Even without Carlos Correa at third base, the Mets have put together a memorable offseason. Team owner Steve Cohen OK’ed about $500 million in guaranteed contracts. If he’s proved anything, it’s that he’s willing to go to great lengths to field a winning roster.
We haven’t even gotten to the 2023 season yet, but some are already thinking about the top players set to hit the open market next winter. Unless he signs an extension with the Los Angeles Angels (or gets traded and signs one with his new team), Shohei Ohtani will be the best and most fascinating player available. The other is Manny Machado. He doesn’t have to be a free agent, but another MVP-caliber performance for the San Diego Padres could spur him to trigger his opt-out.
As the Correa saga reached its final stages, rumors began circulating that New York was considering a Machado pursuit next winter. And based on Cohen’s propensity for signing top free agents, both will be in the Mets’ sights.
Since he’s the richest owner in baseball and is clearly not scared of having a high luxury-tax bill, many will say, “Well, why not both?”
While this sounds like a ridiculous thought, this winter has proved that nothing is out of the realm of possibility for the Mets. If they feel that’s the best way to supplement the team, that’s what they’ll try to accomplish. Both Ohtani and Machado would be interesting fits for New York, too.
We know Ohtani will be starting 2023 with the Angels. However, there’s no guarantee he’ll be ending the year with Los Angeles. If the Halos are out of contention by the summer, there should be some legitimate trade rumors swirling around the two-way superstar.
One would imagine Ohtani would like to reach free agency over signing an extension because the pursuit of him will surely be the most fascinating in baseball history. The Mets will reportedly be in on him, as will the Dodgers. We can also add the Padres to this list of serious potential suitors. You’d think San Diego’s pursuit would intensify if Machado opts out and wants to go elsewhere, too.
It’s easy to see how Ohtani would fit in Queens. The rotation is full of short-term solutions (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, and Jose Quintana). New York also still doesn’t have a legitimate solution for designated hitter. Ohtani would satisfy both of those needs quite easily.
Having Kodai Senga in Flushing could be a draw, and general manager Billy Eppler was the guy who signed Ohtani to the Angels in the first place.
If Machado indeed opts out, he’ll probably want a raise from his $30 million annual average value. However, it’d be attractive to the Mets because he’s not only an elite player, but Machado also wouldn’t be looking for a 10- or 12-year deal like Correa.
He’s spent the majority of his career playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base. And unlike Correa, Machado brings a proven track record of hitting 30-plus homers in a season. He also has a relationship with manager Buck Showalter. Their paths crossed during the first part of his career in Baltimore.
Machado would be entering his age-31 campaign in 2024. In addition to securing another big payday, the veteran would probably also be prioritizing a chance to win a World Series before he hangs his spikes up. The Mets would qualify as a team that’d give him that opportunity.
So, which one should the Mets focus on?
You can’t go wrong in this scenario. Machado and Ohtani are both game-changers in their own ways for any roster they occupy.
If New York has to pick one, I’d rather them focus on Ohtani. His contract will probably be longer and more expensive, but he fills multiple needs. He provides the big power bat while also adding an elite arm to the rotation. You can’t beat that.
And by the end of the 2023 season, the Mets may not even think they need to pursue Machado based on how things play out with top prospect Brett Baty. Whenever he gets back to the big leagues for good, I’m sure the organization would love to see him run with the opportunity, giving them a cost-controlled option with lots of upside for the future.
The Mets’ focus in next year’s free-agent market is anyone’s guess at this point. A lot of it will be determined by how the season plays out. But if the past two offseasons have set any precedent, another big Mets splash is coming. The only other question would be…how many big splashes will New York make?