Saturday, December 5, 2020

Free Agents, Post-Coronavirus Baseball and the Weight of Expectations

Joel Sherman had an article in the New York Post yesterday about the Mets' reported pursuit of pitcher Jake Odorizzi. According to Sherman, the Mets seem to be viewing Odorizzi as more of a fallback, depending on how the free agent dominoes fall this winter.  Which makes sense. They're probably not going to sign Trevor Bauer and Odorizzi unless they strike out completely on position players and settle for cheaper options there. It might go the other way, too. They might lose out on both Bauer and Odorizzi and look elsewhere for starting pitching. You never know how the free agents will start to fall. Remember, in 2005 the Mets were never looked at as the frontrunners for Pedro Martinez or Carlos Beltran. Sure, Omar Minaya was aggressive, but some of it was beyond the Mets' control. If the Red Sox wanted to keep Pedro and the Yankees were more interested in Beltran, neither one of them would have wound up as Mets.

It's part of what makes the hot stove season so intriguing and somewhat nerve-wracking for fans. If there's an impact player on the market, your team is not going to be the only team in on him — even in a year like this one where much of the league is crying poverty. Bauer, Springer, Realmuto, James McCann, Jake Odorizzi — all of them are talking with multiple teams. It makes sense for a club like the Mets to be engaged with any of the players that interest them. In the end, the Mets can only hope to upgrade their roster with players they want, at a price and contract length they can live with.

As it stands right now, the Mets starting rotation consists of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and a bunch of questions. If Noah Syndergaard can come back around mid-season with effectiveness that would obviously be huge. David Peterson has definitely earned his way into the mix but, as I've pointed out more than once, it's not realistic to expect him to jump to 30 starts next year. If he can, great, but I see him more likely for 20. Steven Matz is nothing but depth at this point, and he'd really have to show something to change that. So yeah, there would be room for both Bauer and Odorizzi on this team, but the economics don't really make sense.

Odorizzi would be cheaper than Bauer, but certainly not cheap. I find it hard to believe that even a Steve Cohen budget would allow for both of those guys and a Springer or Realmuto addition. That's a lot, and the Mets would still need to fill in with some other additions and at least attempt to extend Michael Conforto. And that's the thing, these moves don't happen in a vacuum. How one piece falls has an effect on the overall strategy.

It's why I temper my enthusiasm when I hear that the Mets are in discussions with James McCann, Jake Odorizzi or anyone else. If Sandy Alderson wants to give me a call to discuss their priorities and strategies this winter, I'd definitely be up for it, but I'm pretty sure that will never happen. But he's not calling Joel Sherman, Andy Martino or anyone else in the media, either. We're all trying to guess the strategy from whatever facts are available. I have no doubts that the Mets are indeed talking with the reported players, because it absolutely makes sense to determine parameters on all of the free agents in whom they might have interest. Nobody knows at this point exactly how everything will play out, and the Mets can't afford to have all of their eggs in any one basket.


I remember when MLB first shut down spring training back in March, I felt pretty confident that they would be playing major league baseball before Memorial Day. Looking back, it seems almost laughingly naïve on my part, but I really didn't have a handle on how much COVID-19 was going to affect everything until a couple of months down the road. My mind craved the normal routine of a six decade lifetime, and was slow to allow the concept of how much disruption lay ahead to penetrate.

Looking ahead to next year, the imminent release of some vaccines against the virus makes me really want to believe that life in 2021 will be normal, or at least very close to what I recognize as normal. I know that it won't happen in January, as the vaccines still won't be in any sort of wide distribution by then, but I can't help but want "normal" to return as soon as possible.

In The Athletic yesterday, Peter Gammons offered up a somewhat sobering outlook for the return of baseball in 2021. With optimistic projections of a widespread distribution of vaccines by Memorial Day, that still leads to some deviation from the much craved for return of normal:

"I'm optimistic spring training will only start a month late," one executive predicted this weekend. "And by August the stands are 40 percent full, we end up playing 130-140 games and it seems like baseball again."

Everything in that quote would represent a huge upgrade from 2020 baseball, but it still depresses the hell out of me. All of it still seems a hell of a long way from normal.

February without spring training camps open? What's going to offer me the hope of spring while winter stubbornly persists here in the Northeast? Stands 40% full? I would have hoped for no attendance restrictions by August. 130-140 games? I might finally have a Mets team that's really worth watching again, I want my 162. All of this feels like a gyp to me.

And yet, despite the optimism surrounding the imminent availability of multiple covid vaccines, there's no guarantee at all that everything will go perfectly. It could well prove that the optimism expressed by the executive Gammons quoted was overly rosy. Maybe 2021 baseball is even further from "normal" than those projections. Suddenly they look a whole hell of a lot better to me. I guess everything is relative.


I finally had a chance to listen to SNY's Shea Anything podcast from early this week, where Andy Martino had more time to explain his reporting that Steve Cohen's stated desire to win a World Series title in "3-5 years" was scaring away some candidates for the Mets front office search. I'm sure that Martino had some sources who believed this to be the case, but I still don't buy that this was really a factor in keeping away a single person that would have been a good choice for the job. Even Martino didn't try to defend the mentality of being scared off by a single quote.

New York is a tough place to be the face of a sports team, no doubt about it. A job as President of Baseball Opps or General Manager of the New York Mets isn't for everyone. You need to have a good dose of self-confidence and belief in your own abilities, and you can't let whatever fear of failure you might have cripple you. You'd better not have a thin skin, either. But, as important as all of this, you can't be afraid of one thing the new owner said, without at least sitting down with the guy and letting him tell you in person what he expects.

Steve Cohen's "Who wants them if we aren't setting high goals" tweet was right on the money. I'm sure Andy Martino did have one source or even more who told him that people might have been scared off by the statement, but you'll never possibly convince me that any candidate who would have been a good choice for either job based a decision not to come here on this silly bit of fluffery. It gets my vote for biggest nonsense story of the Mets offseason so far.

That's going to do it for me today. Thanks, as always, for stopping by. Please stay safe, be well and take care. I very much look forward to a time when the previous sentence is no longer relevant.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

1 comment:

  1. Well thought out, good work.

    I see some out there playing the negative card bc the team is not, "moving fast enough". Ill just say this, shut up. Have you become so used to losing you cant see what is happening? Trust me, if we had already signed Bauer and Springer they'd be saying we spent too much oy vey.

    What Cohen has done so far is change the narrative of the past 30 years in just the last 30 days. If you cant see it you dont know what you're looking at. On the bright side they will all be pleasently surprised when they do catch on.


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