The 2021 Mets season is just about over, a once-promising outlook wrecked by injury, bad luck, and most of all underperformance. The combination of free-agent departures and bad seasons from once-reliable players means the Mets have a lot of work to do if they want to be competitive in 2022. There are major gaps in both the offense and pitching, not to mention the front office situation. Lucky for Cohen, he has four-plus months to reshape the organization and prove who he is as an owner.
Step 1: Fix the Front Office Mess
By far the top priority for Cohen and co. this offseason should be establishing a core of experienced executives that can execute his vision for the New York Mets. So far, the most prominent individuals to lead the front office have been Jared Porter, fired for sending explicit text messages to a reporter; Zack Scott, recently charged with a DWI; and Sandy Alderson, integral in hiring Porter and Scott and allegedly complicit with incidents of workplace harassment.
Beyond this multitude of scandals, Alderson’s dominant role in a disappointing season has led many to question if his old-fashioned mindset can breed success in today’s MLB. Regardless of this, it would be prudent of Cohen to rid himself of Alderson and any other scandal-ridden employees as soon as the season concludes. Ideally, the allure of a big-market franchise and an owner with deep pockets can pry a top-of-the-line executive away from another team. One name that has caught headlines is Athletics GM Billy Beane, one of the greatest minds in the game who could jump ship for an owner with a bigger checkbook.
Step 2: Find a CF Who Can Play Offense and Defense
This seems like it has been the goal of every Mets offseason since 2015, and yet every year we wind up with the likes of Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo failing to track down fly balls, or Juan Lagares, Keon Broxton, and Jake Marisnick struggling to hit major league pitching.
The best option looks to be Starling Marte. The former NL East foe is in the midst of a great year between the Marlins and the Athletics. Despite being almost 33, Marte has not lost a step and is still an elite fielder and baserunner. He is also having a career offensive year, posting a 137 OPS+ across 421 PA.
Bringing in Marte would finally solve the Mets CF problem, and would replace Michael Conforto on the roster. Brandon Nimmo would slide over to RF, with Dom Smith, Jeff McNeil, and JD Davis splitting the LF responsibilities. Nimmo would go from an average defender in center to a great corner OF. Add on his .400+ OBP and Nimmo is one of the Mets’ most valuable players.
Signing Marte is a move that would improve the Mets on multiple fronts. It also helps that he is a right-handed hitter that would balance out the team’s lefty-heavy outfield. Even if Marte requires a deal several years long, he could later move into a corner spot (or DH) as he ages.
Step 3: Resign Javy Báez
With the drop-off in production from Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis, the Mets suddenly have only half an infield looking toward 2022. If Cohen is serious about the Mets fielding a competitive team, they can’t afford to roll out McNeil, Davis, and Smith in the opening day lineup. Among the elite infielders available this offseason are Javier Baez, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Carlos Correa. With what we have seen from him since the trade deadline, Javy should be the Mets’ choice.
After addressing the front office, this really should be the top priority. For better or worse, Lindor will be The Guy in Queens for the next decade, so why not bring in Baez to be his right-hand-man long-term. It can’t hurt that Baez has already posted 1.7 WAR with a 154 OPS+ in just 38 games as a Met. Like Lindor, Baez is also an elite defender and will only improve as he adjusts to playing second base long term. Not to mention that Baez would likely come at a cheaper price than the likes of Seager and Correa, therefore allowing the Mets to better address their numerous other needs.
The double-play combination of Lindor and Baez would be a great selling point in Flushing for years to come. Not only do they bring defense, speed, and athleticism that the Wilpon’s Mets were sorely lacking, but they provide the star power and name recognition which the offense has not seen in years.
Step 4: Front-line Rotation Signing
The Mets are currently slated to head into 2022 with a rotation of DeGrom/Walker/Carrasco/Megill/Peterson. That’s… not great. Management almost certainly needs to make a major addition to this group, and probably several depth moves as well. Lucky for Cohen, there are a number of well-regarded pitchers set to hit the market this winter. First and foremost, Marcus Stroman has indicated a strong desire to return to Queens, and seems to have ingratiated himself well with his teammates. Other available names include Zack Greinke, Kevin Gausman, and if Cohen really wants to break the bank, Max Scherzer.
Step 5: Fill out the Bullpen
This is probably the least important area of the team, with an already solid bullpen in place and relievers being particularly volatile. Diaz/May/Castro/Lugo should give the team a solid base to build on. Resigning Loup will be critical, plus Drew Smith looked like a quality piece earlier this year. Add in Robert Gsellman, Sean Reid-Foley, or Peterson/Megill moving to the pen, and the Mets already have a solid corps of relievers.
Bonus Step 6: Do Something Ridiculous
The Mets clearly have their work cut out for them this offseason, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable for management to take an additional year to build a foundation before really shooting for the playoffs. However, Cohen has made a point of saying he wants the team to compete immediately.
One year ago, it seemed like Cohen would be nothing like the Mets’ previous owners. And while I still think this is true, the Cohen regime has yet to shirk the “lolMets” monicker. In his first year, the team still managed a disappointing deadline, a late-season collapse, and a circus of off-the-field issues. It may not be the smartest long-term move, but if Cohen is looking to make a statement he has the capability to, for instance, sign Carlos Correa en route to reforming the 2017 Puerto Rican WBC team.
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