Mets team owner Steve Cohen has finally done what seemed impossible since he bought the team. They actually hired a President of Baseball Operations. Now that David Stearns is in the fold, could he bring Craig Counsell with him to manage in Queens?
That remains to be seen. Counsell is set to be a free agent this offseason. Rumors have been circulating for weeks about how he could take at least a year off. But in a recent report from Jon Heyman of the New York Post, that may no longer be the case.
So, instead of trying to line up their timeline with Counsell’s, maybe New York pursues the skipper this winter. As is usually the case, the Mets would have an advantage when it comes to money. They can obviously offer Counsell a superior salary compared to whatever the Milwaukee Brewers would offer in an effort to retain him.
But as Heyman pointed out, there are three other potential things that could impact New York’s potential pursuit of Counsell. I added a fourth for good measure.
Milwaukee has the hometown advantage
Counsell has managed the Brewers since 2015. In his nine years at the helm, he’s steered Milwaukee to a winning record six times, including each of the last three seasons (six straight if we don’t count the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).
His ties with the Brewers run deeper than that, though. Counsell’s father worked for the organization under Bud Selig, and the 53-year-old lives in Wisconsin year-round. He also went to high school in the Milwaukee area.
Wanting to stay close to family
The rumors regarding Counsell taking at least a year off from managing had to do with his family. He’s a father of four. His two boys are playing college baseball in Michigan and Minnesota. Meanwhile, he has two daughters who are still in high school.
You’d think that if he were to return to managing in 2024, he’d at least want to stay as close to home as he can to be with them.
Difference in near-term outlook for Brewers and Mets
The Brewers are a small-market team and operate with a payroll that sits in the bottom half of baseball. Milwaukee has a solid squad, but changes are on the horizon. Heyman notes that impact players like Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Willy Adames are set to hit free agency following 2024.
While the Mets disappointed in 2023, New York’s ability to reload the roster every offseason would be attractive to any manager.
Buck is under contract through 2024
When the Mets hired Buck Showalter ahead of the 2022 campaign, he signed a three-year, $12 million contract. So, 2024 is the final guaranteed year of his deal, and he’s due to earn $4 million.
Cutting a manager loose with one year left on his contract — especially with a front-office regime change — isn’t rare. The Mets can certainly absorb that financial hit if they want Counsell. It will ultimately be Stearns’ decision, but Buck has supporters in Cohen and Billy Eppler. Shortstop Francisco Lindor also made his case as to why Buck’s future shouldn’t be in question.