Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Waiting for What Happens Next

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty great day. I listened to some of the Cohen/Alderson press conference live, then listened to the whole thing again last night. I've been a Mets fan for a long, long time, but caring that much about what was said in a press conference is a new phenomenon for me. I can't imagine listening to Fred or Jeff Wilpon talk for even a fraction of that amount of time without losing all hope for the Mets ever being more than a punchline. But today doesn't seem a day to dwell on the sins of owners past. This one definitely seems to be a keeper.

I believe that, in time, I will look back on yesterday's press conference as a stark dividing line between the New York Mets that came before and the New York Mets under Steve Cohen. We heard a lot of speculation on what Cohen might prioritize once he took control, but the words that came out of his mouth yesterday were, to me, an absolute best-case scenario. Everything that I've been hoping for and writing about in this space seems to be part of Cohen's and Sandy Alderson's game plan.

Don't think that I'm not trying to portray myself as some sort of genius here. Everything — from investing in the team infrastructure, using the Dodgers as a model, placing new importance on the farm system, implementing systems throughout the organization from the minor leagues right up to the major league level, and more — was all of the things that made the most sense for a New York Mets club that was run by someone who had a clue. You kind of figured that Steve Cohen was going to be well-suited to be that guy, but hearing him prove it made me almost stupidly optimistic for the future. Not that I in any way underestimate how very hard it is to win a World Series title, but because I believe that I will actually have a good chance of seeing one while I'm still around to enjoy it.

There's a lot of work to be done, of course, but I enjoyed Sandy Alderson's vision for the future. Sandy seemed mighty happy and almost carefree yesterday, like someone who had lived for quite a while under a dark cloud and has been freed now that the cloud only owns 5% of the team. I'm looking forward to seeing who the Mets hire next so that we can start watching them in action.

I'm sure, like any good organization, the Mets will have hits and misses, but I expect that being a lot smarter will equate to many more hits than misses. I'm sure there's a segment of the media that will be very reluctant to part with the whole LOL Mets thing, but that meme already feels like it belongs in the past. LOL Mets belonged to an organization under an ownership that took itself very seriously but just plain failed to do the work required to fix all of the things that were broken and make things right for one of the greatest and most stubbornly loyal fanbases in all of sport.

What a day for the Mets fan yesterday! It takes a special sort of person to stay loyal to a club that so consistently failed to reward that loyalty. It wasn't enough that the club was so bad and painful to watch at times, but the people most responsible for creating the garden where failure and heartbreak blossomed so spectacularly always seemed convinced they were doing things right. There was no room there for new ideas to take hold or to honestly question what wasn't working.

As a fan, you could only watch all of this nonsense from afar with the same hopelessness that you felt watching the clueless blonde enter the dark room in a slasher pic. Or, to toss out another metaphor, whatever hopes you may have had as a fan was like the red shirts in a Star Trek episode, doomed cannon fodder to a storyline over which you had zero control.

So, what happens now? Probably not much, at least until Cohen and Alderson hire the baseball people they want to transition the Mets organization from bad joke to a well-oiled machine that is capable of producing talent and wins. Meanwhile, everyone is guessing who the player targets should be, and Marcus Stroman has decided to return to the fold. Some thoughts:

Marcus Stroman: I thought that there was a pretty good chance that Stroman would take the qualifying offer. He has a lot to prove if he hopes to get a good-sized multi-year contract, and there won't be draft pick compensation attached to him after next season. I've never found myself embracing the guy, but the Mets need starters, and it's hard to lose on a 1-year deal. What will be interesting to see would be if Stroman can win back Mets fans who are, to say the least, somewhat skeptical about him after all that has transpired. And I'm not so sure the Mets would have been in on the guy for a longer-term deal if he had chosen to decline the qualifying offer.

Trevor Bauer: It really did seem like the Mets have an interest in the guy, and they certainly need more starters. If they were to sign him, and Syndergaard return strong from Tommy John, that's a pretty solid top 3 for a team to go into the playoffs with. Still, who knows how much interest there is in Bauer, and at what price? And does Stroman taking the $19 million affect the Mets' interest in Bauer?

George Springer: I keep coming back to this guy as my best bet for who the Mets sign from the premium free agent pool. He'd give them a truly great right-handed bat in the lineup again, replacing the departed Yoenis Céspedes. He'd fit in for at least a couple of years as a solid centerfielder, and you wouldn't have the concerns that you'd have with J.T. Realmuto as a catcher aging into his 30s who has already supposedly expressed a lack of desire to play in New York.

Yoenis Céspedes: Speaking of 2015's hero, I wonder where he will wind up. I think, quite obviously, there is almost zero chance that he returns to the Mets, even with the ownership and front office changes. I'm betting on the Marlins as a possibility, as long as the NL keeps the DH. He'd probably have to sign for cheap with a lot of incentives and lives in Florida. Even the Rays might take a flyer on the guy with the right deal.

Nolan Arenado: I actually like the guy and thought he might be an interesting target for the Mets. I knew, like most Rockies players, he would have home/road splits that were significantly higher at home. When I looked them up, however, they were quite eye-opening. His career slash line at home is .322/.376/.609, good for an OPS+ of 120. On the road, his career numbers are .263/.322/.471 with an OPS+ of 79. That's the difference between a star and a utility infielder. Honestly, now I understand why Colorado can't trade the guy.

Jeff McNeil: I keep seeing his name pop up whenever a writer discusses trade scenarios for the Mets. I have to say, if it was my decision, I would not want to trade him unless the return value was so high, I was literally forced to say yes to a deal. The guy is a legit .300 hitter who plays really good defense at second and reasonable defense at third and in the outfield. He's a fierce competitor, which I believe matters when you have one on your team. Between his talent level, competitive fire, and versatility in the field, he seems to me to be the exact type of player you want on a team that's competing for titles.

Jered Kelenic: I know this one stings, and will sting more when he makes his debut next season and becomes a really good player. Is it just me, however, or does this sting a whole lot less now that you know there will be competent people running the club going forward who will be finding the next Kelenic, and the one after that, and the one after that? Plus, when they do find the next one, they're not going to trade him for an aging second baseman and a volatile closer.

And finally, let's talk Francisco Lindor. I guess maybe this will be quite unpopular, but I'm not really hoping the Mets trade for him this year. They have other, more pressing needs, and it supposedly would cost 3 major leaguers (or prospects close to the majors). This will get you the right to keep him for one year, with the idea of forking over a veritable f*ck-ton of cash to keep him long-term.

I'd feel more comfortable with a deal like this if the Mets were a couple of years further along with the new owner and had already deepened out both their 26-man roster and their minor league talent. For right now, it seems like a lot to tie up in a luxury player. I get it, he's a tremendous talent, but I don't think he's the one missing piece of the puzzle. So, while I wouldn't spit on having a Lindor on this team, I kind of hope they don't go that way this year. Now, if he's a free agent next offseason...

Okay, it's late, and time to pack it in for tonight. Please stay safe, be well and take care. Hope to see you back here soon.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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