When Steve Cohen officially became the new owner of the Mets, he made a few things clear.
First of all, he wanted to win a championship soon. Like, within three to five years, or else he’d be “slightly disappointed”. Cohen also wanted the Mets to be consistently good, which is something that’s also escaped the franchise throughout most of its history.
How would they accomplish these things? Well, by becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers of the east. When L.A. received new ownership in 2012, the franchise started showing the blueprint toward consistent success. It included spending a lot of money in the short term while building a ridiculously deep pipeline of talent in the minor leagues.
The Dodgers have won just one World Series since this new era began. However, they’re widely seen as one of the best-run franchises in baseball and haven’t missed the playoffs since 2012. This includes collecting nine National League West division titles and winning 100-plus games four times.
We’ve seen the Mets start following this blueprint. I mean, just look at the starting rotation. It’s now headed by two elite veterans in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander on no more than three-year deals. But sometimes, there’s a player who comes along that’s so special he needs a long-term deal.
You know who I’m talking about. The guy who can do a little bit of everything: two-way Japanese star and 2021 AL MVP, Shohei Ohtani. Los Angeles has been dipping its toe into the top end of the free-agent market so far this offseason. They haven’t yet been successful. However, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports the Dodgers may not go too hard this winter because Ohtani is the “player they truly want”.
Ohtani, of course, is under contract for 2023 with a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. The Dodgers’ southern California counterpart wants to retain the superstar, but that’s not looking likely at the moment. Angels general manager Perry Minasian has also said the club has no plans to trade the hurler/slugger this winter.
His impending trip into free agency will be fascinating because we’ve obviously never seen a player like him hit the open market. There will only be a small number of teams who can truly afford his services. One can assume the Yankees will be involved and genuinely interested along with the Dodgers and others. As we’ve seen the last couple of years, the Mets will also be involved because it’s a top player, and they like going after dudes at the top of the food chain now.
The Mets and Dodgers have gone head-to-head a few times for top free agents since Cohen took over. The first battle went to L.A., while New York has been victorious in the two most recent bouts.
Trevor Bauer. First, it was competing for Bauer following his NL Cy Young season in 2020. He was a player Mets fans thought would be landing in Queens before he decided to sign with the Dodgers. Ultimately losing these sweepstakes was clearly a blessing in disguise for the Amazins.
Max Scherzer. The Mets made the biggest of splashes last winter by signing Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million deal, which led to a record annual salary of $43.3 million. He had just finished playing the second half of 2021 with the Dodgers after they acquired him via trade from the Washington Nationals. The offers weren’t even in the same ballpark, though. L.A. reportedly only offered Max a two-year deal in the $70 million range. This was a convincing win for the Mets.
Justin Verlander. The 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner had four teams legitimately interested in him: the Mets, Dodgers, Yankees, and Houston Astros. Based on the offers being given, the Yankees and Astros were out of the running, setting up another showdown between the Amazins and Dodgers. Offers from both squads were reportedly similar, so Verlander choosing New York must’ve felt satisfying for Cohen and Co. on multiple fronts.
There will be plenty of teams interested in signing Ohtani next winter. It’s not inconceivable to think the Dodgers and Mets could be at the top of his wishlist, though. The Dodgers are a franchise committed to winning and reside in an area Ohtani is familiar with. The Mets are in another big market and have Billy Eppler leading the front office. You know, the man who convinced Ohtani to sign with the Angels in the first place.
This could end up being Round 4 in what’s turned into an annual offseason head-to-head matchup. If so, it’ll be the most intriguing one of all to watch.