Mets GM Billy Eppler and manager Buck Showalter met with reporters (including Abbey Mastracco of the New York Daily News and Newsday’s Tim Healey) earlier this week, wrapping up the season and giving some idea about what to expect from the club this winter. Unsurprisingly, those plans may well include more spending, as owner Steve Cohen isn’t planning to cut payroll after the Mets set a new luxury tax high of approximately $298.8MM in 2022.
Eppler said that Cohen has already provided a “pretty close” idea of what the 2023 budget will be, with the idea that extra spending will act as a “bridge” to keep the Mets competitive until their farm system develops the depth to start consistently generating talent from within the organization.
“You want to keep as much of your talent as possible,” Eppler said. “That’s why Steve has said what he has said, which is: We’ll use some financial strength to keep us out of that position so that we can build something long-term.”
Hindsight is always 20-20 after a first-round playoff exit, especially when the Padres and Phillies have now advanced to the NLCS thanks to contributions from players who joined the team during the season. For all of the splashy moves the Mets made last winter, New York had a relatively quiet trade deadline, yet Eppler said he had “no regrets” about his transactions.
Of those midseason pickups, Daniel Vogelbach hit .255/.393/.436 with six homers in 183 plate appearances after being acquired by the Pirates in late July. Other midseason acquisitions like Darin Ruf, Mychal Givens, and Tyler Naquin all struggled after coming to Queens, but Eppler was pleased with the Mets were able to land Vogelbach “without robbing the future in a significant way.” Landing a bigger trade target would have cost the Mets some of the top prospects they hope can start contributing in the big leagues as soon as 2023.
In terms of offseason business, New York’s first priority is its own prominent set of free agents, a group that includes Jacob deGrom (when he opts out of his contract), Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo, Chris Bassitt (if he declines his end of a mutual option), Taijuan Walker (if he declines a player option) and potentially Carlos Carrasco. The Mets seem likely to exercise their $14MM club option on Carrasco for 2023, though Eppler didn’t give any hints in this direction.
As to the more clear-cut free agents in deGrom, Diaz, and Nimmo, Eppler said the Mets will “have conversations with all three” before the free agent market opens: “We’ll get a sense of understanding their expectations, they’ll get a sense of understanding ours, and we’ll see if something can be executed. It’s talking to all three. It’s not prioritizing one over the other.”
In terms of specific needs, Eppler downplayed a potential need for more power in the lineup, saying “If it’s in the cards and it can happen, that’s one way to do it. But still honoring getting on base is an important aspect….I’m a fan of on-base percentage, I’m a fan of OPS in kind of simple terms.”
The Mets had a productive offense overall, as their collective 116 wRC+ was topped by only the Dodgers and Blue Jays. However, in terms of the power categories, the Mets were eighth of the 30 teams in slugging percentage, tied for 15th in home runs, and 16th in isolated power. This lack of extra pop stood out in the playoffs, as the Mets combined for three homers and a .326 slugging percentage in their three games against the Padres.