It’s 2020. We are well into the playoffs of the abbreviated season, or, as I like to call it “the year that never was.” The League Championship Series are about to start as we speak with the embattled – some would say reviled — Houston Astros taking on the perennially surprising Tampa Bay Rays in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers taking yet another crack at the National League pennant against the impressive Atlanta Braves. From some informal polling in my immediate vicinity, I can safely say that outside those respective metropoli, very few people care. For those looking toward 2021 and a much-desired return to normalcy, the off-season has begun and the speculation on how to affect repairs of broken 2020 teams is on, full-tilt boogie. Not the least of these is our very own New York Mets, who will suddenly have many eyes upon them.

Now that it looks like the peaceful transition of power – hey, it’s gotta happen somewhere, right? – from the Wilpon/Katz family over to Wall Street magnate and Met fan number one Steve Cohen is all but a done deal, the media is rife with various and sundry prognostications as to how the winter in Queens will proceed. Most predict that as soon as free agency hits, Cohen will come out blazing, firing from both barrels. They expect a Steinbrennerian shower of gold on the top free agents to be: catcher J.T. Realmuto, late of the Phillies, starting pitcher Trevor Bauer from Cincinnati and centerfielder George Springer of the Astros. All three are talented, of course. All three are accomplished. All three are at least close to being worthy of those big bucks. But all three also come toting red flags. For Realmuto, he’s a catcher turning 30; his shelf-life may be limited, considering he is reportedly seeking a record-shattering new deal. For Springer, his stats were down – admittedly in a miniscule sample size – and one can’t help but wonder how much he benefitted from Houston’s egregious sign-stealing scheme. Bauer would be the most attractive of this trio – one can picture a one-two punch of Cy Young Award winners Jacob deGrom and Bauer at the top of the Mets’ rotation, with a returning Noah Syndergaard, to boot — but rumor has it he is seeking a deal in the neighborhood of five-to-seven years when the current trend is to give pitchers no more than three-to -five. Could Cohen throw a whole bunch of cash/years at all three? Of course, he could. Could all three be had for all that lucre? Of course, they could. Is it the right thing to do? Well…

See, from over here, the first thing, the very first thing Cohen needs to do is rely on the people he brings in. He’s already off to a good start, pledging the return of Sandy Alderson as team president and CEO of baseball operations. Alderson still has his finger on the pulse of the game, still in touch with who the up-and-comers squirreled away in MLB front offices are, who are the best available baseball minds. Alderson will, no doubt, put his faith in data, will hire with his head, rather than his heart. Alderson’s new position also means that, rather than acting as General Manager as he had before, with the execrable Jeff Wilpon above him, he will get to pick the new GM, assuming he has no use for the incumbent, Brodie Van Waganen. If Cohen and Alderson’s reputations are to be trusted, they will go after the best and the brightest. You can just bet that Alderson would love nothing more than to tag a sabermetrically inclined, young candidate and let him or her mold the Mets into an East Coast version of his successful Oakland A’s, but with more resources at hand. Before one dime is spent on player acquisitions or free agent signings, the administrative, scouting and development tiers must be built from the bottom up and built smart. I know I sound like a broken record about this – I’ve been saying it since the days before Omar Minaya – but without that foundation, you’re the Miami Marlins: a house built on sand which will look good for a short bit, but won’t have staying power and no matter how much money Cohen throws at an issue, that lack of foundation will undoubtedly sink everyone’s best efforts.

Let’s face it: Steve Cohen’s best free-agent signing might just turn out to be Sandy Alderson.

4 comments on “Spending Steve Cohen’s money wisely

  • Mike W

    Charlie, this is a good article. I think they will be prudent. I don’t see them signing all three to big contracts. It’s not the money, it’s the length. In three years, we dont want Cano, Cano and Cano.

    It also depends on the 22 free agents. May see more signings in 22 than 21. Two big questions are what to do with Conforto and Syndergaard.

  • Metsense

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/sports/baseball/sandy-alderson-mets.html
    “Sandy is an accomplished and respected baseball executive who shares my philosophy of building an organization and a team the right way,” Cohen said in a statement. Many of the most promising core players on the team’s roster serve as validation of his baseball judgment, including draft picks like Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, David Peterson and Jeff McNeil. He also traded for Noah Syndergaard, and the Mets signed Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez while Alderson was in charge.

    Cohen’s money will be spent on building the organization. No longer will the Mets hire a GM, manager, scouts and support personnel because they are inexpensive. Alderson has the credentials to be President of Operations. He has the working knowledge of the current Mets system. He will be able to tackle the upcoming off season immediately. He is conservative but he delegates his authority to get a consensus of opinion before making decisions. Free agents, trades, international signings and the draft will not be restrained by money and therefore the decisions will stand up on their own merits . Alderson was the best candidate, for this time, in the Mets ownership transition.

  • Steve S.

    Agree that Bauer would be a great signing—to go with deGrom as a top 1-2 punch!

    I don’t think that Springer would be a bad signing though. Without any “help” in 2020 (in 222 PA), his OPS+ only went down from 150 (his best, in 2019) to 140 last year. He also had a positive dWAR again.

    I am nervous about signing a 30-year old catcher, but Realmuto is needed to upgrade the catcher position. Badly! A five-year contract would be worth it, in my opinion.

    More McNeil and Guillorme at 2B, Gimenez at SS, Springer in CF, and Realmuto at C gives us much better defense up the middle, as well as better, more right-handed hitting.

    Spend Cohen’s money. And we also have tens of millions coming off the books.

  • Mike W

    I think spending money wisely will have them look at this free agent class and the 21 class. Sure there is Realmuto, Bauer and Springer now, but the 21 class brings us Lindor, Seager, Baez, Story, Correa and more.

    I would be happy with one big signing this offseason and diving into the 21 class.

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