Incoming ownership faces a string of critical roster decisions beginning immediately, with Steve Cohen having virtually no time to get a handle envisioning what has to get done before he even walks in the door. So, in light of recent articles on the topic, let’s dig in and see my vision for the team next year. I do not bring a “win now” mentality to the team despite a wealthy owner. Instead I see the Mets more aligned with being genuine contenders in the 2023 season, so it’s time to field a decent team, while trying to make a winner down the road. Furthermore, this free-agent class is not much to talk about, and getting in a hyper competitive chase for Realmuto and Bauer seems fruitless.

The Mets finished in last place in 2020 and last won more than 90 games 16 years ago. Every year a clamoring fan base declares “this is the season,” although that never materializes. As a result, my position is that the 2021-22 seasons are more a rebuild; there simply is too much work to do. The plan is to fortify the team to be competitive without saddling a team, which is two to three years off, with brutal contracts to players that will be in decline in a couple years.

Looking around the diamond, solving the problem of position-player imbalance will almost certainly result in the loss of one or more fan favorites in order to build a complete team. It is necessary and fans should not be troubled because it is not tenable to keep multiples of the same players stacked and blocked, retarding their own growth and value. Perhaps the most glaring issue of this is at first base, where the team boasts the capacity to have two young major-league starters, both on the same time to free agency, but only one first base. Keeping either on the bench is a poor solution, especially when one or the other could get a lot in return.

In terms of assets, depth, and needs several things are clear. The Mets are desperate for pitching, principally starters. As it stands, 2021 has Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation, but turning age 33 in the season; he is also the greatest asset on the team. David Peterson jumped out of the gate and performed well beyond expectations, but in 24 AA starts had an ERA of 4.19. He is still really only a 5th or 6th starter at best. Outside of that, the rotation is absent, leaving 3 or 4 big league pitchers to be acquired to even staff a rotation. Syndergaard cannot be included in this discussion because of Tommy John rehab and a certain innings limit if he returns. Overhauling a rotation in one off season with all new ownership and front office and beginning with a team that finished in last place tells me one thing: go slow, so slow in fact that much to the anguish of the fans, Jacob deGrom will be traded in the first of two blockbuster deals; the Dodgers need him badly, so this painful trade will be for either Walker Buehler or more likely Dustin May (and prospects), both controllable for a long time. The Dodgers get several years for a clear win-a-Word-Series-now starter, while the Mets have the next ace in the making. I also add Trevor Cahill (4 years at 12 million per year), Julio Teheran (4 years at 10 million per year), and Jake Arrieta (2 years at 10 million per year) to the staff hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Peterson can remain the number 5 starter, and learn from the veterans. The bull pen is will stay as is, with Seth Lugo returning as part of the “who has the hot hand” 7th, 8th, and 9th innings with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.

For the infield, first base has depth and assets with significant control. Both Dominic Smith and Pete Alonso are tradeable, and one needs to go. The next blockbuster of my off season is trading either (and a couple prospects like Mark Vientos and someone below 10) for Nolan Arenado (and taking on his salary) and Josh Fuentes. In the thin air of Denver, Smith or Alonso will be great, but the Mets are too lefty hitting, so this trade keeps Alonso in Queens. The Mets get a third baseman who should be a star through his contract giving the Mets multiple seasons still in his prime when the Mets are ready. Second base will be manned primarily by Jeff McNeil, with an aging Robinson Cano getting about 250 at bats from second base and anything else as a designated or pinch hitter. With third base under control (buying out Frazier), it is time to make Andres Gimenez the starting shortstop, being backed up by Luis Guillorme; Amed Rosario is traded for prospects. Let’s not forget the Mets number one prospect, Ronny Mauricio, is also a shortstop.

The last bit of business is the spine of the team. In center field, I sign Jackie Bradley Jr. on a 5-year deal at 16 million per year, similar to the deal for Lorenzo Cain. Signing Bradley solves the center field issue until Pete Crow-Armstrong can start sharing time and learn from a gold-glover. Unfortunately for many fans, J.D. Davis will no longer be an every-day player. Instead, he will take the super-utility role, serving as depth for left field, right field, third base, and anywhere else the team needs. For catcher, I sign Mike Zunino for four years at $10 million per year, pick up the extension on Robinson Chirinos, retain Tomas Nido, and buy out Wilson Ramos. This will buy some for Franciso Alvarez to come up and take over from Zunino.

This team should be pretty good with obvious holes still. The pitching staff is a work in progress all around except for a future of May and Syndergaard, who needs to be extended. I think Lugo is best in the bull pen. There are plenty of runs to be had with this line up, but the starting roster is admittedly still too lefty dominant, especially so if the Rockies want Alonso over Smith. The best news is that besides the Arenado contract which ends at his age 35 season, there are no long-term commitments here, and the payroll of about $180M leaves ample room for in-season trades, and the need to get Conforto and Syndergaard signed, perhaps Nimmo as well.

Looking ahead, say 2023, I see a team that has the following starting roster by position: catcher, Zunino, Alvarez; 1B, Alonso; 2B, McNeil; SS, Gimenez (or Mauricio); 3B, Arenado; LF, Nimmo; CF, Bradley Jr.; RF, Conforto.

38 comments on “Critical decisions for new Mets ownership and a team roster for 2021 – and beyond

  • TexasGusCC

    Chris, if you don’t want to win now, then do a full rebuild. Why pay Arrenado $35MM, pay Tehran, Cahill and Arrieta a combined $32MM and waste $16MM on Bradley? You not only are losing two prime years of Conforto, McNeil and Nimmo, but you’re picking up $83MM on unnecessary expenses, including Arrenado that will also lose two years of his prime and will start to become a shell going into his age 31 season.

    The Dodgers led the league in ERA three years in a row, so I don’t know that they need JDG, but if you’re trading with them, why aren’t you getting back May and one of their two young catchers, either Smith or Ruiz to not need Chirinos or Zunino?

    • Chris F

      Fair enough. This was a middle of the road stab at being reasonable without a tear down, something that I think would be fine, but clearly is not acceptable in NYC. So I thought getting a passable team on the field for a few years was good.

      I understand the Arenado concerns. I think theres enough in the tank and upside, as well as being younger than Jake. I see Arenado as the 2021 version of the Keith Hernandez deal. He’s a game changer on team and impact games daily. Also, he’s a carrot for deals in the following seasons. It hurts to think about trading Jake. He’s my favorite Met. Unfortunately, I dont see the Mets relevant fast enough to counter a likely performance slide. I think adding 32M$ for a pitching staff is cheap. Next year has the potential to be a blood bath, and saddling the team with a huge buy for Bauer leaves the team with a lot of pitching still to get.

      • TexasGusCC

        The Dodgers love trading for talent and molding it. They did that with Chris Taylor, they did it Justin Turner, and they could do it with Amed Rosario. See if they’ll do Rosario for Ruiz and keep our beloved ace, Chris MacDonald!

    • Eraff

      Bingo, Gus!

    • Rae

      The Mets need pitching to help them address the loss of Syndergaard and Wheeler from 2020 plus they still need relievers who know how to successfully relieve. Keep deGrom while signing Bauer, bring up Szapucki, let Lugo stay a starter, and definitely slot in Peterson as a fifth starter. I’d bring up Dibrell or Jannish from triple A to spot start when necessary, and add them to the reliever corp. I’d sign David Cone to be the Mets pitching coach cause Jeremy Hefner was not a good pitching coach for the Mets. Chili Davis must be available to come to all Mets games both home and away. Davis worked miracles in 2019 with Alonso, Davis, Rosario and Smith. Sign Jackie Bradley, Jr. to play CF. Pay James McCann to catch, and have Nido be the backup catcher while also signing Rene Rivera to be another potential back up signed to start in Triple A Syracuse. McNeil becomes your every day 2B man, Giminez and Rosario share both SS duties, and Sandy Alderson needs to get both these guys work on learning how to play the outfield. Guillorme and Carpio are your lefty and righty hitting reserve infielders. I really like the idea of resigning Jake Marisnick as an outfield defensive specialist. He is available as a free agent in 2021. The Mets are stuck with Familia but Castro with a pitching coach like David Cone might really improve. Diaz has shown improvement so they need to add another lefty reliever like Jake McGee and Baez to round out the bullpen.

  • John Fox

    A correction on some dates, you said Mets last won more than 90 games 16 years ago. 16 years ago was 2004 when the Mets won 71. 14 years ago in 2006 thay won 97, and just 5 years ago they won exactly 90 regular season games plus enough post season to win the pennant

    • Chris F

      Correct. Thanks for catching the typo (a bit of dyslexia there!)

  • Dan Capwell

    Finally someone who agrees with me on an Arenado deal. Looking at it from a Colorado perspective, they are going to want Pete, as he is the bigger name and could hit 50 Homers playing 81 games in Denver. My only caveat is to include Cano in that deal to balance out some of the money.

    It also clears out the logjam on the roster: McNeil moves from left to second, and Nimmo goes from center to left. I highly doubt this deal is even discussed, let alone happens!

    Not so keen on trading Jake however.

    • Chris F

      When I wrote the article first, I had Pete going to CO. And Im sure thats what would happen. I didnt like the fact the team is so left handed, so I forced that.

      All this is fantasy of course, but my way of expressing that the team is not close to the Braves in any way right now, and a couple years of big moves away from being genuinely competitive.

  • TJ

    Wow, a lot to digest. First, a few housekeeping points. Cohen is already “in”, as he is currently part of the ownership group. Alderson hasn’t been gone long. Hopefully, that provides some valuable insight into the team’s assets. I believe Nido is out of options so I’m not sure how they could carry 3 catchers, and I think the Rays control Zunino for 2021. Lastly, Cano may have the ability to block a deal…not sure of that.

    Arenado is a tremendous player, but his offense outside of Coors doesn’t merit his pay. The Mets also cannot afford to dilute their talent base in a package that would appeal to the Rockies.

    Trading Jake? Yes, the team has a ton of holes, and he is top shelf, but anything should be considered. The Dodgers likely have a package that would be enticing, so it needs to be considered.

    I don’t see the “need” to deal either Alonso or Dom if the DH is adopted in the NL for 2021. However, as with everyone, any trade that overall benefits the franchise should be considered. The Dom/Pete duo does add some longer term protection against a Conforto defection, and Boras is his agent.

    I do agree with your overall point that the Mets have too many pitching holes to be a top caliber team in 2021. That said, I do think there are ways to compete for the playoffs in 2021 without damaging the team further. To do so, Brodie can’t be anywhere near the decision-making process, since his track record in two years is basically over-estimating the current group and winning now at all personnel costs.

  • Brian Joura

    I agree with Gus and TJ. And Cano does have a no-trade clause

    • Metsense

      The present Mets can’t compete compete with the Braves. Spending money on free agents that improve the starting pitching staff and the defense at C and CF should give the Mets a good chance to compete with a very good Braves team. The Mets have a young, inexpensive core group that doesn’t need to wait until 2023.
      DH would clear the logjam. Only Davis wouldn’t have a position. If no DH then they would have to decide on Smith or Nimmo in LF or Smith or Alonso at 1B. No DH would open up possible trades tangling Davis, Nimmo, Smith and Alonso ( and also Rosario or Gimenez).
      The Arenado trade is taking on too much money. Spend $35m elsewhere like Springer and McCann.
      The $32M “catch lightning ” pitching staff could be spend on Stroham and Walker instead. A “hopeful” pitching staff of Wacha and Porcello was a problem this year.
      Nobody is untouchable on a last place team. The deGrom trade is feasible but they have to get the starting pitcher, the catching prospect and a third highly rated prospect to even consider it.
      Thanks for sharing your fantasy.

      • TexasGusCC

        Great points Metsense.

  • Mike W

    Don’t want Arenado for his age, money and he played in Colorado. Would rather spend that money on a top pitcher. deGrom, that would be painful, but I have to agree with the guys. You need to get one of their top prospect catchers. Bradley is a poor hitter, with a career average of .239. More importantly, center fielders best years are in their twenties. Bradley is entering his age 31 season. May is a great talent, but he is a big step down from deGrom. Teheran, Arrieta and Cahil is mediocrity for $ 32 million a year. For deGrom, I would try to get deGrom and a prospect for May, Ruiz and Josiah Gray.

    Like you said, almost everybody has to be on the table. That is the fun of these debates.

  • Chris F

    This is a bit of a hybrid article that was started but not published last month. Of course, Cohen is not “in” until there is a vote. I think making Dom or Pete a DH is a conviction that will hurt them, and even reduce their total potential. Both need to be every day first basemen, and both have value. We do not need them stacked like that when there are so many other needs.

  • Rick

    I think your article is entertaining but in all likelihood will not happen or come close to it. First of all, Brodie has to go! That wasn’t mentioned and if somehow he stays, you can completely forget about ever getting better. I would stop watching or caring about the Mets if he’s here one day after Cohen comes in. Then there’s Sandy. Class act and a head for business but he’s the biggest dumpster diver that ever was and that cannot continue to be a Mets way of doing business. Once in a great while you’ll find a gem but it hasn’t worked for us. I do agree that deGroms days are being wasted with lack of run support and a bullpen that can’t hold a 20 run lead but I’m still skeptical that they’d receive anything close to his worth until I see who and how they plan on building up the analytics dept. I’m hoping but I’m not holding my breath.

    • TexasGusCC

      Rick, very important to remember that Alderson is an employee. We do not know the terms he had to work with, but the closest we ever got was when Dave Hudgens was released as hitting coach and he didn’t say anything about Alderson but rather ripped the Coupons for “not taking the handcuffs off Sandy and let him spend some money”. Too, we know that even cutting a low minors catcher goes through the COO, Jefferey. I’m supposing that Cohen is not going to spend $2.4B to buy the team, then another $1B – $2B or so to buy SNY to have his GM dumpster dive. To get advertisers in this economic environment to product needs to be enticing.

  • Chris F

    Sure, I initially had the biggest off season move should be the release of BVW. Because his salary did not count against player payroll, I left him out. If hes GM next year, the team is doomed.

  • Dan Capwell

    Here’s a name for third base: Justin Turner. Yeah, he’ll be 36 on OD, but he probably won’t need more than a 2-year guaranteed deal. He’s right-handed and will probably out-hit JDD. He slashed 307/400/460 this year.

    Frank Cashen undid a big mistake by brining back a seemingly over-the-hill Rusty Staub in 1983. Sandy could undo the Turner mistake as well. Good veteran presence, tons of post-season experience, can still hack.

    • Chris F

      Its hard not to look at Turner on a short term deal like you propose and then solve 3B down the road. As you said good presence etc. But truthfully, I dont think he really felt like he was treated well in Orange and Blue, esp by Sandy, so I’d be pretty surprised if he was even interested. Plus he’s a SoCal boy (as an aside, he and JD Davis went to my alma mater – Cal State Fullerton – so I have a soft spot for both!).

  • Daniel Wexler

    Absolutely awful off-season. Spending 108 million on Teheran, Cahill and Arrieta + 80 million on JBJ and 40 million on arguably the worst offensive C in baseball when they already have Nido… good lord this is awful.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • Chris F

      Thanks for the comment. None of these articles are going to be what the team does. I think you need to look at the broader meaning of them: is this win now, is this plan for the future, is this reload etc? The Mets need 4 starters next year. That’s a lot of heavy lifting.

      • Daniel Wexler

        First and foremost, you don’t compound an issue by giving out multi-year deals to bad players. Teheran has the worst FIP in the entire sport over the last 3 seasons. Last 73 starts… an unbelievably bad 5.05 FIP. That’s the kind of guy you land on a minor league deal at this point in his career. Zunino is a strong defensive catcher.. (they have Nido) who has posted 83, 45, 65 wRC+ the past 3 seasons, why in the world would you want the Mets to commit to 4 years 40 million for that? That’s starting catcher money for a total black hole. In addition to being known as a clubhouse cancer, Arrieta is going to be 35 years old opening day, has not been a league average or better starter in 3 years (over the past 3 seasons, his FIP is 12th worst in baseball) and yet you want them to commit 2 years to him? Cahill was fine (6 starts) but is 33 opening day… 4 years? 28th worst FIP in baseball over the past 3 seasons. You are just spending money (and years) just to do so. A guy like Kluber likely only gets a 1 year deal, a player like Tucker Barnhart might be pushed out of Cincy (and has a team friendly deal) because they have Casali and their top prospect is MLB ready (Stephenson). I could go on. I’m not trying to be rude but this would be a a franchise crippling off-season under your plan. Steve Cohen or not.

  • JimO

    Just fyi, Theo Epstein’s contract expires with the Cubs after the 2021 season. What about an Alderson/Van Wagenen combo* for next year and then going with Epstein.

    *Van Wagenen for draft/signing and Alderson for everything else.

    • Mike W

      I doubt it. I am sure that Cohen is already discussing this with Alderson. I don’t see BVW being retained.

  • texmet

    Plenty of good ideas but if that is the pitching staff fix, I pass. Plus, trading DeGrom would be like trading Seaver again and Cohen would immediately lose goodwill. Doesn’t DeGrom have a no trade? If not, he should fire his agent. Any hope of winning gets Cano to the DH for most games. JD to backup No room there for Dom or Pete. Thx bvw. Mets incredibly weak up the middle incl pitching. That’s why we finished tied for last.

  • dan

    arenado (awesome defender ) and bradley jr (reputation as a great defender – haven’t watched him play much to see myself) are both much worse players away from their home ballparks. too old, too expensive, too much risk.

    i have a potentially very stupid suggestion – jeff mcneil in centerfield. wherever you put him he plays above average defense. try it out in spring training??? why not?
    assuming the dh is going to be with us from now on, let’s improve this team…..
    outfield – nimmo lf, mcneil cf conforto rf – nimmo is much better in left, conforto is good in right and i want to see what mcneil can do in center. potentially, awesome hitting outfield, defense could be better, could be worse lol.

    catcher – we’re going for defense to help degrom, patterson, some signees and hopefully thor at some point – tomas nido. the guy can catch, pitchers seem to like throwing to him, and he hit 292 this year – hahaha.
    1st dom – defense!
    2nd cano – they are not moving him off of 2nd – unfortunately
    short – giminez – defense
    third base – this one is shaky, will he hit??? guillorme – defense
    dh – pete

    i still thing there will be enough hitting.

    let sandy search for some pitching help – trying to sign every big free agent almost never works. and bauer is not coming here. are there any other petersons in the system?- the mets are horrible at their internal evaluations of their own talent.
    ( lugo starter or bullpen – begin as a starter, if it doesn’t go well, back to the bullpen.)

    i would try to win in 21, but i wouldn’t sign a bunch of long-term free agents – use the year to get the systems in place and evaluate everything! improve the medical system, let’s have a met’s way to be consistent throughout the organization, and redo how players are evaluated. how many mets have left the team and become much better players elsewhere???

    commence to picking my answer apart…(some it was in fun -not the mcneil part!) i think a consistent minors, better evaluation, a top-notch medical group and spending a bit of money are important to have something we’ve never had as mets fans – a consistent winner!!!!

    ps the difference between the mets and yanks? yes they spend more money – this should even out soon. but their farm system is consistently better.

    • TexasGusCC

      I think the biggest difference between the Mets and the Yankees is the culture. While BVW is claiming to “come get us”, the Yankees don’t say a word. While Fred Wilpon chases after former Yankees like Betances, Granderson (“real baseball fans are Mets fans”), etc, the Yankees go about their business quietly and efficiently. The Yankees (the last quarter century) are always being the model franchise in how their players speak to the press, how they are viewed in the community, and how they are viewed in the papers. While the Mets try to one-up the Yankees in every offseason, the Yankees don’t even acknowledge the Mets. That’s what needs to change: Alderson’s “what outfield?” remarks; BVW’s quips and calling the dugout to tell the manager to pull a pitcher in the middle of a game; all that has to go. The Mets players come into every season thinking they are hot stuff and then the games start. The Yankees take it one game at a time, one at bat at a time, all year long. Even when the Yankees were rebuilding, Girardi had them over .500 every year. The Yankees hire the best, the Mets hire whoever they can push around. That’s the biggest difference between the two.

      I’m not looking to slight Rojas, because he wasn’t the original choice and Carlos Beltran is a very smart guy. But, you make a Girardi or a Showalter Your manager and make the very smart guy a bench coach if he’s interested to learn. You don’t be the guinea pig that this guy will use to learn with and waste years of talent while your manager gains experience.

      • Mike W

        Well said Gus.

      • Chris F

        For sure Gus. Since 2010, the Yankees have had more than 90 wins 6 times, including twice more than 100. The Mets have won more than 90 games 0 times in this window, and exactly 90 once. The last time the Yankees were under .500 at the end of the season was 1992. They couldn’t care less about the Mets in any way shape or form.

      • dan

        i agree gus, like the “cardinals way”, they have the “yankee way”. what is the”mets way”? stumble around and run into the playoffs once in a while, no consistency. and still, i’ve been a mets fan for close to 50 years. LGM

    • Dan Capwell

      Please, please, please no more playing guys out of position! Especially in CF. Anybody else remember the HoJo experiment there? That worked out well.

      A lot of this October/November speculation is great entertainment and it is fun to come up with names, but sheeeesh enough of the “we can try him here” nonsense.

      • Chris F

        Exactly Dan. The playing people out of position strategy is a clear failure. It is time to forget imagining JD as a post-season caliber third baseman, or Dom Smith as an acceptable corner outfielder or Nimmo as a center fielder. Winning teams dont do things like that at multiple positions.

      • dan

        i agree to a certain extent dan. the difference here is mcneil has gone from second to the outfield with good results. i don’t think it would do any harm to try it in the spring and if it works it solves some problems without spending money that could be used elsewhere (pitchers)

        i seriously doubt they would try it though.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Lost me at trading Jacob DeGrom. Really ?
    No too on Arenado for $35M when the team’s most pressing need is pitcher and catcher, and it could cost $30M for JT Realmuto, need another $30M for at least two more pitchers. S.Cohen is rich, not dumb, or crazy.

    • Steve S.

      Exactly! Pitching and catching (and some better defense) is needed.

      Spend Cohen’s money on Realmuto, Bauer, Treinen and Hendricks and/or Colomé + add Springer for better defense in CF. Gimenez and more McNeil at 2B/SS also improves the defense. Trade Davis and Rosario to get more pitching.

      Keep deGrom!! I was around for the Seaver and Ryan deals, so I don’t want a third disaster!

  • Eraff

    Big Money Owner?…ignore Cano’s contract and let him give you whatever he has…Pay attention to the rest of the roster. If you’re trading Pete and Jake, do not give me a 180 million dollar bucket of half rebuilt Crap!!!!!

    • Steve S.

      Cohen is a smart businessman and a fan! He will not trade probably the two most popular Mets.

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