On Saturday, September 25th, the moment New York Mets fans had been dreading finally came; their beloved team was officially eliminated from playoff contention. For another year, their fifth-consecutive, they will not be playing meaningful October baseball.
Mets fans have seen this coming given their team’s recent form, but it still hurts to see it become official.
What’s next, then? What does a team do at a time like this? This season was supposed to be different; their new owner, Steve Cohen, was supposed to bring a change of culture to a team in desperate need of it. Instead, there was just more of the same as he learned the hard way about how to own a team. With a little more experience under his belt, an impatient fanbase and a promising foundation for a team, Cohen will be busy this offseason with a long to-do list. I’m going to take a look at what could be on that list and what needs to be done before the start of next season.
1. Hire a New President of Baseball Operations
This will be the Mets’ most important move this offseason, as it will determine everything else that happens. The new president of baseball operations will have to decide what moves are made, who leaves, who stays, etc. Zack Scott, the current general manager, has been on administrative leave due to a DWI arrest earlier this year. In his place, Sandy Alderson was given the role of active GM–in addition to team president.
Scott’s arrest has followed a theme of bad hires. Previous GM Jared Porter had a brief stint, having been fired because of an incident where he sent unconsented, inappropriate photos to a female reporter. Former manager Mickey Callaway was also accused of inappropriate behavior during his time with the team. Considering all of these ill-fated hires, their new president of baseball operations needs to be heavily thought out. A respected, experienced hire would bring stability to a tumultuous team in need of help. Names like Theo Epstein and David Stearns have been thrown around, and either of those two would work.
2. Negotiate With Current Free Agents on the Team
Once a new president is hired, the Mets will have to decide what to do with its current crop of free agents. It won’t be an easy task, as many players are due to be free agents this offseason: Javier Báez, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Loup, Michael Conforto–just to name a few. Even though Steve Cohen has money to burn, the Mets will have to decide who stays, who goes and what contracts to offer.
Of the group I mentioned, locking up Stroman and Loup should be key. Both of them have been phenomenal this season, with Loup especially fortifying the bullpen with his sub-1.00 ERA. Syndergaard is an interesting player, having not pitched in almost two years because of Tommy John surgery. Baez, despite his great relationship with Francisco Lindor, has yielded mixed results in his short time as a Met. Lastly, Conforto had a somewhat disappointing contract season. It will be interesting to see what the Mets and other teams offer him.
In short, the Mets need to figure out what to do with these players. If you ask me, I say keep Stroman, Loup, Syndergaard and Conforto while letting Baez walk. However, it will be up to the new president of baseball operations to decide what to do with these players.
3. Evaluate the Free Agent and Trade Markets
After dealing with their own free agents, the Mets could look to other free agents to help bolster their team. Other notable free agents this offseason include Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Nick Castellanos and Craig Kimbrel. There are plenty of options for the Mets to consider, including Bryant (who they were eyeing via trade), Arenado (who could upgrade third base) and Kimbrel (who could strengthen their bullpen).
Additionally, they need to explore the trade market. Even though their farm system is somewhat shallow, the Mets still have some players that could be traded. Chief among them is Dominic Smith, who is in a difficult situation with his team. Pete Alonso is the primary first baseman, meaning Smith has been relegated to a bench role while occasionally getting starts in left field. He can be clutch, and due to the backlog preventing him from playing consistently, I can imagine the Mets trading him. I think a new, consistent role could do him some good and the Mets could get a nice return. This may change if the universal DH is adopted next season, but even then I still think this is an option.
While I don’t expect the Mets to make any big trades, I think they should consider all options. Creating a clever trade could improve their team without touching any of the available free agents.
4. Find a Replacement for Luis Rojas (and Perhaps Others)
While I will admit that Luis Rojas’ rise with the club is inspiring, I also think he is not a good fit for this team. Time and time again, he has made bizarre decisions during the heat of the moment. I think he would be better suited in a different role, perhaps for a minor league team or as a development coach.
For me, the Mets need experience. They are a hungry team that, on paper, has a tremendous amount of talent. An experienced manager could be the thing that pushes them over their hurdle and finally gets them to reach the playoffs. Who could fill this role? Buck Showalter is a name that jumps out; he is currently out of a job and has plenty of experience with different teams. They could always try Carlos Beltran again (A.J. Hinch is with the Tigers despite his role in the Astros’ scandal) but he is lacking with managerial experience. Cult hero Dave Jauss, the current bench coach, is also an option but I’m now sure how he would feel about moving to manager. In the end, while I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept Rojas, I think it’s time for him to go.
The Mets could also consider finding a replacement for hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum. One of the biggest problems for the Mets has been their offense. They rank in the bottom 10 in the league in most offensive categories, including being second-to-last in total hits (just above the Seattle Mariners). While they could wait it out and hope that Quattlebaum improves, I think they have too talented of a team to just wait. A new coach with a different mindset could help this team get their bats moving.
It’s been said before, but I think this will be one of the most important offseasons in recent history. They stand on the precipice of greatness, with almost all of the pieces needed to be great. And, despite not having made the playoffs in five years, their window of contention is just barely still open.
All of the moves this offseason will determine the trajectory for the Mets in this upcoming year and beyond. With the pressure mounting to improve and be a World Series-contending team, it’s time for the Mets to be bold and make the necessary moves. If they can check off all the items on this to-do list, then I think they will be in a good spot when the season kicks off again next year. Here’s hoping Year 2 of the Cohen Era will be better than the first.