How I Would Finish Off The Mets’ Offseason

New Mets owner Steve Cohen is introduced to the media for the first time as owner in November 2020. (Image credit: SNY)

The Mets have been one of the few active teams throughout free agency so far this offseason. Under new owner Steve Cohen, President Sandy Alderson, GM Jared Porter, and AGM Zack Scott, the team has been acting quick and diligently in upgrading the club as much as possible heading into the 2021 season. With many of the biggest name free agents still on the market headed into the year 2021, the Mets have already had a somewhat eventful offseason. The signings of catcher James McCann (4/40) and reliever Trevor May (2/15.5) have already immensely upgraded the team. The Mets needed an upgrade behind the plate and got one in the underrated McCann, who was the second-best catcher on the market behind J.T. Realmuto, who would’ve commanded a far higher salary than the 4/40 that McCann signed for. You can never have enough bullpen arms and the Mets nabbed one of the best ones on the market early, in Trevor May, who dominated for Minnesota the last few years.

In normal offseasons in the past, this would be the conclusion of a “fruitful” offseason for the Mets. That’s not the case anymore with the richest owner in the sport taking the helm of the team. The Mets believe the signings of May and McCann are just ancillary moves to bigger and better things. The Mets aren’t done making moves if Steve Cohen’s vision of winning a championship in his first 3-5 years is to be made true. For years Mets fans have been clamoring for the team to be involved on the biggest free agents but their penny pinching former owners, the Wilpons, would rarely make that move unless it was re-signing a player already with the team (David Wright, Yoenis Céspedes) or acquiring a superstar who was on the backend of their career (Robinson Cano (through trade), Michael Cuddyer, Rick Porcello). With the Wilpons out, a billionaire owner coming in, and a good chunk of payroll space before reaching the CBT, the Mets are slated to do major damage this winter.

The biggest free agents coming into this offseason were catcher J.T. Realmuto, CF George Springer, SP Trevor Bauer, INF D.J. LeMahieu, and LF/DH Marcell Ozuna. Amongst heavily reported big names on the trade market, you have Indians SS Francisco Lindor, Reds’ SP’s Luis Castillo & Sonny Gray, Reds 3B Eugenio Suarez, Cubs’ SS Javier Baez, 3B Kris Bryant, and C Wilson Contreras, and Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado & SS Trevor Story.

With a middle of the pact farm system and $52.7M in payroll flexibility until reaching the CBT (according to Spotrac) the Mets are widely expected to sign one of those big free agents (most likely candidates are Springer and Bauer) and be involved in trade discussions for most of those players listed on the trade market, perhaps even coming away with one of them. The Mets purposely pounced on McCann to be their catcher over Realmuto due to the significant difference in contract demands and the fact that signing McCann would allow for more team payroll to be spread out to bigger and/or more needs. Now I will pretend to be Mets management and outline how I’d play the rest of this offseason…

Move #1: Sign CF George Springer to a 5 year, $115M deal ($23M AAV)
The Mets desperately need an upgrade defensively in center field and a big-time veteran bat, so why not grab both of those things in former World Series MVP George Springer? Springer is arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball, possessing major power, solid speed, and solid contact skills. His power could easily translate to a middle of the order bat if the Mets wanted to go with Brandon Nimmo or Jeff McNeil in the leadoff spot. Springer would be a clear upgrade defensively in center, taking over for Nimmo who will slide into left field. Springer is already 31 years old, so his primary defensive position of centerfield scares me a bit, which is why under no circumstances would I go over 5 years for Springer. If someone wants to go over 5 years for Springer (I’m looking at you, Toronto), then they can have him. A starting outfield of Nimmo, Springer, and Conforto for the next 5 years sure sounds nice.

Move #2: Trade 3B/DH J.D. Davis ($2.3M ARB EST, ARB1), SS Ronny Mauricio (NYM #1 Prospect), and SP Josh Wolf (NYM #9 Prospect) to the Cincinnati Reds for SP Luis Castillo ($4.0M ARB EST, ARB1)
Some people will read this and think I’m nuts for thinking of trading Davis and the #1 prospect in the farm system. While a package headlined like that is a steep price to pay, that’s right around what it would cost to acquire Castillo from Cincinnati. Castillo has three years of team control left before he hits free agency, is projected to make $4M in 2021 as a first-time arbitration-eligible player, and has pitched like an ace for two straight years now. He’s 28 years old and would be a perfect #2 to deGrom’s #1 in the rotation. Castillo has high strikeout numbers, a decent career WHIP, and brings lots of energy to the field when he’s starting. Castillo is good enough right now to win a Cy Young award and that’s why the trade package would need to be strong to get him with at least half the league exploring it since it was reported that the Reds were listening to offers for Castillo. I included Mauricio because of how much Cincinnati would probably want him, combined with the fact that the Mets currently have two highly regarded young shortstops already on the major league roster and the impending probability that the Mets make a run at one of the star shortstops slated to hit free agency a year from now. Davis is included so they add some punch to their lineup right away and have a Eugenio Suarez replacement ready, if and when Cincinnati trades him. A deGrom-Castillo 1-2 for the next 3 years at minimum is a scary thought for the rest of the NL. This may be a steep price on the Mets’ end, but you gotta pay a premium for an ascending star pitcher with three affordable years of control left. The package also has to be worthwhile for Cincinnati to even consider it as well. You also get a cheaper insurance policy incase one or both of Syndergaard and Stroman bolt next year.

Move #3: Sign Japanese SP Tomoyuki Sugano to a 2-3 year, $26-39M deal ($13M AAV)
The Mets desperately need starting pitching help behind Jacob deGrom and that’s what’s happening here. Sugano is the biggest international free agent being made available this free agency, coming over from the NPB in Japan, which is regarded as the toughest baseball league in the world after MLB. Sugano is 31 years old, has dominated for the last half-decade, and hasn’t had an ERA above 2.14, outside of 2019 when he dealt with a back injury. He isn’t a huge strikeout guy but still produces strikeouts at a good clip. Multiple reports say that it’ll only be a 2-3 year deal for Sugano’s first MLB contract and should cost somewhere between $12-15M annually. Going off that, the Mets would be crazy not to be in on Sugano (they have been, according to multiple reports), and make the starting rotation as deep and tough as it can be compared to 2020. Sugano finished the 2020 season with a 14-2 record, 1.97 ERA, and a 0.88 WHIP, so he’d be coming over after a very strong final season in Japan.

Move #4: Sign LHRP Brad Hand to a 1 year, $9M deal
The Mets could surely use one more bullpen piece to create a scary force when the starting pitcher exits. The team is desperate for another left-handed reliever and Hand will give them that, plus immense closing experience. The Indians shockingly declined a $10M option on Hand’s contract, making him a free agent this offseason. Hand has 105 career saves under his belt, an ERA that’s never been higher than 3.30 since 2015, league average WHIP, and great strikeout numbers. Add that to Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, and Brad Brach, and you got yourself a menacing bullpen.

Current Projected Mets 2021 Payroll: $157.28M (according to Spotrac)

Projected Mets 2021 Payroll With My Additions: $203.98M ($157.28+$46.7M)
Still leaves the team with $6.02M before hitting the CBT

2021 Roster:
C: James McCann
1B: Pete Alonso/Dominic Smith
2B: Jeff McNeil
3B: Andres Gimenez
SS: Amed Rosario
OF: Brandon Nimmo
OF: George Springer
OF: Michael Conforto
DH: Dominic Smith/Pete Alonso

BN: Mallex Smith (OF)
BN: Tomas Nido (C)
BN: Luis Guillorme (INF)
BN: Marwin Gonzalez or Danny Santana (UTIL)

SP: Jacob deGrom
SP: Luis Castillo
SP: Tomoyuki Sugano
SP: Marcus Stroman
SP: Noah Syndergaard (David Peterson during Noah’s rehab)

RP: Edwin Diaz
RP: Seth Lugo
RP: Trevor May
RP: Dellin Betances
RP: Brad Hand
RP: Jeurys Familia
RP: Brad Brach
RP: David Peterson (Miguel Castro while Peterson starts the first 2-3 months)

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