When legendary labor leader Marvin Miller devised the free agent system that Major League Baseball still uses today (with some tweaks along the way), the framework of the system created an “exclusive rights” period during which teams could negotiate with their players to whom free agency was an option.  Originally, a 10-day window, this year it is a narrow five-day period, commencing the day after the conclusion of the World Series – November 7. 2023.  Coinciding with this period is the opportunity for the team’s front offices to make qualifying offers – giving players an additional 10 days to accept or reject a one-year contract extension.  Other deadlines relating to arbitration and non-tenders are also on the horizon.  This interim period is much like the winter solstice: dark times are ahead without baseball, but once winter officially arrives, the days actually start getting longer, portending a brighter future.

For fans of our great pastime, this is where we all get to play General Manager.  We can scour the internet for the latest rumors as to where players are most likely to sign – and hopefully have much to converse about with like-minded family and friends over the holidays.  As for our Mets the big questions that have to be answered are: starting pitching, a solid Designated Hitter, whether Pete Alonso will sign a contract extension and the identity of the person who will be filling out the 2024 line-up card.

As for our new field manager: if not Craig Counsell, then who?  Candidates such as Joe Maddon and Joe McEwing have been mentioned as possibilities.  I’m not sure why Carlos Beltran’s name has been omitted from much of the conversation, especially since the organization hired him to fill an unspecified role last season.  McEwing was a fan favorite when he played for the team as a utility player, pinch hitter and human rain delay (he would strike out without a throw in today’s game).  McEwing was in the running when the Mets hired Mickey Callaway to manage the team in 2018.  Worse decisions have been made in baseball history, like when the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth.  Joe Maddon seems to me like a man in search on one last pay-day.  His stewardship of the Rays and Cubs was the stuff of legend, but I have a hard time imagining what piece of the puzzle he brings to the team that other candidates won’t.

Alonso’s new relationship with Scott Boras may have already answered the question of a contract extension.  Rarely does a Boras client accept an incumbent team’s offer without first testing the free-agent waters.  One need look no further than Michael Conforto to see that Boras doesn’t always ring the bell – but players keep going to him because his advice usually pans out.  It’s unlikely that the Mets will make a substantial enough offer to entice Alonso/Boras to take what the Mets suggest, guaranteeing a bidding war next winter.

My candidate for DH is Cody Bellinger.  The 2023 NL Comeback Player of the Year at age 28, Bellinger can spell any of the Outfielders and/or Alonso at 1st, while primarily holding down the fort in the DH spot.  His .881 OPS, 26 HRs and 20 steals would have come in mighty handy for the Mets in the 2023 campaign.  He will command a king’s ransom – but his age (he won’t be 29 until July 2024) and his versatility are alluring qualities for a Mets team that could/should be a competitive squad.

Baseball starts on the mound and these Mets need two quality starters to make themselves relevant next year.  Most teams that go to the post-season have one or two break-through stars who no one counted on to perform when the season began.  In 2014/15 it was Jacob deGrom for the Mets.  He was an afterthought in 2013; a Rookie of the Year in 2014 and a Cy Young Candidate in 2015.  The 2024 Mets will need such a pitcher.  Unfortunately, when the team re-stocked the farm system at the 2023 trade deadline, they didn’t land a top pitching prospect.  As for in-house options, Matt Allan is coming off Tommy John surgery, so he’s out of the equation.  Perhaps someone like Mike Vasil can realize his potential and fill a gaping hole in the starting rotation.

On the free agent front, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the pitching prize of the off-season.  (Shohei Otani’s UCL won’t permit him to take the mound next season and any team that gambles on his return to form as a pitcher might as well hire Christopher Walken as their GM so he can reprise his role in The Deer Hunter.)  The Mets may have a leg up on the competition for Yamamoto because of his friendship with Kodai Senga.

Thinking about the dreary days ahead can be made brighter by tossing around these scenarios.  The fun part of baseball is that each team begins the season with the same record.  Well, the season started last week and the Mets are 0 – 0.

16 comments on “The challenges facing the Mets this offseason

  • Metsense

    Craig Counsell is is the best choice for manager. He’s successful and works well with Stearns. I am not enamored with anyone else that you mentioned in your article.
    Alonso should be priority. Either sign him or trade him while the Mets have leverage.
    I agree that the Mets should obtain a SP#2 and SP#3 or better. They should also obtain a relief pitcher better than Ottavino and Raley and another relief pitcher better than Smith and Gott. They also need a starting outfielder. If I’m greedy I would also obtain a third baseman but that is the least priority. If they have depth in the position players then they can incorporate a floating DH instead of an exclusive DH. I would obtain younger players instead have older players.

    • ChrisF

      Hard to argue with that Metsense. One think about worrying about 25, is realizing 24 sets up 25. I personally would go after Ohtani, Yamamoto, Bellinger, Guriel, and a 40 YO Charlie Mortin on a 1 year deal, and then trade Alonso for more arms.

      I think they need to get be best pitchers they can. Possibly another SP3 or SP4

    • Steve_S.

      Mets hire Mendoza. I’m thinking Counsell wanted to stay in Milwaukee and they paid him enough to match or come close to Cohen’s offer.

      • Steve_S.

        Well what do you know? Counsell is going to manage neither in NY or Milwaukee! Houston?

        • Bob P


          • Steve_S.

            What!? Whoa! They fired Ross!

      • ChrisF

        Well this will be interesting! It was seeming as if he ad a great itnerview, and this is a guy that understnds the media pressure of NYC.

        I dont know anything about him though. Never really even heard of him! Lets hope hes got the goods and a great style of play!

  • Dan Capwell

    I heard Steve Phillips speculate this morning that YY will command a $200M salary and a $35M posting fee. That seems like an enormously high risk, even for Mr. Cohen.

    Not apples to apples, but Masahiro Tanaka got $155M from the Yankees back in 2014. While he had a nice career (think Noah Syndergaard in his prime) he was hardly the ace the Yanks envisioned when they signed him.

    I’d rather see the Mets spread that type of $$$ around. I am certainly not opposed to them signing NPB players, perhaps they could land both Imanaga and Matsui for less than what it will take to get YY.

    • Brian Joura

      We had a discussion in last Wednesday’s Open Thread about would it be better to sign Alonso or Yamamoto to a $200 million deal. You can see that here – https://mets360.com/?p=48769

      • Dan Capwell

        I think Pete’s a goner after 2024. If the Cubs would offer Christopher Morel as the headliner in a deal, I’d be making it. The Mets need to get (a) younger, (b) cheaper, and (c) more numerous. The last point means they need more serviceable big-league options.

        Watching that entire bullpen and scrubs like Arauz, Mendick, and Ortega last year made me sick. Unloading Pete and not signing YY gives them the leverage to spread Cohen’s wealth over a wider net of good major leaguers.

  • Steve_S.

    One more bullpen arm need now that Ottavino declined his player option and is a free agent.

  • John Fox

    Sign Cody Bellinger as a DH? He’s a better fielder at first and the outfield slots than anyone on the team now, with the possible exception of Brandon Nimmo

  • Woodrow

    Whoever signs Bellinger isn’t going to use him as a DH!

  • Metsense

    Ottavino declined his player option and it is a silver lining for the Mets as longer as obtain another younger reliever and better than Smith. Ottavino is 38 ,had a 4.52 FIP and he didn’t control the running game.
    Stearns hired Carlos Mendoza, 43, a first time manager. I figured Counsell would go back to the Brewers but he moved 90 miles $outh to the Cub$.

  • Mike W

    Looks like we pissed off Ottavino. Goodbye, just need to add another relief pitcher to the shopping list.

    Seems like Counsell wanted to stay fairly close to home. Besides the $ 40 million he will be 90 miles from home.

    Let’s see what Mendoza can do. Let the stove begin.

  • NYM6986

    Still surprised at hiring a no-name manager but then again, I didn’t want them to fire Buck. I think Ottavino did a good job for us while he was here but he is also well on the wrong side of age 30 and as we have seen a quick decline can come at any moment. I like Bellinger, and could see him taking over centerfield with Nimmo moving to a corner. I’d open the vault for Yamamoto and think that letting Alonso walk would be a disaster. I think they need to try to sign him before the season starts and if they can’t agree, then they should move him. I think they would get much more for him now than they would at a trade deadline deal. I’d like some quick free agent signings to keep the fan base off the ledge.

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