Mets fans, are you still reeling from the fact that Jacob deGrom is no longer part of the organization? The Winter Meetings are starting today (Sunday), so the last thing many expected was a Friday night bomb from ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
This news certainly stings, but many fans know New York will be fine overall. Yes, losing the best pitcher in baseball (when healthy) isn’t ideal. But the Mets won 95 games without deGrom in 2022 and he’s made just 26 starts in the past two seasons. They already have a sense of what life is like without him.
We also know the Mets aren’t just going to sit back and watch the rest of the pitching market dry up. New York wants to fill its rotation with two pitchers. This (hopefully) means one of Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodon, along with one hurler from the next tier. This includes the likes of Andrew Heaney, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, Ross Stripling, Kodai Senga, Jameson Taillon, and Jose Quintana.
In the immediate aftermath of the deGrom news, my first thought was for New York to sign Verlander. That remains a possibility, but I’m already changing my mind. Verlander is an ace, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, and a two-time World Series champion. However, he’s looking for a contract similar to Max Scherzer. He’ll also be entering his age-40 campaign and had a hard time producing at the same level in the playoffs as he did in the regular season.
Having the rotation led by two pitchers at least 38 years old seems risky. He’s still a great option, but I’m now more interested in Rodon. He’s much younger (will be 30 on Opening Day) and gives opposing teams a different look because he’s left-handed. Rodon has also proven to stay mostly healthy the last couple of years after dealing with injuries.
This would give the Mets someone for the front of their rotation for the next five(ish) years. He wouldn’t cost as much per year, making it easier to sign their preferred option in the second tier.
Getting two pitchers for close to the price of one deGrom or Verlander makes a return for Brandon Nimmo more possible, too. We’ve heard $300 million as a payroll target for the Mets. As SNY’s Andy Martino and others have noted, that’s going to be difficult.
Let’s say they did do that and Nimmo returns. That’s terrific, but there’s one potential issue: the offense would look largely the same as it did in 2022.
This is good news since the Mets’ offense was among the best in baseball. However, they battled with inconsistency in the second half and a general lack of power outside of Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor. A natural spot to supplement the offense would’ve been at designated hitter, but the Mets want to stick to internal options.
So, if they’re going to go over their budget…they might as well go all the way, right?
Outside of trying to make a late entry into the Aaron Judge sweepstakes (which seems unlikely), the best way to improve the offense via free agency is by acquiring a shortstop. Lindor’s presence would mean a position change for whoever comes in. We don’t know how open any of the big four (Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner) would be to that.
One guy who has at least done it in the past is Turner. He’s someone the Mets have taken an interest in (like most of the league). It’s not really a perfect fit because Turner has plenty of potential suitors who would want him to play shortstop. But hey, maybe things would change if the money was right.
Turner has the kind of positional flexibility the Mets have coveted in recent years. He’s played shortstop, second base, and a small bit of center field in the big leagues.
This obviously wouldn’t be a cheap endeavor. MLB Trade Rumors predict Turner will net a contract in excess of $250 million. However, it’d give the Mets a true upgrade on offense. Jeff McNeil would theoretically be displaced from second base, but he could become a super-utility player that’d still be on the field every day. It’d also strengthen the designated hitter position because manager Buck Showalter can keep it as a revolving door for his regulars.
I’ll be the first one to tell you this doesn’t seem likely. But, the Mets are already going to be spending a lot of money this winter, which may prevent them from staying within their reported self-imposed budget. If they’re going to go over and pay a huge sum for luxury tax penalties, they might as well go all the way. Two starting pitchers, Nimmo, one of the top free-agent shortstops, and some bullpen help would be expensive, but it’d be a helluva offseason haul.
Who knows what team owner Steve Cohen wants to do now that deGrom is heading south. It certainly seems like he’s annoyed and ready to go on a spending spree. You know, similar to what happened on Black Friday last offseason after Steven Matz decided against coming home to Flushing.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Cohen-led Mets over the last couple of years, it’s that we can’t rule anything out.