The 2023 New York Mets were the most expensive baseball team ever assembled, and they proved to be a colossal failure. After falling 17.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, and 6 games out of a wild card spot, Mets brass made the tough decision to sell at the deadline... and boy, did they sell hard.
(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Mere days before the deadline, the Mets were still unsure whether they were going to be buyers or sellers. After trading David Robertson to the Miami Marlins for some minor league talent, the writing was on the wall; New York was in full sell mode. In the following days, former ace Max Scherzer was dealt to the Texas Rangers, Mark Canha was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, ace Justin Verlander went back to the Houston Astros, and in the closing hours of the August 1st trade deadline, Tommy Pham went to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Dominic Leone was sent on his way to the Los Angeles Angels.
Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler's new direction for the team is clear - fill the prospect pool with young, expensive talent. Cohen expressed his desire to not mortgage the teams future by trading top prospects for proven stars when he first became majority owner of the Mets back in 2020.
At the 2023 trade deadline, Cohen, Eppler and the Mets acquired the following prospects:
INF Luisangel Acuna - Texas Rangers
RHP Justin Jarvis - Milwaukee Brewers
INF Jeremiah Jackson - Los Angeles Angels
OF Drew Gilbert - Houston Astros
INF/OF Ryan Clifford - Houston Astros
C Ronald Hernandez - Miami Marlins
INF Marco Vargas - Miami Marlins
INF Jeremy Rodriguez - Arizona Diamondbacks
Acuna, Gilbert and Clifford are the three most important returns here, as they will be ranked as the Mets third, fourth, and sixth highest prospects respectively, according to MLB's prospect rankings.
All of this wheeling and dealing at the trade deadline begs the question - are the New York Mets still a destination team?
Over the last two seasons, we've heard big-name free agents -- such as the newly departed Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander -- talk about how they decided to come to New York simply based off of the fact that they were buying into Steve Cohen's vision. Queens was finally starting to look like a place where big time players wanted to be, after 30+ years of them looking the other way and running as fast as they can.
In his first press conference with the Texas Rangers, Max Scherzer confirmed that prior to his trade, he "wanted to stay in New York," but was told with certainty by Mets brass that their new window of contention is 2025 the earliest, 2026 realistically, and Scherzer wanted to win now in the twilight of his career. We're only in August of 2023, so that means roughly two-and-a-half to three more years of pain and suffering for the fanbase. And with this newest timeline, let the Pete Alonso trade rumors officially run wild, after it was reported that the Mets will be listening to offers on any players who aren't under contract after the 2024 season, which includes Alonso.
So, where do the Mets go from here? The core is still intact as of now. Alonso (if he's extended) Lindor, McNeil, Diaz, Raley, Senga, Baty, Vientos, Alvarez, and Nimmo. It's a great blend of veteran leadership, mixed with young and exciting talent. They're a little light on pitching, but those kinks can be worked out. What are the 2024 Mets going to look like? If next season ends up being a throwaway year like management is alluding to, what can they do in order to show us that they are, in fact, trending in the right direction towards their retool?
Well, if there's one thing we know about the two men who are steering this ship, it's that Billy Eppler is well respected in the Japanese baseball market, and has a knack for recruiting talent from the Land of the Rising Sun, and Steve Cohen isn't afraid to spend. Eppler, after all, is mostly responsible for helping the Angels land Japanese sensation, Shohei Ohtani, during his time as GM in Los Angeles. He also went out and signed Kodai Senga last offseason, and Senga has been stellar for the Mets this year.
With all that in mind, would you be surprised to hear that the Mets have been somehow loosely linked to another Japanese pitching star that could be making his way over to the United States next season?
Meet 24-year old Orix Buffaloes star, Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Reports surfaced a few weeks ago that the New York Mets have already sent scouts over to Japan to check in on Yamamoto prior to free-agency this winter. Other interested parties that we know of so far are the Boston Red Sox, but as the 2023 regular season progresses, I'm sure more and more teams will be checking in on him.
Yamamoto sports a 1.78 ERA with 114 strikeouts in just over 108 innings pitched this year in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Other than that, there aren't many interesting names in the free-agent pool this winter. Aside from the obvious Shohei Ohtani -- who is all but confirmed not coming to the Mets following this disaster of a season -- it feels like it might be a pretty lackluster hot stove season as far as signings go.
Don't get it twisted, this isn't a Wilpon era "retool" where ownership is going to toss around a few minor league contracts to former stars who are on the brink of retirement, hoping it'll be good enough. I have a feeling that even though he doesn't plan on competing for a World Series, Steve Cohen is still a competitor at heart, and I'm sure he will want to make a splash here and there this winter. Don't expect a similar offseason that we saw last year where he went out and spent upwards of $500,000,000 on free agents, but if he truly plans on competing come 2025, I would think he would want to start getting some impact guys on board ASAP.
Now here comes the conspiracy and speculation... remember when I mentioned what Max Scherzer said about the Mets not competing until 2025-2026? Well, according to Bob Nightengale, a very similar thing was said to Justin Verlander just prior to his trade. What do Verlander and Scherzer have in common? They both needed to waive their no-trade clause in order to be moved. Many are now speculating that the Mets front office lied to both pitchers in an attempt to get them to give Eppler their permission to work out a trade.
Why would Eppler tell the media that this is not a rebuild, then go ahead and say that he doesn't plan on competing for another couple of years? I certainly don't blame those who are suspicious of his motives.
I guess only time will reveal the truth...