous 2019, and it’s imperative that Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia and Robert Gsellman bounce back. Those three have put together solid big league careers, but it’s no sure thing they will provide the Mets decent or better production this year.
Although neither the Mets nor their fans checked off every item on their wish list during the offseason, the team nonetheless looks demonstrably superior to the one that finished the abbreviated 2020 campaign with a horrid 26-34 mark. Thanks in part to their winter transactions, the Mets should push for a playoff spot this year, and they appear capable of ending the Braves’ three-year run atop the National League East.
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