It’s December in New York and so that means the Hot Stove is heating up. Major League Baseball’s Winter Meeting is convening once again and when baseball executives meet, they can’t help themselves from doing deals.

The hottest two players on the free agent front are Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Where will they land? Reports are that the Mets are not actively pursuing Ohtani, but signing Yamamoto is their number one goal this offseason. Across five seasons in Japan’s NPB, Yamamoto compiled a 70-29 record; his eye-popping 1.82 ERA over those five seasons isn’t a typo. Nor is his 0.935 WHIP, or 6.4 H/9. His 9.3 K/9 is solid, and the 2.1 BB/9 shows that he keeps his pitch count down – perhaps demonstrating durability and longevity. Most importantly for the Mets, he’s 25 and won’t turn 26 until next August.

All of this means that he’s going to cost a record-breaking amount of money – and the only three teams who can afford that kind of outlay – Dodgers, Yankees and Mets – are rumored to be the finalists to sign this supremely talented pitcher. The floor appears to be $200M – my guess is that Steve Cohen will not let money make the decision – he’ll listen to his baseball professionals about whether the investment in Yamamoto curtails future player acquisitions.

The Mets appear to be hoarding minor league talent as a way of addressing twin goals: A pipeline for fresh talent on an annual basis and being able to use minor leaguers as trade chips to acquire other teams’ top players. The Mets’ minor league teams are light on pitching talent, but there is a significant amount of duplication in the position player ranks.

The recent signing of Luis Severino is not unlike the Taijuan Walker pick-up a few years ago. Walker was a relatively low-risk signing with a really high upside. For the first half of 2021, it looked like the team caught lightning in a bottle: Walker was an All-Star (thanks to deGrom’s injury); but Walker faded badly in the second half of the season. His 2022 was more consistent and his record was 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA. In Severino, the Mets are hoping that the Yankees suffered through his injury bounce-back year and that next year will be a healthy one for him. When’s he’s pitching well, Severino is a very good pitcher – a well above average Number 4 starter. A rotation that includes Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, Yamamoto and Severino (with Tylor Megill the odds-on favorite for the 5 spot) is one that other teams will have difficulty contending with. I would be remiss if I didn’t recount a conversation I had with a Pinstripes fan before the 2019 season. He contended that Severino was a better pitcher than deGrom, mostly because deGrom was – get this – injury prone!

On the position player front, recent reports have the Mets considering Matt Chapman – whose Gold Glove would fit nicely next to Francisco Lindor on the left side of the infield. Teams considering Cody Bellinger – hopefully that list includes the Mets – may be wary that his 2023 performance is an aberration, which may explain why Bellinger is not more frequently mentioned as a hot topic this year. It’s also possible that a team with resources might load Bellinger up with a two-three year contract with a high average annual value, giving him the chance to cash in twice. It’s a risk for the player, but where there is risk – there is also reward. The flip side of this situation is former Mets Michael Conforto, who recently exercised his player option with the Giants after a mediocre season in San Francisco.

My hope is that the Mets aren’t one and done this off season. They struggled last year largely because of bullpen issues caused by Edwin Diaz’ injury at the World Baseball Classic. Their offensive woes were partly due to under-performance by players unlikely to have repeat down seasons. A full season of Francisco Alvarez, a return to form by Jeff McNeil and Cody Bellinger swatting 30+ HRs behind Lindor and company should make a good lineup formidable. Investing this year should be viewed as getting better not just in the short term, but for the long haul as well.

Rumor has it that the Mets have “no interest” in trading for Juan Soto. That makes sense given that Soto is a one year rental. He will almost certainly test the free agent waters. His refusal to accept a reported $400M from the Nationals means he wants unbelievable dollars season after next. If the plan is to build for the long term, a one year rental who is signaling a future on the open market is not the way to go.

Of course, the elephant in the room is what the team plans to do with Pete Alonso. If they can’t sign him to an extension, and it pains me to write this, then trading him for a haul of pitching prospect(s) may be the only thing to do. Clearing Alonso’s salary makes signing Bellinger’s cost a swap – and Bellinger adds better defense. The most important thing about this situation is not to overvalue Alonso because he’s a “homegrown” player. There’s always been a romantic notion that somehow players developed by the home-team are more valuable – and that’s simply not so. Do you think the Braves are pining over the days of Freddie Freeman, or are they happy they traded for and extended Matt Olson? Freeman is a great player – but the Braves got better when they let him go to the Dodgers and put Olson on their roster. The Mets have to have the same cold-eyed reason when they approach the Alonso situation: What move will make the team better?

13 comments on “Mets have work to accomplish during the Winter Meetings

  • ChrisF

    Looks like a busy winter meetings and beyond for sure. I dont think Yamamoto and Severino are nearly enough starting pitching. We will certainly need 8 starters and that will not cover it, esp with Peterson down for the count. I think they need at least 2 more starters, one of which can log the innings. Id be surprised if Severino gives the Mets more than 15 starts.

    Ive read several articles indicating the Mets are looking for pitching and defense, including OF, which Michael A Taylor a prime target.

    The Alonso situation is a real pickle. My best guess is that it plays out like Nimmo, where he actually goes to FA next year. The team cannot afford to lose him now, and figure out how to fill his spot. I cant see them getting Yamamoto *and* Bellinger.

  • BoomBoom

    I’d hate to see Pete get traded, but if it brought back a significant pitching haul (top prospect and a reliable rotation piece) you’d have to consider it. Plug Vientos in at first and hope to make up the difference in offensive output with a free agent signing. Then focus on signing Soto next off season. But pitching is the key. Yamamoto should be the priority, but if the price rises to 250million, maybe it would be better to use that on both Montgomery and Rodriguez.

  • Woodrow

    Thinking Mets aren’t going after tier one FAs. More like Giolito,Robertson, Taylor.

  • Mike W

    I really don’t think the Mets will sign Bellinger. Chapman as a gold glover and some pop, maybe. I can see them signing Jung Hoo Lee, who would much less expensive than Bellinger and is young.

  • T.J.

    Rumors have Braves still in mix for Othani. Now that they picked up Kelenic, he’ll likely turn into the player that many expected…right smack in the NL East. I have a sullen feeling about this offseason, and I am not a Jet fan.

    • Brian Joura

      I’m with you on Kelenic but I just can’t imagine any way the Braves sign Ohtani. They’re supposedly shopping the pitcher they got from the Mariners because they don’t want to pay his salary. I just can’t imagine that $12 million is too much but somehow they’re going to spend $50 million on Ohtani.

      • BoomBoom

        May 10th, Braves at Mets. Mets are up 3-2 headed to the 9th. Braves get a man on with Kelenic coming to the plate. Diaz on the mound. There’s a shot to deep right field. Joey Wendle looks up and that ball is gone.

    • Brian Joura

      “To question about Ohtani rumor, #Braves’ Alex Anthopoulos said #Braves haven’t pursued *any* position player this winter except Jarred Kelenic, whom they traded for. Said they’ve not explored any other positon player “in any capacity,” called any rumor to the contrary fabricated.”

  • Metsense

    The Mets aren’t hiding the fact that they want Yamamoto. Signing him just takes only money.
    Severino wasn’t good last year with a 6.65 ERA. Walker had a 2.70 ERA the previous year before he signed with the Mets. That’s almost a 4 run difference. Severino should be their SP5, not Megill . Stearns needs a SP3 and Yamamoto.
    Stearns said that they have an internal options at third base… so no Chapman.
    He also said he wants to get an everday outfielder because he wants to keep McNeil at second base . Gurriel is my preference with Lee my second choice. Bellinger would do just fine also but the price tag would be high.
    As far as Alonso’s situation is concerned, they should extend him this off season or trade him.

    • Brian Joura

      I was encouraged to read Stearns’ words about needing to give the youngsters a shot. It’s a refreshing change from what we’re used to.

  • NYM6986

    I had been a proponent of Chapman at 3B until I took a closer look at his hitting to realize that it would be a mistake. Mauricio who had four hits the other night in winter ball also made three errors in the same game. If Baty has not been working hard since the season ended to make himself a better player, then he has to go elsewhere. Thinking Rhys Hoskins would be a nice DH/1B backup for this team. Hoping Senga can work some magic to convince Yamamoto to sign with us. Still believe we need to resign Pete. Without him we would probably be last in HRs and we can ill afford to lose an ounce of offense, let alone his D at 1B. Hoping Ohtani signs already so that the other pieces can begin to fall. If Severino turns out to be another Walker then that signing will be a win. Hoping that the young starters who had such a strong last 5 weeks of the season will be ready to step up and pitch consistently at the MLB level. In addition to two more strong starters, we need a good 6-7-8 option to cover for inevitable injuries. Time for Stearns to get off the sidelines and play Let’s Make a Deal.

  • Mike W

    It’s probably because I am impatient, but what is Stearns doing? I hope that he proves me wrong. So far, he is adding depth pieces. It was rumored that we were going to sign Erick Fedde, but that vanished. It has really been a quiet two days. Maybe Wednesday, we will see some real movement.

    • T.J.

      It looks like their plans/alternatives are based on what happens with YY.

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