A lot can change in a year, especially when things don’t go according to plan. Coming off a 101-win season in 2022, the Mets went all-out in spending money to compete for a World Series title. But injuries and poor performances by multiple players sank that plan and the Mets decided to pivot, trading older players on short-term or expiring deals for minor league players.

Near the trade deadline, we heard that the idea was to focus on 2025 or 2026 as the next time that the Mets would be targeting the World Series. That meant that 2024 was going to be a transitional year for the club. We heard these things from the old pitchers that the club traded. The brass for the Mets were much more careful in their choice of words.

There’s a moronic belief among some that you can’t rebuild in New York. You’ll never hear a club executive use the “R” word. Instead, they’ll throw out words like “competitive” and “opportunistic” to describe the team’s approach for this offseason. There’s nothing wrong with those particular words. It’s just that they’re vague and can allow individuals to put their own spin on what they mean.

No one has ever hit and pitched in the majors at the same time for as long and as well as Shohei Ohtani. It would be opportunistic to sign him. It’s incredibly rare for a talented pitcher to be available for just money for their age-25 season, like Yoshinobu Yamamoto – it would be opportunistic to sign him. You can make the “opportunistic” case whenever you want.

At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words, regardless of the intense care that went into choosing the words. If the Mets sign Yamamoto and trade for Juan Soto, that means something completely different than if their big offseason moves are to add Jeimer Candelario and Seth Lugo. Those latter moves could definitely be termed as ones that were “opportunistic” and ones that made the team “competitive,” but few will be happy if those are the highlight of the offseason.

We know the Mets need to add starting pitching. The question is how many and for how many years? The Mets had four depth starters who performed well for the club down the stretch. Do you hold a rotation spot for one (or more) of them in 2024? There were many arms that finished the year in Double-A that were very intriguing and are at least possibilities for a rotation spot in 2025. When you assemble the team this offseason, do you hold open a rotation spot for one (or more) of them in two years?

Which youngsters on the hitting side of things who saw time in the majors do you hold open spots for in the next two seasons? The catcher is obvious but beyond that? Is Brett Baty still a future MLB starter? Is Ronny Mauricio a starter and if so, where? Does the power that Mark Vientos showed in the majors down the stretch make him a 500-PA guy, even if most of those occur as a DH?

And what about the minor leaguers, both those that were in the system this time last year, along with ones acquired at the deadline? Jett Williams has stated that his goal is to make his MLB debut in 2024 and after the year he put up last season, it may not be wise to dismiss that particular ambition. Where does he fit in defensively and are you willing to sign a guy at that slot to more than a one-year deal?

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Drew Gilbert both have more playing time in Double-A than Williams. The line fed to us by the mainstream media – whether it was their own thoughts or ones delivered to them by the team – is that these two were future stars, ones who would be in the majors sooner rather than later. The same question that was asked for Williams needs to be asked for this duo, too. Do you essentially recruit over them, with acquisitions to fill their slots on more than a one-year deal?

There are always free agents who are interested in signing one-year, “prove it” deals. Michael Conforto is one such player who might be amenable to that type of contract. But how many are there and do they play the positions that work for the Mets? We might not view someone in that category now but the market might push them into the role. Are the Mets confident enough in this approach to display that type of patience?

From a strictly 2024 point of view, it seems wise to consider C, 1B, SS and CF set. Jeff McNeil gives the club another position, although we don’t know if that’s in the infield or outfield. That gives the team five positions set, with four to fill, which counts DH. For 2024, do you write Mauricio into the lineup? Let’s say they do. Furthermore, let’s say they put him at 2B and move McNeil to the OF. That leaves 3B, a corner OF and DH to fill.

That’s more open spots than you would prefer, yet still workable. But then how do you handle Acuna, Gilbert and Williams? And do you recruit over Baty and Vientos?

My take is you definitely hold a spot for Williams but it’s far from certain which spot that is. The flexibility of Mauricio and McNeil definitely helps. But the Mets need to be getting Williams reps at that spot in the minors in 2024. If Williams plays 115 games in the minors this year and 100 of them are at shortstop, well, that’s a missed opportunity.

Additionally, my belief is that the three players acquired for the old pitchers are all potential MLB regulars, just not stars. If some combination of those three, along with other non-Alvarez, non-Mauricio, non-Williams youngsters get you Soto – that would be terrific. It’s probably not very likely but you have to kick the tires. And not just on Soto. A package with Acuna, Baty and Gilbert (possibly Kevin Parada, too) should bring back something very worthwhile.

With no trade, my choice would be to start Baty in the minors but not to recruit over him. Coming into 2023, Baty was a top-40 prospect, ranking as high as 17 on Baseball Prospectus’ list. My opinion is that it would be a mistake to give up on him now. It would be nice to see a consecutive 200-PA sample where he stung the ball at Triple-A, something like a 900-plus OPS. His last stint in the minors saw him post an .822 OPS in 79 PA. That’s nice yet we need to see more.

So, my plan would be to go into this offseason believing six offensive spots were set for 2024, with two more – Baty and Williams – as players for 2025 and beyond. That leaves 3B, a corner OF and DH to find solutions for via free agency or trades. Of course, that leaves the wild card of Starling Marte. It seems foolish to plan on him being a starter given what we experienced last season. But it also seems a bit crazy not to allow him a chance for 500 PA if he’s back healthy and a reasonable facsimile of what he was for the club in 2022.

Perhaps the way to solve that is to look at Marte as the DH. If he’s unable to go, you have Vientos as the second option at designated hitter. If Marte’s healthy enough to play the OF, you move McNeil to 2B and put Mauricio at 3B. That leaves the Mets looking for one-year options at 3B and the OF, assuming Soto doesn’t fall into their laps.

It’s just a ton of moving parts, with both short and long-term implications. And it’s only made more difficult with the uncertainty of how much Steve Cohen is willing to spend on what he allegedly told Max Scherzer was going to be a transition year here in 2024.

12 comments on “The Mets’ ‘competitive’ and ‘opportunistic’ offseason with a multi-year timeline

  • Edwin e Pena

    Go and get the too oto’s ! Yamamoto and Soto !

  • Metsense

    The Mets need to obtain at least two younger starters, preferably a #2 and #3, if they are going to compete, now and in the future. They can replace Quintana and the 5SP in 2025 if there are two minor leaguers ready. You can’t have enough pitching.
    With so much doubt concerning Marte, a younger outfielder should be obtained also. There isn’t a minor league outfielder that is ready to step up to a starting position in 2024. Lourdes Gurriel Jr would be a nice fit. Gurriel, Nimmo, Marte/ McNeil would be a competitive outfielder and Stewart should be the 5th outfielder. In 2025, Gilbert, Norton or Williams may be ready but they would have to earn their roster spots. 2026, if not sooner, Marte will be off the team.
    Mauricio, Baty and Vientos were below average last year. They had success in the minors though, so it’s hard not to give them a chance in 2024. Third base is open spot and DH doesn’t need exclusive player. All three of them should compete for third base and Mauricio could get some playing time at second base.
    The minors is stock enough the do a trade, like a Corbin Burnes or Shane Bieber.
    If Soto, a 25 yoa superstar, fall into their lap then that would be “opportunistic” and they should do it.
    Other than that, invest the money wisely and get younger with more depth.

    • Brian Joura

      How many years do you thing Gurriel will command? He was an All-Star in 2023 and he’ll be in his age-30 season. This is his best chance to cash in and I can’t imagine he’d sign a 3-year deal, much less one shorter than that. In 2025, you have Acuna, Baty, Gilbert, Mauricio, McNeil, Vientos and Williams for 2B, 3B, two OF spots and maybe DH. I know you can’t depend on every prospect to pan out. But you can’t not give any of them chances, either. It’s one thing to block a prospect to get Soto. I’d say that Gurriel isn’t in that category.

      • Metsense

        We agree that they should obtain a corner outfielder but you like a shorter term contract, for example Jason Hayward, Joc Pedersen, Adam Duvall or should dare say Tommy Pham? That would be fine too. I just have a different opinion probably because I’m sure that the AA outfielders will be ready in 2025 to step in to a starting job. Gurriel is a career 115 OPS+ player that is available and the prospect should exceed that.
        Baty, Vientos and Mauricio didn’t exceed 2022 Escobar 107 OPS+ and I was sure one of them would. Gurriel is the path of least resistance, an insurance policy if Marte can’t be effective, and a solid player that a competitive team signs that won’t break the bank. If a prospect excells faster then a Gurriel or McNeil would be a future trade chip.

        • Metsense

          Edit:” I’m not sure” instead of “sure”, that prospects will be ready in 2025.

  • T.J.

    The more I ponder, the less it makes sense to part with prospects for a potential 1 year rental. I love Soto but that eliminates him from 2024. Given the many holes to fill, it is going to be a hard sell to Yamamoto if there are other high bidders that are closer to championship level. That could include the Cubs. I am gaining comfort in a judicious approach to 2024. Grab some affordable veterans to fill the gaps…Lugo and Calendario types.

    • Metsense

      Who in the Mets minors has the potential to have a consistent 284/421/524/946 33 HR 100 RBI’S line? The Mets have multiple minor leaguers that play same position. They can only play one player at same position in a game. A deep minor system is a benefit for these opportunities. The only thing is the money and his willingness to sign. Cohen wants it, and isn’t effecting other roster moves, then do it. Soto at age 25 would solve the Mets hitting problem for the next 10 years.

      • T.J.

        Metsense, I am 100% onboard with acquiring Soto for prospects, contingent on Cohen then signing him long term. My opposition is to liquidating assets and risking only year of control. Given all the holes, I don’t think that is worth the risk even for Soto. They can still likely compete for his services after 2024 for only money. Stearns should be able to find another opportunity to deal prospects for a targeted player that can be controlled longer, via pre-free agent seasons or an extension. This is what the Braves did, and they did it because it is smart.

        • TexasGusCC

          I disagree TJ. I’d you trade for him now, you give up the two or three peospects. If you sign him next year, you lose 2 draft picks and $1MM in international draft money because he will have a QO, most likely (unless he gets traded during the year). And, you won’t have the advantage of selling him on your organization. You have to pounce now.

          • TexasGusCC

            *If you trade for him now, you give up two or three prospects.

          • TexasGusCC

            Or, if you’re willing to take back Darvish, the return should be pretty light.

  • NYM6986

    It is hard not making a play to get Soto. Yes, he’s that one more big bat in the order, but they still need more bats. There’s prob no reason why McNeil can’t hit .300 again. He’s a career .298 hitter. And Alvarez should be better, and Lindor and Alonso can continue to grow if they cut down on their Ks. And Mauricio has promise and maybe Vientos can simply DH so he doesn’t have to play the field. Now go back and reread the last few sentences. If we don’t get some difference makers into the lineup, we will finish 4th again, and that’s if the Nats don’t improve. There is no reason why we can’t compete in 2024 and I suggest that Stearns will improve the team this off season. That’s why he is here. The risk of not improving the team is that attendance will drop. And with that drop goes substantial revenue. I’d start with Yamamoto and be looking at another substantial bat. I think that given the short length of most MLB careers, it is hard to reverse trend and deplete the farm system since we are trying to grow our own talent. Can’t wait for the moves to start.

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