Now that Grapefruit League games have started, it seems unlikely that the Mets will make a move to add to the 2024 Opening Day roster. Sure, J.D. Martinez is still out there and the loss of Kodai Senga might make a SP more attractive. But David Stearns doesn’t seem inclined to spend any more on this year’s team prior to Opening Day. So, let’s look at the free agents imported this offseason by Stearns with a salary above $1 million. Here they are, with what they’ll make this year, with all figures in millions:

$14 – Sean Manaea (w/ player option)
$13 – Luis Severino
$10.5 – Harrison Bader
$4.5 – Adam Ottavino
$4 – Jake Diekman (w/ team option + vesting option)
$3.35 – Shintaro Fujinami
$2 – Jorge Lopez
$2 – Joey Wendle
$53.35 – Total

The theme of the offseason was apparent – look to sign guys to one-year deals, prioritizing future flexibility over almost everything else. So, if we keep that theme in mind, did Stearns maximize the roster? Could we take this $50 million and spend it elsewhere and wind up with a better team? This is obviously subjective, as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Of the eight players listed above, the only one that seem like treasure to me is Manaea. Meanwhile, Ottavino, Diekman and Fujinami seem decent enough. So, let’s ditch the other four and see what we might could get with that $27.5 million. Let’s look at guys who signed one-year deals, along with guys who’ve yet to sign who might fit that budget.

Starting Pitcher – You have to decide if ideally you would have spent more money than Stearns did with Severino or look to spend less and save money for other spots. Kyle Gibson got the same amount, while Jack Flaherty and Frankie Montas got a little more. Among the saving-money options are Alex Wood, James Paxton and Joe Ross. Two intriguing guys who’ve yet to sign but who would fit the budget are Trevor Bauer and Zack Greinke.

Without a doubt, the biggest upside play here is Bauer. Many people wouldn’t even consider him because of his past troubles, both on and off the field. Allegedly not a popular teammate to begin with, Bauer also comes with the baggage of sexual misconduct claimed by multiple women but to date not proven in court.

The Mets have rostered players with domestic violence charges, as well as PED users. While there’s no scale of what’s acceptable misconduct and what isn’t that we can quote, it’s just that if you think the team is made up of choir boys 100% of the time, well, you’re kidding yourself.

There’s no issue from me if you want to draw a line in the sand and exclude Bauer from consideration. It’s just that I’m not going to do that. Bauer’s already on record as saying he’d sign a deal for the major league minimum. Also, my offer would be to have clauses with extensive fines for any new legal issues. Finally, it would include two team options, one for another minimum wage deal in 2025 and a $10 million option in 2026.

Swap Severino for Bauer and save roughly $9.7 million.

Center Fielder – Stearns is prioritizing defense here and Bader offers elite defense, along with questionable offense and health. The big question is how much we want to follow Stearns’ plan. With the money saved above, it’s possible that the Mets could be in the market for Cody Bellinger if he’s willing to sign a one-year deal. Tommy Pham and Michael Taylor are both unsigned. Pham’s stretched in center but there’s no reason that Brandon Nimmo has to move this year. But there’s also the question of how welcome Pham would be in the clubhouse after comments he made last year after he was dealt. Taylor seemed to be in demand earlier in the offseason and may not be willing to sign for just one year.

Joc Pederson signed for slightly more money. He’s a LF at best and as a lefty hitter, not an ideal fit. Jason Heyward signed for a little less while Jurickson Profar and Travis Jankowski signed for significantly fewer dollars. Profar would be really stretched in CF and doesn’t have the bat to be a legitimate starter in a corner. Jankowski is capable of playing CF and the Marcel projection system has him being Bader’s equivalent at the plate. But do you want him as a starter – he’s another LHB – even at the cost savings?

Swap Bader for Pederson and spend roughly $2 million more.

Relief Pitcher – Stearns has prioritized adding hard throwers this offseason. But with Diekman and Fujinami, Lopez seems redundant, especially given that the total of his MLB success is 10 games over parts of four months in 2018 and the first three months of 2022. Instead of going overboard chasing velocity, my preference would be to have another lefty in the pen, one who wouldn’t wilt facing RHB, even if that wasn’t his primary focus.

Aroldis Chapman would have been a nice add but perhaps too expensive. Matt Moore was just a tick below Chapman in cost, which seems a bit of a surprise, at least to me. There’s a trio of relievers who have previously been associated with the Mets – Andrew Chafin, Brad Hand and Will Smith. But the one who jumps out is Brent Suter, who lifetime has a .706 OPS allowed to LHB and a .699 mark against RHB.

Swap Lopez for Suter and spend roughly $1 million more.

Infielder – After two cups of coffee with the A’s, Wendle came up for good the same season as Jeff McNeil, as an older prospect at second base for the Rays. He was very productive for most of the 2018-21 seasons, with the exception of an injury-shortened 2019. But the last two years haven’t been good at all and there’s not much that Wendle gives you that Zack Short doesn’t, at a cheaper rate.

In this article, the case is laid out for the Mets to acquire Joey Votto. Most people fear a Votto signing would take playing time away from both Brett Baty and Mark Vientos. And maybe it would. But if somehow Votto and those two Baby Mets were all productive, there could be more playing time for all three than Baty – 389 PA – received a season ago. Last year there were 1,288 PA between 3B and DH for the Mets. Throw in a handful more for some days off for Pete Alonso at 1B and it would be easy to get all three guys north of 400 PA. If the Baby Mets both hit, you can also make Votto a power threat off the bench. He has 72 HR in his last 1,374 PA, including 14 HR in 242 PA last year.

Swap Wendle for Votto and spend roughly $1 million more.

A couple of other moves that make sense to me. Trevor Gott would offer teams a different look than Drew Smith. My choice would have been to keep Gott and non-tender Smith, instead. It would have been a few dollars cheaper but we’ll just call it even. The final move in my low-dollar offseason would be to sign Jackie Bradley Jr. to a minor league deal. Released by the Royals last year, Bradley showed yet again why 2020s .343 BABIP-fueled season was an outlier. But he’s likely better than last year’s .173 BABIP and besides – he’s being added as a defensive caddy.

The idea is to bring Bradley to Spring Training and see if he’s still worthwhile with the glove. If he is, he claims the fifth outfielder’s spot and DJ Stewart goes to Syracuse. These moves would make my 26-man Opening Day roster as:

SP – Bauer, Butto, Houser, Manaea, Quintana
RP – Diaz, Diekman, Fujinami, Gott, Lucchesi, Ottavino, Raley, Suter
C – Alvarez, Narvaez
INF – Alonso, Baty, Lindor, McNeil, Vientos, Votto
OF – Marte, Nimmo, Pederson, Taylor

The final spot would be a battle among Bradley, Short and Stewart. Maybe Short’s good enough to combine with McNeil to cover the fifth outfielder. If not, you get to pick potential offense with Stewart or potential defense with Bradley. Votto’s presence as a HR bat off the bench largely negates that as a selling point for Stewart.

This team would be in the neighborhood of $5 million cheaper than what Stearns assembled, without any future obligations past 2024 added. It would trade the defensive ability of Bader and the rebound potential of Severino and Lopez for the offensive ability of Pederson, the upside of Bauer and Votto, along with a reliever with a better track record in Suter. It’s still more lefty-hitting leaning than ideal. But it’s not like there aren’t RHB on the team that should be able to hit LHP in Alonso, Alvarez, Lindor, Marte and Vientos.

11 comments on “Redoing the Mets’ 2023-24 offseason, while maintaining future payroll flexibility

  • José Hunter

    I appreciate your revisions very much. My only amendment would be to find a way of keeping Bader.

    As for Bauer, I’d be 100% in favor of attaining the 2020 NL CYA winner at minimum wage

    However, the caveat would be if somehow it can be determined to a sufficient level that he’s not an abuser of woman, admittedly a tough task. Because if this standard is met, then the worst that can be said of his relationship with women is that he’s quite kinky

    Bader and Bauer – the difference being U for D

    1. Yeah, I know I notice unusual things

  • T.J.

    As told many times previous, the 23-24 offseason spending plan was determined at the trade deadline last summer. Fine. When you bet your roulette stack of chips on green instead of black or red, it may be a little while before you have another stack of chips. So the $50 million spend is a bunch of small bets each at long odds. Hopefully some cash. I don’t see any as treasure, including Manaea and Diekman, both of whom has brief success last season. But, I don’t see any as trash either. All have upside. Maybe they’ll have a few Tommy Phams this year. I’m actually interested in Severino and Bader most. So, I’m fine with Stearns’ selections, he should know better than me.

    That leads me to the Bauer question. This one is tough. I never met the guy, and he likely earned the reputation he has. I have daughters and expect women to be treated with decency in all aspects of life. Now, I don’t think Bauer has been convicted of any crime, he has paid a significant price with respect to his career, by all accounts he seems to acknowledge that past behaviors were at a minimum self-centered and misguided. As noted, MLB isn’t all choir boys. There are plenty of d bags, cheaters, lots of infidelity, etc., much of that behavior at the expense of women. Being a professional athlete is a privilege, not a right, for sure. Perhaps NY is not the place, with the Met history and the non-stop media. America seems to historically be a place for 2nd chances. A minimum deal with the player’s agreement to continued therapy and some lifestyle changes seems like it could work. One misstep and bye bye.

  • Metsense

    I’m also disappointed with the off- season acquisitions. I get what Stearns is doing and the Luxury Tax Draft penalties wasn’t conducive to build the minors League system. Even so, passed up good opportunities and low prices. He was too rigid with all the one year deals.
    Eduardo Rodriguez and Alex Wood at $28.5m instead of Severino and Manaea at $31m. At that price, Rodriguez was a good opportunity even if was a four year contract.
    Jason Hayward at $8.5m instead of Bader $10m.
    Yuki Matsui at $5.6 instead of Fujinami $3.35. Matsui is 27 years old and was another good opportunity even if it was a 5 year contract.
    Gio Urshala at $1.5m instead of Wendle at $2m.
    Travis Jankowski at $1.7m as insurance because the money wasn’t all spent yet.

  • Richard Cagnetta

    Great job Brian. I think your offseason yields a markedly stronger team. Wish you were GM.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I know that Stearns is emphasizing defense and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no doubt that Nimmo/Bader is much, much stronger than Pederson/Nimmo. But given Bader’s injury history + his struggles versus RHP, I think the total value of Nimmo/Pederson will be higher.

      And it’s silly to draw conclusions from one catch in a Spring Training game, but I really liked the play Tyrone Taylor made in CF yesterday. Had to run a long way but ran back to where he thought the ball was going to be, found it and caught it. It was just textbook.

      • David Groveman

        He was pretty good again (with the bat) today.

  • ChrisF

    Maybe if this was stratomatic and not a game amongst people. Trevor Bauer? Sorry, there’s no room for that guy. He’s perfectly hideous and would bring so much negativity to the team, so much negativity and distraction to the clubhouse, it would have a lot of negative impacts.

    • David Groveman

      You know what Chris,

      I’m with you on this. The PR hit for bringing in Bauer would be a tough pill to swallow in New York. It would turn all the uglier if Bauer struggled on the mound at all. The money of it all is great but I don’t think that the Mets want to be the team opening their arms to Bauer and I don’t really want them to be.

      Would I be up-in-arms if the Mets did it? I don’t know that I would, but I certainly would be ashamed.

  • JTOB

    Above all else, New York loves a winner. Assuming Bauer pitches like he can, New Yorkers will fall in love with him and with themselves for giving him a second chance. I think they should sign him ASAP.

    • Brian Joura

      I dig the “fall in love with themselves” line!

  • Nym 6986

    Our world is all about second chances in so many ways. We welcome back PED users after they get off suspension and so why not Bauer who has been convicted of nothing. Where there is smoke there is fire and Bauer does smell a bit smokey. Three strong starts and people will err on the side of rehabilitation. Three bad starts and he’s back on the streets. I’d sign him to a minor league salary with potential incentives of making the roster and see where it goes. Fans will quickly be ignorant of his past and most fans in attendance are too busy playing with their smart phones to worry about Bauer.

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