As we wait for the battle between the players and owners to cease, I find it a perfect time to reflect on some of the next moves for the New York Mets. One of the early winners before the lockout, New York secured infield depth with Eduardo Escobar, bolstered the outfield with Starling Marte and Mark Canha, and added a legitimate ace in Max Scherzer, forming one of the best one-two punches in baseball.
And last week, the Mets found the big name to run it all, hiring Buck Showalter to run the show. New York will continue to find a proper coaching staff behind him, but the Mets boosted their offense, improved their defense, and added a veteran manager to run it all. It’s a fantastic offseason already.
But the Mets aren’t done, nor should they. They were attached to another starting pitcher - Seattle’s Yusei Kikuchi - but I would aim a bit higher, like Chicago’s Carlos Rodon. They want another infielder and Kris Bryant has been the apple of the organization’s eye since the trade deadline. Jeff McNeil and Dom Smith are on the block, and hey, every team in the league could use an additional reliever.
By the time we get to (late) spring training, the New York Mets should be in a position to tout themselves as one of the best teams in the National League. Could that help the Mets land David Sterns?
When it’s all said and done, the Mets should be considered one of the best teams in the National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers should remain the favorites and we can’t write off the Atlanta Braves, who won it all last season, but a healthy Mets team should be right behind those two teams.
But how does this all impact New York’s pending pursuit of Milwaukee President David Stearns?
Once the Mets settled on hiring Billy Eppler to serve as the team’s general manager this season, a ton of smoke was set with New York’s pursuit of Milwaukee’s David Stearns next offseason for the role of President of Baseball Operations. The Mets lost out on Matt Arnold, Milwaukee’s general manager, as he signed a contract extension. That extension created speculation on whether the Brewers were preparing for life without Stearns.
The Mets should be interested and their current offseason could be one that helps boost their chances. Not only have the Mets added to their team and pushed themselves into a rightful group of contenders, but this offseason was the first for Mets owner Steve Cohen to splash the cash and he didn’t disappoint. He might not be done either.
And throw on their farm system on top of that. Currently, the Mets are top-loaded with position prospects, the Mets have several good prospects on the cusp of joining the major league roster. The ability to tout the likes of Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, and Ronny Mauricio over the next few seasons will give the Mets a chance to balance their books with young players who can play smaller roles, get important playing time, before moving into a starting role.
So New York is offering a team with a good chance to win the World Series now, talented prospects to help win the World Series in the future, and Cohen’s checkbook to cover the rest. Placing a blank check in front of Stearns’ face and asking him to be the final piece to the puzzle would be a tough proposition to turn down.
On one hand, the Brewers should have the upper hand; there are 30 jobs in baseball and unless you have one in hand, it’s tough to leave one. Stearns went to Milwaukee from Houston and was able to implement his staff and philosophy from the ground up. That, and the Brewers aren’t a poor team, making the playoffs last season as one of the better teams in the National League Central.
And there’s the sticky situation of Sterns’ vesting option. Many have reported that Stearns’ contract has a vesting option for another season, only pushing the Mets’ pursuit back another year.
Also, would David Stearns have full control? It’s a minor issue now, but throughout their front office search, the Mets were ping-ponging back and forth between interviews with Sandy Alderson and Steve Cohen, with several reporters and pundits suggesting several people interested in the job didn’t want to report to Alderson. Would Stearns get to finally move Alderson off of baseball operations?
What if Stearns wants to hire someone over Billy Eppler? What about shaking up the scouting department? Add more assistant general managers - a popular thing in today’s baseball front office - and move Bryn Alderson down a peg in the hierarchy? With the promotion of Ben Zauzmer to assistant GM, the Mets are building an organization to offer Stearns, but what if he wants to make his own hirings? Recent history suggests that the Mets might not be up to do that.
One more small, but major factor here should be money, but not in the way you think.
While Major League Baseball places a luxury tax - basically a soft salary cap - on teams, they do not place one on a team’s infrastructure. Teams like Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, and Houston have done a good job of adding several people who went on to be solid front office members elsewhere. That’s the area where the Mets can start to catch up; continuing to hire smart people all around baseball and making it a place where smart people want to come and work before moving up in baseball.
The New York Mets have done an excellent job in building their team this offseason, but the President’s job remains in question. After adding this offseason, one must wonder if the additions have helped in their future pursuit of Milwaukee's David Stearns. The Brewers will have the upper hand and still have moved to make this offseason, but the Mets flashed their finances and that should be reason enough to intrigue Stearns.