The World Series is over and the GM/PoBO meetings have come and gone. It’s now time where teams traditionally start to sign free agents, even if a ton of moves don’t come before the Winter Meetings. Now we can finally start to get some answers on how all-in the Mets will be in assembling their 2024 teams. Has Steve Cohen given David Stearns either firm or flexible payroll orders? Flexible, it seems. Here’s how Stearns termed it recently:
“I think Steve has proven he’s willing to invest in talent,” Stearns said. “This is an organization that’s proven it’s willing to invest in talent and we’re not going to shy away from that. I’ve said this at my opening press conference and I’ll continue to say it: we need to find the right time to do it.
“We can’t do it with every player. We can’t do it in every offseason. There are going to be points where we get really aggressive because we think it’s the right time, right opportunity right player, and there’s going to be points where we’ll be more reserved. Time will tell what this offseason brings; but sure, we’re clearly, as an organization, not afraid to make investments when they’re the right investments.”
Source: John Healy, SNY
Those first two lines in the second graph of the quote seem to be worth mentioning. At first glance, this seems harmless enough. No team can sign every player and no team goes hog wild year after year. Yet, somehow fans think Cohen is different. They believe that year after year after year that he’ll sink record dollar amounts into payroll and walk away with every shiny thing the team wants or needs.
At some point, the team will not be above the highest luxury tax threshold. And as crazy as it sounds, there might be a day where they’re not over any tax line. If the latter happens, that will be a good thing. It’ll mean that the farm system is cranking out talented players who aren’t on expensive contracts.
Another good thing will be when they don’t spend a lot of money on players no longer in the organization. Now, they will no longer be paying Robinson Cano. Following the 2024 season, they will no longer be paying James McCann and Max Scherzer. And Justin Verlander may be done after 2024 but no later than 2025.
Perhaps when the Verlander deal is off the books is when the salary re-set can happen.
In the meantime, my hope is that they view Yoshinobu Yamamoto as the right player at the right time to make an investment in talent. Some will react negatively, given the uncertainty of how he will adjust to playing in the U.S. Just because Kodai Senga was able to do it doesn’t mean that Yamamoto will, too. Plus, there’s the well-known bias against short RHP and Yamamoto is only listed at 5’10 on Baseball-Reference. Still, my thoughts are that his overseas track record and his age trump those concerns.
Others will hope that Pete Alonso is that player. While my take is that he isn’t worth a six-year or more deal, it will be fascinating to see how Stearns handles contract negotiations with the team’s star first baseman. To date, Stearns has said all of the right things in regards to Alonso. For someone like Stearns who’s been running the show for multiple years, the expectation should be to say all of the right things. Screwing up in that regard is for the inexperienced GMs, like Brodie Van Wagenen.
Ultimately, Stearns will be judged on who he decides is the right player and when he decides is the right time. Pre-Stearns, the Mets decided that Francisco Lindor, Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo were the right players, with each getting at least a five-year deal. Senga’s not quite in that same category, as he has an opt-out that will almost certainly be used by him after the third year of his deal.