Clearly, the best way to kickstart a Mets offseason spending spree is having Steve Cohen and Co. miss out on a pitcher they’re pursuing.
It happened last winter with Steven Matz. That led to New York signing Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Max Scherzer in less than a week. This year, it was Jacob deGrom bolting for the Texas Rangers.
Since that happened, the Mets have signed Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, Kodai Senga, and Brandon Nimmo, equaling just shy of $360 million. But you know what? That’s just not good enough for some people.
If you spend any time on the Twitter machine, you’ll see a couple of consistent gripes:
- The Mets have a record payroll. They’re spending too much money and are just trying to buy a championship!
- New York has spent all this money and they still haven’t gotten any better.
Every time I see one of these takes, I just shake my head in disgust. But while I was busy basking in the glory of New York agreeing to terms with Senga, I saw this one and finally had enough:
The Mets are going to have a $340M payroll and it’s easy to make the case that they didn’t even get better this offseason. Verlander replaces DeGrom, Senga replaces Bassit. DRob replaces Lugo. Nimmo and Diaz return. It’s one of the worst off seasons I’ve ever seen. https://t.co/9W5UBLgdJV
— Rational Yankees (Giants) Fan (@rational_yankee) December 11, 2022
One of the worst offseasons they’ve ever seen? A common retort from those challenging these takes has typically been…well, what else are the Mets supposed to do? And that’s pretty on point.
Upon entering the offseason, the Mets had the following situation on their roster:
- The only veteran starting pitcher guaranteed to return was Max Scherzer.
- Drew Smith was the only reliever with significant big-league experience in the bullpen.
- Brandon Nimmo was the only major Mets position player to hit the open market, but he was clearly the best primary center fielder/leadoff hitter available.
This team won 101 regular-season games in 2022. We knew New York was going to be a big spender this winter because that was the only way for them to be a postseason contender again. And we also knew that because so many impact players were becoming free agents, the payroll would continue to rise.
Regarding Edwin Diaz and Nimmo, each of them was the best option at their respective positions in free agency. The Mets went and re-signed them. They replaced deGrom, who started 11 games last season, with Verlander, who just won his third Cy Young Award.
Quintana, who posted 4.0 fWAR last year, replaces Taijuan Walker, who was worth 2.5 fWAR. Chris Bassitt is a known commodity in the big leagues and Senga is an unknown, but the potential upside is tremendous. Oh, and for the cost of deGrom’s $185 million contract, the Mets filled out their rotation with those three arms:
The Mets turned Jacob deGrom (185m) into Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, and Jose Quintana (187m)
— holly jolly olive (@Jolly_Olive) December 11, 2022
If New York instead re-signed deGrom, you just know critics would rip that apart because of the potential injury risk.
Do the Mets still have work to do? Yes, absolutely. An entire winter’s worth of acquisitions wasn’t made within the past week (although it did feel like it). Let’s wait for the front office to finish their offseason plan before deciding whether the 2023 squad is better or worse than the 2022 iteration (on paper, mind you). The rotation appears set now, but the bullpen still needs some work, and ideally, the lineup could use another bat.
Could they really get everyone mad and go after Carlos Correa? It seems unlikely, but nothing appears off-limits for the Mets these days. If New York doesn’t get another hitter, the criticism will be, “Well, their offense stunk and they’re just bringing back the same guys.”
Yes, the offense could use more power. And yes, they battled with inconsistency throughout the second half. But despite all that (and the bad final two weeks of the season), the Mets’ offense was among the top three in baseball according to wRC+.
Even if the dust settles and people continue to say the 2023 Mets aren’t as good as the 2022 squad, my response will be… OK? Those 101 wins are the second most in franchise history. It’s the fourth time they’ve reached that mark, and the first time since 1988. With the Braves and Phillies also in the National League East, I’m not counting on another 100-win season.
So what if they win like… 90 games? Just qualify for the postseason and hopefully get hot at the right time. The Mets did that in 2015 and we just saw the 87-win Phillies do that, too. But since Cohen and the Mets are spending at unprecedented levels, there will be criticism regardless of what happens next.
If New York rides this all the way to a title, people will say it was easy because they just bought everybody. And if they fall short — which is a distinct possibility because 29 of 30 teams do every year — they’ll get ridiculed because they spent all that money and don’t have a title to show for it.
This is your classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. It’s annoying and it’s already getting old.
However, if I had to pick one of these scenarios to deal with, it’d definitely be this one. Things are a lot easier to handle for fans when your favorite team has the sport’s richest owner who is willing to do whatever it takes to win.