Under second-year owner Steve Cohen, the Mets had the spending spree many fans originally envisioned and are now reaping the benefits with one of the game’s most formidable rosters.
Major League Signings
- Max Scherzer, RHP: Three years, $130MM
- Starling Marte, OF: Four years, $78MM
- Mark Canha, OF: Two years, $26.5MM
- Eduardo Escobar, INF: Two years, $20MM
- Adam Ottavino, RHP: One year, $4MM
- John Curtiss, RHP: One year, $770K (contract contains $775K club option for 2023 season)
- Nick Plummer, OF: One year, $700K
Total 2022 salary added: $83.903MM
Total overall spend: $259.27MM
Trades and Waiver Claims
- Acquired RHP Chris Bassitt from the Athletics in exchange for minor league RHPs J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller
- Acquired LHP Joely Rodriguez from the Yankees in exchange for RHP Miguel Castro and cash
- Acquired RHP Adonis Medina from the Phillies for cash
- Claimed RHP Yoan Lopez off waivers from the Marlins
- Claimed RHP Antonio Santos off waivers from the Rockies
Notable Minor League Signings
- Chasen Shreve, Travis Jankowski, Alex Claudio, Mike Montgomery, Felix Pena, Daniel Palka, Johneshwy Fargas, R.J. Alvarez, Tim Adleman, Tzu-Wei Lin, Rob Zastryzny
- Marcus Stroman, Javier Baez, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Jeurys Familia, Jonathan Villar, Aaron Loup, Brad Hand, Rich Hill, Heath Hembree
While many teams around the league opted to wait until the new collective bargaining agreement had been hammered out to make their biggest offseason splashes, the Mets had no such reticence. By the time commissioner Rob Manfred locked out the players, the Mets had spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars on the free-agent market.
The early strike is all the more remarkable given that the Mets entered the offseason without a general manager in place. Owner Steve Cohen was in the market for a new baseball operations leader for a second straight winter. As he did following the 2021 season, Cohen set his sights high, showing interest in names like Billy Beane, David Stearns and Theo Epstein. However, a meeting with Epstein didn’t prove fruitful, and the Mets were denied permission to speak to Beane, Stearns and a host of other potential candidates as they cast a wide net.
Eventually, former Angels GM and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler was tabbed as the new head of baseball operations. A managerial search followed, and though the Mets interviewed several frequent candidates — Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and Astros bench coach Joe Espada among them — it was veteran skipper Buck Showalter who was brought in to steer the new Cohen/Eppler-led ship on the field.
Both Eppler and Showalter represented departures from the inexperienced hires at their positions the Mets had made in recent years. Brodie Van Wagenen went from agent to general manager with no front office experience, while quickly ousted GM Jared Porter had never held the top job in a baseball operations hierarchy before his hiring. (Ditto also departed Zack Scott, who went from assistant GM to acting GM following Porter’s firing.) In the dugout, the Mets had previously hired (and near-immediately dismissed) a first-time skipper in Carlos Beltran, and he was replaced internally by another rookie manager, Luis Rojas. With several recent implosions, some of them unforeseeable, the Mets opted for more experience at those two critical leadership positions.
Within a week of joining the organization, Eppler had a trio of signings to announce. In a span of 48 hours, the Mets agreed to terms on a four-year, $78MM deal with Starling Marte and a pair of two-year deals with outfielder Mark Canha ($26.5MM) and infielder Eduardo Escobar ($20MM). The signings of Marte and Canha, in particular, closed the door on the Mets’ relationship with former All-Star right fielder Michael Conforto. New York already had Brandon Nimmo and several other outfield options on the roster, plus a crowded DH mix. Escobar joined a similarly cluttered collection of infield options, with J.D. Davis also vying for at-bats at third base, Jeff McNeil and Robinson Cano at second base, and Dominic Smith and Pete Alonso at first base.
It was a frenzied strike that got its own fair share of buzz and ostensibly looked to set the stage for subsequent trades, but the Mets’ pre-lockout fireworks were only just getting started.
A week after agreeing to terms with Marte, Canha and Escobar, the Mets jumped into the bidding on three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. The most commonly held belief seemed to be that the deep-pocketed Dodgers would hang onto Mad Max, whom they acquired alongside Trea Turner at the 2021 trade deadline. Few teams can go toe-to-toe in a bidding war with Dodgers ownership, after all, and Scherzer himself at the ’21 deadline was reportedly unwilling to waive his no-trade protection to approve a deal to either New York team (despite interest from both).
Scherzer’s reasons for nixing a trade to New York might never be fully known, but a record-shattering average annual value on a three-year deal from the Mets put to bed any hesitation he might have been feeling. The $43.33MM annual rate at which Scherzer signed absolutely trounced the prior record of $36MM and set a new high-water mark at which all future marquee free agents will surely take aim when seeking short-term deals.
We’ve yet to see it this season, of course, but the eventual debut of a Scherzer/Jacob deGrom-led rotation will give the Mets one of the greatest one-two punches of all-time. (That, unfortunately, will be put on hold even further with Scherzer set to miss six-to-eight weeks because of an oblique strain). With five Cy Young Awards and a dozen All-Star nods between them, Scherzer and deGrom are two of this generation’s most dominant performers. Cohen spent considerable resources to make it happen, but adding those two to an in-house group including Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, Tylor Megill and David Peterson, among others, gave the Mets a wealth of rotation options even after bidding farewell to Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman.
Of course, the Mets ultimately didn’t prove to be done bolstering the starting staff. With the Athletics widely known to be shopping the majority of their well-compensated veterans, the Mets made the first strike after the transaction freeze, plucking righty Chris Bassitt away in exchange for a pair of minor league right-handers.
J.T. Ginn was considered among the best arms in New York’s system, having been selected in the second round of the 2020 draft. The Mississippi State product turned in a 3.03 ERA in 92 innings across the Mets’ two Class-A affiliates in 2021. Righty Adam Oller, meanwhile, was a former 20th-rounder by the Pirates who’d been out of affiliated ball entirely, only to parlay a terrific indie ball showing into a minor league opportunity with the Mets. He posted excellent numbers in the minor league system last season, vaulting into late-blooming prospect status, and he’s already made his big league debut in Oakland.
It was hardly an inconsequential return for the A’s, and yet the Mets are surely thrilled to have made the deal. Beyond the fact that Bassitt has been flat-out exceptional in Queens — seven starts, 42 1/3 innings, 2.34 ERA, 26.9% strikeout rate, 7.0% walk rate — the Mets learned in Spring Training that they were in for another protracted absence from deGrom. Having added Bassitt to the mix became all the more important with deGrom sustaining a stress reaction in his right scapula, and Bassitt has been a large reason that deGrom’s absence hasn’t been felt as acutely as most would’ve anticipated.
The rest of the Mets’ post-lockout moves generally focused on the bullpen. New York native Adam Ottavino signed on for a reasonable one-year pact, and Eppler & Co. made a rare crosstown deal with the Yankees that swapped out righty Miguel Castro for lefty Joely Rodriguez. That trade was interesting beyond the fact that it was a nearly unheard of Yankees/Mets deal; Rodriguez had re-signed with the Yanks as a free agent over the winter and, as such, wasn’t eligible to be traded without his consent prior to June 15. As we reported at the time, Rodriguez agreed to the trade after his agent negotiated a $500K bonus to do so.
The Mets also added righty John Curtiss, knowing full well that he won’t pitch this season after last summer’s Tommy John surgery. But he’ll make scarcely more than the league minimum in 2022 with a similarly affordable $775K option for 2023. For a pitcher with a 2.86 ERA, 24.1% strikeout rate and 5.2% walk rate in 69 1/3 frames from 2020-21, it’s an eminently reasonable roll of the dice. Curtiss can be controlled through 2025 via arbitration as well, further adding to the appeal.
It was something of a surprise that the Mets’ post-lockout dealings generally stopped at this point, however. There was plenty of talk throughout the lockout that the club could be open to adding another big bat of note, with names like Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman and Seiya Suzuki among those connected to the Mets in reports. There was undoubtedly some tactical element from various agencies with some of the many players connected to them — it never hurts to have the big-spending Mets linked to your client — but there was surely an openness from Eppler and his staff to creatively find ways to add to the roster as well. The Mets, for instance, were said to be exploring scenarios that would’ve seen them eat Eric Hosmer’s contract in order to acquire further pitching help and young talent from the Padres — though the deal obviously didn’t come together.
Beyond that scenario, there were plenty of others discussed. Reports throughout the lockout suggested that the Mets, having signed Marte, Canha and Escobar already, could look to trade from a newfound corner outfield/infield logjam. Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil all had their names hit the rumor mill at various points, with Davis in particular tied to a handful of teams looking to add to their DH mix. The Twins, Angels, Cubs and A’s were among the clubs reportedly interested in Davis, who hasn’t gotten his bat going this year amid sparse playing time. Smith, too, has struggled at the plate without a regular role. Given that the Mets were at least contemplating moves regarding the pair of now-struggling sluggers, one can imagine it’s possible their names will again surface in trade talks this summer.
By hanging onto that entire group and also adding several high-priced veterans — led by Scherzer — the Mets entered the season with a staggering, franchise-record payroll of $279MM. Their luxury-tax ledger is even loftier, sitting at $288.775MM in the estimation of Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez (or $287.966MM at Cot’s Contracts). That puts them just inches away from the newly implemented fourth tier of luxury-tax penalization, which sits at $290MM and has been offhandedly referred to as the “Cohen tax.” One of the sticking points for owners around the league during collective bargaining talks was the addition of a fourth tier of luxury penalization, reportedly due largely to a pervasive desire to prevent Cohen from bucking industry trend and spending at over-the-top levels.
Whether their proximity to that threshold will become the norm or is a one-off dalliance due to the fact that it was established after the Mets had already done the bulk of their offseason spending remains to be seen. It’s all but a given, however, that the more conservative payrolls that were the norm under the Wilpon ownership group are a thing of the past. Cohen’s Mets will always be threats to spend at the top of the free-agent market and won’t be afraid to take on salary via trade. That’ll be particularly worth keeping in mind as the trade deadline rolls around this year. The Mets don’t have too many obvious needs — as one would expect from a first-place team in a strong division — but it seems unlikely that finances will serve as the primary roadblock to Eppler acquiring any help the Mets might need a couple months down the road.
You Can Put It In The Books
Offseason in review…ungodly amounts of money for a killer product.
This is one of the most complete teams in baseball. Hats off to Mets ownership and their front office for piecing together a team with talent and chemistry. If you think they’re good now? Come July 15 with Scherzer and deGrom 1 and 1a., nobody, including us, will want to play them.
I agree, You Can Put It In The Books… oh my bad wrong account I was replying to… sorry.
Sure, they spent a lot.. But they brought in lots of core and complimentary players that actually FILLED A NEED. The team has several guys that can beat you in several different ways. My favorite team to watch.
Question: Has any team ever spent this much in one offseason? 84 has got to be close to the record. Either way, it’s paying off so far.
You Can Put It In The Books
Hi Von – In terms of AAV, I’m not sure any team has ever added more. There have been teams that have added way more than the Mets in total contract though.
The key for the Mets is that these are short-term deals. From the beginning, the plan has been made clear. Cohen will spend big early on the major league team and field a big time product (something Mets and baseball fans alike have clamored for for years). In parallel, spend on analytics and scouting and build the minor league system. In other words, the Dodgers model of spending + analytics that helps them churn out enough prospects to continually supplement the big league team via call ups and strategic trade acquisitions.
The model is clear. It should be no surprise that the richest owner in baseball spent money. What *will* be a surprise to their many detractors will be in a few years when the Mets continue to spend AND have one of the best farm systems – annually.
I figure that in the future Cohen will learn to win without a payroll that makes most teams blush.
Like the Dodgers, but without the brilliant mind of Andrew Friedman.
i think with an improved farm inevitably it will become less but for the next 2 or 3 years they will be in luxury hell. Pitching alone will get us there as bassitt probably going to get 25+ and unless degrom lights the place on fire on return he will not opt out. that right there is 100 million committed to 3 players plus another 20ish million on Cano. 30ish mil to lindor 150 million to 4 active spots.
You Can Put It In The Books
You’re right, his name is David Stearns. And the Dodgers were good before Friedman.
if your talking about total dollars … then yes just the rangers alone spent more on just corey seager and i think they may have spent more AAV when you total everything up.
The MLBTR Rangers review doesn’t cite 2022 spending alone, but based on each contract’s AAV, I got something like $96M spent for this season.
Perhaps #1 and #2 in one offseason. Wild.
Excellent review. Cheers!
The trades they didn’t make are my favorite part of the off season. Remember when folks were insisting that the Mets were definitely trading Nimmo cuz batting average? Or how signing Escobar meant they had to trade McNeil?
McNeil was the last one on that list i wanted traded we were selling soooo low on him it wouldnt be worth it and he was still a popular player.
Good point, Cosmo. Cutting ties with Cano too.
Anyone citing Nimmo’s batting average and not his on-base percentage hasn’t been paying attention to baseball over the last 20 years.
BA is a useless stat when taken on its own. It works well in conjunction with other stats.
Wow! They’re still doing these. Let’s hope they get them all in before the postseason.
As for the Mets, they don’t seem built to sustain. But Cohen did make his edict clear….”Win Now!” The problem is, the playoffs are a crapshoot where the best and a truly dominant team has maybe a 1 in 5 chance of winning. So if they don’t get that ring, the team could look pretty disheveled in a couple of years.
You Can Put It In The Books
Terrible take. See post above.
Bad take FSF. You’re not understanding.
I think I am understanding the situation, but time will tell. I would say that Cohen might have been able to spend his way out of it to some extent but I think stocks are easily dead for the next decade so I’m not sure he’s going to be this free spending for so long.
You Can Put It In The Books
Lmao an even worse take. You’ve outdone yourself, sir. Any more stock advice you want to share hahaha
You sound really scared because I think you know I speak the truth, even if you’re doing everything you can to convince yourself that it is not so.
The smart move was keeping the bench depth and not tinkering with starters, but adding. The weakest position is catcher, but that’ll be addressed at some point next year.
Reticent Abuse Bot says:
“Reticent” means reluctant to *speak*, not reluctant in general.
It’s nice to know that in one of the longest posts I’ve ever read at MLBTR, you managed to focus on a single word. Bravo.
They didn’t acquire Medina from the Phillies. The Phillies DFA’d him and the Pirates claimed him. They sent cash to the Pirates for him.
You should also add Kevin Pillar to the “Notable Losses” list. He’s not a huge loss but he contributed more than some of those guys listed.
Seriously asking this and not trying to come off as a jerk but how can you feel good about your team if you just go out and buy a bunch of guys in the offseason? It’s not the same as watching young guys grow into stars and finding diamonds in the rough, they just straight up flexed their financial muscle over everyone and are playing as expected. Yes I know they still have a few homegrown guys but still it’s crazy to me.
Because the goal is to win a championship. Not to see how many prospects you can develop and groom. If you can do the latter, great. But the main and primary goal is to win.
Yeah, I get that and agree prospect hoarding isn’t what wins you titles but maybe over the season the fans will develop a bond with these guys if they keep winning. Just seems like a hired gun approach.
The fans are not interested in bonding. If you can do that, great. The fans want a championship.
Degrom, megill, Peterson, nido, mazeika, lugo, drew smith, Pete, dom, mcneil, nimmo, and perennial kost Luis guillermo.
Been a fan for a while and this feels like a great balance.
I sort of get what you’re saying but did the Mets really buy a first place team? The payroll was high to begin with. They “bought” an aging Scherzer and now he’s injured. Marte is no spring chicken. They have a high payroll but a lot of the team is homegrown and they haven’t exactly been the kings of free agency.
Yes, but they also developed DeGrom and he’s not any healthier than Scherzer.
i dunno, alonso mcneil, degrom, nido, nimmo seem to be home grown **shrugs* i mean that is probably half your starting day lineup if all were healthy. I say Nido because one he is homegrown and it seems DeGrom prefers him as his personal catcher so he probably would have started over mccann in that scenario anyways. I guess you can include Dom Smith if you want since he dh’s a fair amount.
For the record i am a huge mcneil and daniel murphy fan. Guys that just keep pushing to improve are my faves.