The New York Mets face the prospect of an offseason that could monumentally change the direction of the franchise for years to come. The franchise’s sale to billionaire Steve Cohen should be approved shortly after the World Series, adding even more intrigue to the hot stove season. Let’s take a look at some big questions that the Mets will have to answer this winter as they look to build a contender for 2021.
1. What happens to Brodie Van Wagenen and Luis Rojas?
Cohen has already announced that Sandy Alderson will be the Mets’ president of baseball operations if the sale is approved which could lead to some changes in the front office. Brodie Van Wagenen would likely be a goner as Alderson could look to hire a younger GM who he could groom to take over the organization’s decision making process down the road.
The situation with Rojas is a bit more interesting since he is well respected in the locker room and got the short end of the stick by having to take over in February while only getting a 60-game season to show what he’s worth. The Mets could opt to bring Rojas back for another year since Alderson had a working relationship with him during his time with the organization.
2. Do the Mets pursue contract extensions with anyone?
The Mets were very hesitant to hand out contract extensions in the Wilpon era after a few bad contracts cost the franchise dearly in the early 2010s. That philosophy could change with Cohen’s deeper pockets which is a good thing to set the franchise up for long-term success. Michael Conforto’s deal is up after the 2021 season so extending him would be a no-brainer. Noah Syndergaard’s situation is a bit more complicated due to his Tommy John surgery but a two-year bridge deal could make sense for both sides.
3. Which free agents could be retained?
Wilson Ramos’ down year and $10.5 million option make him an easy candidate to let walk. Deadline acquisitions Todd Frazier and Robinson Chirinos should also be cut loose while the Mets won’t bother attempting to retain Yoenis Cespedes. Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and Jared Hughes probably won’t be back either while Dellin Betances and Brad Brach will likely exercise their 2021 player options. The only real candidates to re-sign are Marcus Stroman, who should receive a qualifying offer, and lefty Justin Wilson.
4. How much money will the Mets spend?
The baseball industry as a whole took a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic but the Mets could be in a unique position thanks to the arrival of Cohen, whose business wasn’t impacted significantly. With only $73 million committed to payroll and plenty of room to take care of arbitration-eligible players, the Mets should be in the mix for big free agents like J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer and George Springer.
5. Who’s catching?
The biggest regular position of concern is catcher, where Ramos will be allowed to test free agency after a down year. Realmuto is the big prize but if he has his sights set on $200 million it probably won’t come from the Mets since that is way too much to pay for a 30-year-old catcher. Another target here could be James McCann, who is an excellent defender with a solid bat that would be a strong fallback if Realmuto doesn’t budge on his asking price.
6. What does the rotation look like?
Jacob deGrom is at the top while David Peterson is going to be there but the other three spots remain a question. Noah Syndergaard should eventually take one so the Mets could look to leave Seth Lugo in the rotation for now and move him back to the bullpen once Syndergaard is healthy. That still means the Mets need to add two starting pitchers since Steven Matz’s performance won’t guarantee him a spot. Bauer would be a phenomenal addition for the Mets, who could also look at guys like Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Robbie Ray. Re-signing Stroman would also provide a boost to a rotation that really needs one.
7. How do the Mets address center field?
Brandon Nimmo is a good offensive player but he simply can’t play center field on a contending team. The Mets could make a run at Springer, who is still playing a good center field and raking in the postseason for the Astros, but he will command a fortune and likely need to move to a corner in two years, putting the Mets in the same problematic situation they’ve faced slotting in their outfielders for the past five years. A good fallback could be Jackie Bradley Jr, a natural defensive center fielder whose bat could be hidden at the bottom of a deep Mets’ lineup.
8. What about the bullpen?
The Mets’ bullpen has some pieces already locked in for 2021 as Edwin Diaz is set to begin his third season as the team’s closer while Jeurys Familia still has a year left on his deal. Betances should opt-in, which could help if he recaptures more of his old form another year removed from his injury-plagued 2019 season. This group could use another lefty to replace Wilson and more options for the back end. Alderson often looked for cheap arms early in his tenure as Mets’ GM but that approach could change with more payroll resources.
9. Will the DH stay in 2021?
This is a major question that the Mets need an answer to as soon as possible since it could significantly impact how they construct their team. The addition of the universal DH in 2020 significantly helped the Mets since it created playing time for Dominic Smith and Pete Alonso, two natural first basemen, with Alonso getting a ton of time there at the end of the year so Smith could play the position as the better defender. Robinson Cano also did well in his DH at-bats, which allowed Jeff McNeil to play his natural position of second base. The DH has to be negotiated between the league and player’s union so if it doesn’t return before a new CBA the Mets could have to try creating more defensive mish-mashes to try and get enough at-bats for guys like Smith, J.D. Davis and Nimmo.
10. Can the Mets get creative on the trade market?
The Mets were consistently outfoxed on trades with Van Wagenen as their GM but that should change with an experienced baseball mind like Alderson running the ship. The farm system was stripped a bit by Van Wagenen’s fringe moves but the Mets do have enough pieces to be in play for big players rumored to be on the trade block like Francisco Lindor or Nolan Arenado. Cohen’s checkbook could also allow the Mets to take on salary in order to reduce the return in prospects, a novel concept for a franchise that not only took on Robinson Cano’s contract but also parted with Jarred Kelenic to obtain Diaz from the Seattle Mariners.