A lot has been made about the Mets’ near-term outlook over the past week. And rightfully so. I mean, what do you expect people to talk about after executing one of the most unique (and expensive) trade-deadline sell-offs we’ve ever seen? Will they be “punting” 2024 or will they put together a contender? The anticipated availability of NPB ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto will give us some answers.
As much as some MLB insiders want to push the “See ya in 2026” narrative, I just don’t see that happening. Mostly because that hasn’t been in the Mets’ DNA since Steve Cohen took over. Also, he’s gone on record to say they’ll be competitive next year.
Starting pitcher Max Scherzer started this discussion by detailing his conversation with Mets brass before getting traded to the Texas Rangers.
I talked to Billy,” Scherzer told The Athletic. “I was like, ‘OK, are we reloading for 2024?’ He goes, ‘No, we’re not. Basically our vision now is for 2025-2026, ‘25 at the earliest, more like ‘26. We’re going to be making trades around that.’
“I was like, ‘So the team is not going to be pursuing free agents this offseason or assemble a team that can compete for a World Series next year?’ He said, ‘No, we’re not going to be signing the upper-echelon guys. We’re going to be on the smaller deals within free agency. ‘24 is now looking to be more of a kind of transitory year.’”
Exactly how much restraint will New York show in free agency? I suppose that depends on a few variables. One would be the Mets’ front-office dynamic and if David Stearns eventually becomes the man in charge. Another is which players will actually be available to sign.
Shohei Ohtani tops the list. However, I think it’s safe to assume that while the Mets will at least reach out and have a conversation, this kind of huge signing isn’t going to happen. But if the Orix Buffaloes post Yoshinobu Yamamoto, we’ll quickly find out what the Amazins will do regarding a player they covet.
SNY’s Andy Martino reported in July that general manager Billy Eppler traveled to Japan earlier this year to watch Yamamoto pitch. He’s more highly regarded than current Mets starting pitcher, Kodai Senga. The right-hander is also a lot younger (he’s about to turn 25 years old). Through 115 innings so far this year, Yamamoto is 11-4 with a 1.57 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, and 114 strikeouts. Across seven seasons in Japan, which spans more than 900 innings, the hurler owns a career 1.81 ERA.
So, yea — the dude is a stud. There will likely be a bidding war of some kind for his services.
This is where the potential for restraint will come in for the Mets. With all the facts considered, Yamamoto is going to command a long-term deal. In his way-too-early free agency predictions, Zachary Rymer of Bleacher Report is predicting New York will sign him for seven years and $175 million. MLB Trade Rumors uses Masahiro Tanaka’s seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees as a benchmark. They also said a deal in excess of $200 million wouldn’t be crazy if he remains “healthy and productive”.
We know the Mets will invest in free agency to make the roster competitive in 2024. Will they stay the course by pursuing productive players who won’t cost top dollar? Or, will they try and reel Yamamoto in since it’s quite clear they like him?
If I had to make a guess, I think the Mets will make a strong push to sign him. It’d be a gamble, but things have gone well with Senga. Should New York land Yamamoto, maybe those “See ya in 2026” people will pipe down, too. That’d be an added bonus.