The Mets have had two major ownership changes in their tenure. The first one was when Nelson Doubleday and minority partner Fred Wilpon bought the club in 1980 and the other was when Steve Cohen purchased the club from the Wilpons in 2021. Interestingly, both teams wanted to build thru the draft and bring in veterans to improve the club in the interim, giving the rookies time to work their way thru the farm system.
The short-term veteran approach did not work for the early-80s Mets. The first four seasons under Doubleday ownership were a dismal failure and it’s fair to wonder if the 24/7 news cycle of now existed then if GM Frank Cashen would have been run out of town. Among others, Cashen traded for Bill Almon, Claudell Washington, Dave Kingman, Randy Jones, Ellis Valentine and George Foster. None of those were a win for the club. He also traded for Tom Seaver, which was sort of a win but then left Seaver unprotected and lost to the White Sox for nothing.
But Cashen was building the club thru the farm system and made some trades that paid off big time. Popular Lee Mazzilli was dealt for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, with the latter dealt afterwards for Howard Johnson. And there were the big trades that brought in Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, as well as ones that brought Sid Fernandez, Ray Knight and Bob Ojeda.
So, how were the 1986 World Series winners assembled? Let’s look at everyone on the club who posted at least a 1.0 fWAR, starting with the hitters:
And here are the pitchers:
That’s 15 players who had at least a 1.0 fWAR in ’86, with eight of them players the team drafted and seven of them being acquired in a trade. There was not one person who was a major contributor that was added via free agency. Many will argue that Jesse Orosco was a major contributor yet he only produced a 0.4 fWAR in ’86. And even if you want to count him, he was acquired via trade.
Meanwhile, the veterans brought in by Cohen have come by both free agency and trades. Here are the ones brought in who’ve amassed at least a 1.0 fWAR in a season:
Free Agent – Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Jonathan Villar, Eduardo Escobar, Tommy Pham, Max Scherzer, Taijuan Walker, Kodai Senga, Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, Adam Ottavino, Aaron Loup
Traded – Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, Rich Hill
In three years under Cohen, the Mets have imported 12 players by free agency, compared to five via trades that have amassed a 1.0 fWAR season.
But to truly compare it to the ’86 World Series team, we’ll have to limit it to one year and include the players drafted. It’s hard to imagine that there won’t be players on that mythical World Series team that came via free agency and made an impact. But the question will be if this future World Series team will have eight players that came up thru the farm system.
Let’s assume that the Mets win a World Series in the next five years. Who will be the farm system products on that club? Let’s break them down into three categories, marked by a minimum level of confidence that they’ll be on the team by then. We’ll use at least 80% confident, at least 50% confident and at least 25% confident that these farm products will celebrate a trip to the World Series in this time frame with the Mets:
At least 80% – Francisco Alvarez, Jeff McNeil, Ronny Mauricio, Brandon Nimmo, Jett Williams
At least 50% – Pete Alonso, Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, David Peterson, Blade Tidwell
At least 25% – Jose Butto, Tylor Megill, Kevin Parada, Alex Ramirez, Dominic Hamel, Christian Scott, Calvin Ziegler, Mike Vasil, Tyler Stuart, Colin Houck
This exercise wasn’t easy and there’s no doubt there will be farm system guys on the next World Series team not listed here. Still, it seems that the Mets are well-positioned with home grown players to assume roles on a future championship team.
Which leaves us in the unexpected place of wondering who the imports will be. You have to assume that Lindor and Senga will fill two slots. Will any of the players acquired in the ’23 deadline deals join them? Is there anyone else on the team that finished this past season who are candidates? It seems there is still a 21st Century Hernandez and Ojeda to be added to the mix to make this happen.