The 2021 New York Mets have been all over the news. One of the most talked-about stories of this offseason has been Steve Cohen’s purchase of the New York Mets, and the ensuing barrage of rumors connecting nearly every top free agent to the Mets and their apparent boatloads of payroll availability. The highest tier of free agents seems defined by J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, and George Springer.
While all of these players would offer a significant upgrade for the Mets, there is (likely) some restraint on their budget, and it would be a shock to see them sign more than one of these three. That being said, there is a certain level of expectation within the industry that in an offseason where so few teams are looking to expand their payroll, the Mets should be able to land one top tier free agent. So, it’s now up to the Mets’ front office to figure out how their money is best spent.
2021 New York Mets Offseason Options
Option 1: J.T. Realmuto
While this seemed like perhaps the most likely signing at the start of the offseason, the Mets somewhat surprisingly signed catcher James McCann to a four-year deal in mid-December. McCann will be paid about $10 million per year and is expected to be the starting catcher. This move essentially removed the Mets from the market for Realmuto, indicating that they prefer the option of Bauer or Springer.
Option 2: George Springer
At the current moment, this appears to be the most likely option. Rumors have narrowed down Springer’s new home to either New York or Toronto, and it is likely that the Mets could win a bidding war for his services. Springer would provide the 2021 New York Mets with the true, all-star caliber center fielder they have been unable to find for years. He would certainly improve the team defense, and add a needed right-handed power bat to the lineup, however, his offensive impact may not be as impactful as it would seem on the surface. Let’s look at a theoretical opening day lineup with and without Springer.
Essentially, signing Springer forces Dom Smith to the bench, or at least into a platoon with Pete Alonso at first base. This massively improves the defense, with Smith, not a natural outfielder, and Nimmo better suited to a corner outfield spot. However, if Smith can maintain his 2020 batting prowess, his bat is at least comparable to Springer’s. All things considered, Springer most definitely makes the 2021 New York Mets better by a few wins, but could Bauer offer a greater improvement?
Option 3: Trevor Bauer
Just like Springer, let’s look at a theoretical 2021 New York Mets rotation with and without Bauer
The rotation is dependent on a few factors, including if Lugo is moved back to the bullpen, or when Noah Syndergaard can return from Tommy John surgery. What’s clear though, is that this team likely needs at least one more starting pitcher. They are currently slated to start the year with Matz as their fifth starter, and he has proven very unreliable.
In addition, serious starting pitching depth is a necessity, especially off the back of a season with such an irregular schedule. As it currently stands, Bauer would roughly be taking the place of a starting pitcher not much better than replacement level. This is different from the Springer situation. The Mets have offensive pieces, they just don’t necessarily fit together defensively. In contrast, the 2021 New York Mets likely need at least one more starting pitcher in order to be a top-level competitor.
Option 4: None of the Above
There is another option for Cohen and the 2021 New York Mets, albeit the least exciting one. Rather than spend big on one free agent, the front office could choose to spread the money around to several cheaper pieces, perhaps to put together a super-bullpen of sorts.
The Mets have already slightly pivoted from this top tier group. On January 7th, it was announced that there was a trade in place to acquire Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from the Indians. This acquisition provides the Mets with significant upgrades on both sides of the ball and adds just over $30 million to the payroll. While the exact total is unclear, the Mets still have an estimated $25- $30 million to spend before reaching the luxury tax threshold.
Early indications have been that the 2021 New York Mets could certainly still be in the market for Springer or maybe Bauer. Further, Lindor and Carrasco upgrade both the offense and pitching in similar ways, meaning that pitching may still be a more important area of need. If anything, this trade could push the Mets strategy toward Option 4, spreading around the remaining funds for a reliable fifth starter and some solid bullpen options.
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