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How would Mets’ payroll look with Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

We only have about two weeks of the regular season left. Instead of the Mets making preparations for October, they’re already looking ahead to the offseason and how to build a competitive team for the 2024 campaign. Could those preparations for Billy Eppler and David Stearns include a run at Shohei Ohtani?

It seems like a long shot. It always has, but especially once New York executed its trade-deadline sell-off. Max Scherzer said the Mets told him next year would be one of the “transitory” variety. But things can change. A recent report said there are two players the Mets would be willing to change course for. They include Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

The latest report from SNY’s John Harper continues to show that would be the case. Here’s what a scout told him about New York’s 2024 outlook:

They’ve got some good pieces, but they’ve got way too much inconsistency in their lineup. If they get the right guy, he could be the centerpiece they need to make them much more productive.

And here’s more on the elephant in the room regarding Ohtani and the Mets:

The bigger question, of course, is whether Ohtani would be open to coming east when there has been so much speculation that he wants to remain on the West Coast.

If the Japanese superstar is willing, every baseball person I spoke to fully expects that owner Steve Cohen would make the biggest offer, even if Ohtani won’t pitch in 2024 and even though the Mets have indicated they may not be all-in next season after their sell-off at the trade deadline.

“I’d have to believe their thinking changes if Ohtani tells them he’d come to New York,” said a rival team executive. “He’d make their offense above-average with the potential to be better than that if their young guys produce. Then you go spend on pitching — sign a starter and trade some prospect capital for another, then beef up the bullpen and you’ve got a legit contender.

“I can’t even imagine what the payroll would be in that case, since they’re still paying off the (Max) Scherzer and (Justin) Verlander contracts, but Cohen is obviously willing to do whatever it takes. I don’t know if Bellinger would have quite the same effect, but he’d impact their offense enormously as well.”

It’s no secret the Mets are paying lots of players to not play for them this year. However, the retained salaries situation clears up quite a bit heading into 2024. They’d still pay just shy of $50 million for the salaries of Verlander, Scherzer, and James McCann next year. But, that’s a lot better than the present-day figure, which is $158 million, according to Spotrac.

As it currently stands, Spotrac has the Mets’ 2024 payroll at about $195 million. Let’s say Shohei Ohtani actually wants to come to Queens and New York also lands Yamamoto. That has the potential to add about $80 million in salary to the payroll right there. And, there would obviously be more upgrades that need to be made (like, you know, for the bullpen).

Landing these two dudes to big-money deals would make the Mets running a $300-plus million payroll for a second straight year a distinct possibility. And it’d all come after some wondered if they were going to tank in 2024.

Of course, this is all a hypothetical situation. We have no idea if Shohei Ohtani is open to playing on the East Coast at all. Even if he is, who knows if that includes New York. The chances of this happening seem very low. But then again, we can never count out Steve Cohen when there’s a player available that he covets.

We also know he won’t give a damn about the tax bill it creates. The Mets already had a $350 million payroll when they agreed to terms on a $315 million deal with Carlos Correa before that eventually fell apart. If Cohen thinks a move will drastically improve his team, he’ll sign off on it.

Who knows if Stearns is eyeing the same possibilities, though? He won’t be starting as President of Baseball Operations for another couple of weeks, but the work has already begun. And if I were a betting man, I’m sure Stearns, Cohen, and Eppler have talked about this possibility. Just in case.

You can reach Matt Musico at matt.musico@xlmedia.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.