MIAMI — Two-way, free agent superstar Shohei Ohtani makes sense for the Mets in that he’s about to become baseball’s highest-paid player, and the Mets have the owner who can afford to pay whatever it takes. Which happens to be exactly what Ohtani deserves.
But even if Ohtani will consider the East Coast (and he may, according to some in the know), a better fit has to exist elsewhere now, and not just because he’d be joining a team with virtually the same record as the one he’d be leaving. Here’s why:
1) The Mets need pitching now, and Ohtani almost surely won’t be able to pitch in 2024, and perhaps not even too much in 2025, and 2) The Mets need to fill multiple holes after their summer fire sale (they may not like that term, but sorry, anytime you trade two Hall of Famers, it fits my definition).
That’s a relatively short list, which makes sense since Ohtani is arguably the greatest player ever and would make Mets games a happening like never before. Folks around the Angels say fans are still coming out even though he’s called it a season with an oblique injury. The admirers just hope to see him.
If the Mets want extra attention, Ohtani is surely the guy. But if they sign him, who’s to say there’s payroll space to fix one other issue? And if they sign him, and can’t sign any others (a reasonable assumption), he’d be coming to the Angels East.
We learned at the deadline there are limits even to Steve Cohen’s payroll. And even we don’t want to see a multibillionaire lose $300 million a year. Two hundred million, that he can apparently live with. And thank goodness for that.
Harder for Cohen is losses on the field. Cohen wants to win — and if that’s his solitary aim, and I believe it is — they are better off spreading the largesse around.
Max Scherzer was so convinced the Mets won’t be a World Series contender in 2024 he signed off on going to Texas (and also spring training in dusty Surprise, Ariz., which I assume is the last place a resident of idyllic Jupiter, Fla. wants to be). Of course, I get why Max made that call. He opted for the certain contender this year and what looks to him like a better bet for next year, too.
Nobody’s asking me to change jobs (don’t get any ideas) or leave my home, but unlike Scherzer, I remain unconvinced the Mets are writing off 2024. Cohen and Billy Eppler consistently say they expect to be “competitive” next year, and while new baseball president David Stearns isn’t speaking or official yet, I have no reason to believe he expects to spend his first year in his dream job for his hometown team either tanking or biding time — or doing anything in between.
They didn’t ask, and I feel a bit uneasy telling a guy like Stearns, who built consistent winners with pocket change, what to do. But here’s my plan to spread the money around:
1. Sign two starting pitchers
As things stand now, the rotation consists of Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana and some definite maybes. I haven’t given up on David Peterson, and Tylor Megill has his moments, but the Mets need help.
And as luck would have it, starting pitching is the one strength of this market. There’s Blake Snell, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Aaron Nola, Jordan Montgomery, Michael Lorenzen and, very likely, Eduardo Rodriguez, who seems all but certain to opt out.
2. Sign many relievers
The Mets are going to need to revamp the relief corps. Josh Hader is the best guy out there (and at least tied with Diaz as the best in the game) and could give the Mets a better combo than they would have had this year (with David Robertson) had Edwin Diaz’s knee survived the WBC. At the very least, they need a second lefty.
3. Sign one big-time hitter
Let’s face it, they didn’t hit enough this year. We beat up the pitchers all year long, but they underperformed almost as badly at bat. There are two obvious choices here. I’d go Cody Bellinger over Matt Chapman for extra offense, and extra versatility. Bellinger could mostly play center field and move Brandon Nimmo to left field, where he’d be outstanding, and could also spell Pete Alonso at first base. Which brings us to the big one.
4. Re-sign Alonso
This one should be obvious. He’s homegrown, good in the clubhouse (no matter what one TV guy says) and best of all is the most consistent home run hitter in the game. There will be more speculation of a trade to the Brewers for the slugger who’s a free agent after 2024, especially now that Brewers expert Stearns is (almost) here. But one Mets person insisted, “Pete is a priority.”
They never found a bona fide No. 5 hitter to bat behind Alonso, so how are they going to find someone else to hit 40 home runs a year? The only one out there who can do that is Ohtani, and we’ve already explained why they need to look elsewhere.