Chris Flanders thought he was going to be having a simply wonderful holiday in beautiful Seattle, WA. Instead, he came down with a Covid isolation in a hotel room. Chris’ loss was our gain, as the two of us conducted an email exchange of Mets thoughts on Friday night and Saturday morning. So, for your Christmas enjoyment, here’s our discussion.
Brian: On a scale of 1 to 10, how shocked were you that the Mets ended up signing Carlos Correa? The Giants wanted more time to go over his medical information and Correa’s agent essentially didn’t give it to them. Is this a warning sign that there’s a potential problem or do you think it was just a case of the Giants getting cold feet and using this as an excuse to back out of the deal? Correa was supposed to undergo his Mets physical on Thursday and as of Friday night we haven’t heard the results. Standard holiday delay or is it something that Mets fans should now worry about?
Chris: I’m really split on the surprise, so I’ll go with two and nine. I’ve stopped being surprised with Steve Cohen because this is a guy that gets what he wants. After I knew he beat out of the world for Aberto Giacometti’s “Pointing Man” sculpture when he became owner, I realized that the world is his oyster, so that’s my two. The nine comes from the stone-cold shock that the Giants would schedule the dog-n-pony show just to pull out over some nonsense from nine years ago that has not impacted his MLB career. So cold feet is possible, but so is way overly risk-averse. I’m not worried about the results for the Mets.
Are you surprised at the way things have gone, particularly with the fiscal commitments? The one thing I can’t help but realize is that Cohen does not seem to be money-based, but rather I see his plan as talent-based. The way the stars aligned right now, accruing talent just means spending money in order to hoard prospects and draft picks. I’m curious: Do you see things like this or some other way?
Something that we’ve batted around for a while and with the Correa signing seems important to raise again: is Billy Eppler running the ship as GM or is he the numbers guy in a negotiation? I was struck that Boras’ first call was to Cohen and not Eppler. What exactly is Eppler doing and how do us fans grade him?
Brian: Cohen’s not afraid to spend money and he’s grabbing everything that catches his eye. I’m almost surprised they didn’t get Aaron Judge. We’ve heard at least since the previous trade deadline that the plan was to spend money in the short-term until the farm system was ready. But now the short-term seems to have expanded. The last thing I want to do is complain about getting perhaps the top free agent available in Correa. But if you’re blocking Brett Baty, who aren’t you going to block? Yeah, they didn’t sign any free agents that came with a Qualifying Offer so they did a good job of keeping their draft picks. But at some point, you have to play them or trade them. And right now, it doesn’t look like they’re going to play them. The Mets shouldn’t have been so against trading farm system guys last year at the deadline if they were going to approach free agency this way. It just doesn’t seem to be a coherent plan at the moment.
I can’t imagine that any team that signs a guy to a $200 million deal doesn’t have owner involvement. So, it’s not a surprise that it was Cohen rather than Eppler that did the Correa deal. I don’t see it having any great meaning into Eppler’s role on the club.
At the same time the Mets were getting Correa, they gave a full MLB deal to Danny Mendick, rather than a split contract that would pay him minor league money for the time period he’s not in the majors. And unless there are a couple of deals made between now and Opening Day, Mendick will be spending lots of time in Syracuse. Do you think this will be the Mets’ approach with all depth guys from now on or was there something special about Mendick to deserve this contract?
Chris: I thought that Judge was a real possibility given the financial capacity and a clear desire not to be second fiddle to the Yankees. But Judge was never gonna be lost to the Mets without a massive overpay.
It is interesting about the short-term-deals angle. I really believe that is exactly what Cohen is doing for the most part, except for gold and platinum level talent. As much as I’ve come around to Brandon Nimmo, I don’t put his contract in that group, his was a serious deal, but options were so few that it was needed. Francisco Lindor and Correa are different, opportunistic acquisitions that put a club at super-elite status instantly. That is part of the “win now” objective that Cohen has made perfectly clear is happening this offseason. I also see a bit of “rebuilding” with prospect and draft management.
I don’t think that Correa was really on the radar last year, so the idea of trading prospects for a rental was never the plan. That was a classic Wilpon move. The thing I see is whether one views Correa as a stroke of luck acquisition or a plan. I see the former. It does mean that Baty is blocked now, but opens him up to position reassignment or a trade. With Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos something had to happen anyway.
Hard call on Mendick given the minimal outlay for him and unknown upside. Locking down a 40 spot is interesting and something I can’t claim to understand for one year. The signing is mysterious enough to me that I can’t envision what, if any, strategy is involved. What does the Mendick signing mean for Luis Guillorme?
Brian: It certainly doesn’t bode well for Guillorme in the intermediate term. Mendick tore his ACL last year and I’m unsure when he’s going to be ready this season. Some point, I’m sure. But this would have been the first year of arbitration for Mendick. The Mets will have him under control for several seasons.
Finally, news came out that Trevor Bauer had his suspension reduced. Now it’s up to the Dodgers to determine what they’re going to do with him. There are rumors that they’re going to release him. With all of the bad press that’s surrounded him for the last 15 months or so, it’s easy to forget that this is a premier pitcher, one potentially available for minimum wage. Should the Mets be interested in him or is there just too much baggage in your eyes?
Chris: Bauer is a cancer. No matter what he may pitch to, we’ve seen previously what clubhouse rot will bring. I hope he’s nowhere near the Mets for any reason.
I’m really concerned for Guillorme’s tenure with the Mets. I just don’t see space for him anymore. I can’t help but wonder if you keep Baty up to replace Guillorme as a super utility guy. Every team needs one.
One thing is for sure, this has been wild offseason, unlike any other by miles. I was pretty confident that the team would hit $380M in pretax payroll with Cohen’s desire to win now, and he means win now, and rebuild the pipeline. He, nor I for that matter, think you just start staffing the team with rookies and call that win now. I favor the drip method promotion to The Show that can surround a rookie with existing talent to let them take hold without the immediate demand of production. In the past I’ve always called the Wilpon Mets as “rebuilding for it,” neither really restocking the pipeline (say like Atlanta seems to do) nor making a clear intent to go all in. Most teams choose on or the other. Cohen has the resources to do both simultaneously, which puts this team in a new dimension. We fans need to get over our Stockholm Syndrome attachment to past ways and realize when he said he was aiming for Dodgers “East” he wasn’t kidding — and now I wonder if Cohen hasn’t already flipped that script to the Dodgers being the “Mets West”. How’s that for some holiday cheer?
Brian: It seems wrong to me to dismiss Bauer without serious debate. You call him a cancer and while I don’t rule out that possibility, it just doesn’t seem to be a snap decision. It’s nice to grab the moral high ground but what we’ve learned about the pre-Cohen culture, there was a lot of less-than-righteous behavior going on throughout the organization. It’s impossible to say that everyone now associated with the team is a choir boy. I have no illusions that these players and staff all live their lives scripturally straight.
Bauer did some things that sound awful, stuff that shouldn’t be condoned. But it’s my opinion that if the courts don’t believe he should be in jail, why should a sports team be restricted from employing him? Each team will have to decide their level of comfort with what he did. Maybe the Mets, given their recent history, aren’t the right team. Certainly, no one will criticize them if they refuse to roster him, should he become available.
But the Mets had no problem looking the other way with Jose Reyes. Yeah, it’s not the same thing. But it’s in the ballpark. My personal belief is that the average fan overrates these types of “chemistry” issues, too eager to label someone a malcontent or a cancer. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what I think.
No, what’s important is what Max Scherzer or Edwin Diaz or Nimmo or Pete Alonso think. If the team leaders are comfortable – and that’s far from a sure thing – my belief is that his talent is too big to ignore.
The Mets were comfortable with giving a two-time drug cheat a shot because they thought he could help the team. And even after the Mets cut him, two other teams tried to see if there was any life left. Would there be bad publicity if the Mets signed Bauer? Absolutely. Would there be good publicity if he pitched a shutout against the Braves? Yeah, probably.
The Mets were willing to risk the bad publicity of signing a guy for $325 million who had medical issues, ones that could potentially prohibit him from fulfilling his contract as an active player. It’s a risk and we learned Saturday how risky even the Mets feel about it now. Bauer is a different type of risk. But risk isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if the potential payoff is a 6-win season for minimum wage.
It’s worth some texts and phone calls to see how the players would really feel about sharing the clubhouse with Bauer.