Sunday, November 5, 2023

The Next Mets Era Begins

With a managerial choice forthcoming and a roster badly in need of upgrades, David Stearns's first Mets offseason is ready to kick off.

The World Series is now over. The 84-win Arizona Diamondbacks managed to get to the Fall Classic by beating three teams that were much better than they were: the Brewers, Dodgers, and Phillies. Then, Arizona was lucky enough to draw the Texas Rangers in the World Series. While Texas had done well in the Playoffs — sweeping the Rays and the Orioles before eking out an ALCS win in 7 over the Astros — they were a flawed team with some injury issues. But the Snakes went down with barely a whimper, still claiming that they had "shocked the world" by getting to the Series.

While I can't answer for the rest of the world, I know I wasn't particularly shocked. The nature of a tournament is that inferior teams can easily triumph over much better teams in a short series. Even a 7-game series is hardly a true test of superiority, but the best-of-3 and best-of-5 in the first two rounds are even less so. MLB would be better served by shortening the season and going to all best-of-7 series. Longer series in those first two rounds would give the best teams a more substantial chance of coming out on top. It certainly wouldn't eliminate upsets, however. There is no way it would happen, anyway. Teams wouldn't be willing to sacrifice the revenue from a few more home games to make this possible, and MLB certainly wouldn't want to play deeper into November.

This doesn't take anything away from what the Rangers and Diamondbacks accomplished. They both made it to the Playoffs, then played well and defeated their opponents. Their fans are rightfully proud of their club's achievements, especially Rangers supporters. But it is something to keep in mind for the future.

We all hope the Mets can finally become sustainable winners under David Stearns. But even if the club can make the Playoffs almost every year, they will come up short of a World Series win in most of those efforts. History teaches us that many in the media and a good number of Mets fans will look at every time they don't win it all as some sort of a moral failure. The truth is that it's just really hard to make it to and then win a World Series. True dynasties with multiple wins in a short period of time are incredibly rare.

But all of that is a worry for a future time. The Mets have missed the Playoffs in 2 of their first 3 seasons under Steve Cohen. In my last post, I noted that the Mets have missed out on the postseason in 29 of the last 35 years. There is significant negative inertia surrounding this franchise, and the lack of stability in the front office is working against reversing this trend. The hiring of David Stearns finally offers true hope of the Mets achieving stability with their front office. Now, the Mets need Stearns to build the Mets into a consistent contender like the Brewers were when Stearns ran that club.

The first order of business after the Series concluded was the Mets clearing some 40-man roster spots for the upcoming offseason. They placed six players on outright waivers: pitchers Peyton BattenfieldJohn CurtissElieser HernándezBryce Montes de Oca, and Denyi Reyes, along with OF Tim Locastro. These moves don't merit much analysis. They were standard moves to create some roster space.

One that I found interesting was Curtiss — not that he pitched well with the Mets this season. He was picked up by Billy Eppler in April 2022. The Mets knew he would miss all of that season after Tommy John surgery. The hope was that he would help in 2023 as a late-inning reliever with some MLB experience and success. Curtiss only pitched 19.2 innings for the Mets, wasn't completely healthy, and wasn't very good. In essence, he was replaced on the roster by relief pitcher Penn Murfee, claimed off waivers from Seattle, and likely to miss most or all of next season recovering from Tommy John. I like the move, even if Curtiss didn't pan out. Before he was hurt, Murfee was an excellent reliever and represents a worthwhile gamble to help the bullpen in the future.

I was sad to see Montes de Oca go, although he might still be resigned by the Mets as a minor leaguer if he passes waivers. While the righty often didn't know where the ball was going, he threw very hard with ridiculous movement. When he was on, it looked like Bryce was throwing a whiffle ball up there. But he was a max-effort guy in his delivery, and this was his second TJ surgery. While he showed flashes, it was unclear if Montes de Oca would ever be able to throw strikes often enough to stick in the majors. And now there is also the question as to whether he can fully regain that terrific movement and velocity.

If you're not familiar with the rules of the Injured List, it only exists during the season. The Mets have several players on the 60-day IL from last season, including closer Edwin Díaz and three of the released pitchers: Curtiss, Hernández, and Montes de Oca. They don't count against the 40-man roster until the season concludes. That's why these moves had to be made now.

The next order of business will likely be the manager. SNY's Andy Martino reports that the likely top target Craig Counsell is close to a decision. Counsell will reportedly allow the Brewers to match any offer that he receives. While this is certainly his right, color me quite skeptical of Counsell coming here if money is the only real determinative for the choice. I have no doubt that Counsell can handle the job, but the media and fan base are vastly amplified from what he dealt with in Milwaukee. If he doesn't really want to be in New York, there's a good chance Counsell comes to regret the choice. But this is his choice, of course.

Martino reports that Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza would be the clear next choice if Counsell doesn't come to New York. I've read elsewhere that the Mets were really impressed with Mendoza's interviews. I don't know enough about the man to comment, other to say I'm not particularly concerned over the Mets going with a first-time manager, as long as they pick the right guy.

Once the Manager is chosen, I suspect the off-season really gets going. While I'm sure Stearns and the Mets will pursue some free agents, I think trades will play a part in shaping a roster for next year. With so much dead money on the books, I believe Stearns simply has to go outside the marketplace to improve this roster enough to compete in 2024. He'll have to make some bargain signings pay off as well.

We'll be back here commenting whenever something goes down. In the meantime, please be well and take care.

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