When the next offseason rolls around all eyes are again going to be on the New York Mets with a generational two-way talent hitting the free agent market next offseason in star Shoei Ohtani. However, before we even think about making it that far, there are some important player opt-outs and team options that we should be aware of when looking at the budget going into the 2024 season.
When you start to potentially piece together what the Mets' offseason may look like next winter it may all be dictated by a decision by starting pitcher Max Scherzer. The 38-year-old ace carries a hefty $43.3 million player option for 2024 and whether he exercises that option and returns to the Mets will be a huge determining factor in how the Mets approach free agency or even the trade market.
Next winter the Mets' offseason may similarly revolve around a high-profile starting pitcher with an opt-out
Scherzer is currently tied with teammate Justin Verlander as the highest-paid player in baseball currently by their AAV. Due to that number, I find it hard to believe that Scherzer would leave that much money on the table unless he has an unearthly season for the Mets in 2023 and believes a team would be willing to go over that number.
Another player who contains an opt-out is recently signed catcher Omar Navarez. The 30-year-old Navarez will have a $7 million player option that he can exercise next season, and it's an option that I would not be surprised that he would go ahead and extend unless he has a career year in 2023.
As it currently stands, Navarez would be the 8th highest-paid catcher in baseball in 2024 should he exercise his player option, and he may stick around as Francisco Alvarez's primary backup at that price tag. Reliever Adam Ottavino who was recently re-signed by the Mets this offseason also carries a $7.2 million player option in his new contract that he can exercise next offseason as well.
The Mets have quite a few players that they hold club options on going into next offseason as well. First and foremost, the Mets will hold a $9 million club option on Eduardo Escobar should he still be on the roster after the 2023 campaign. With trade rumors currently surrounding Escobar and the impending arrival of free agent Carlos Correa, there is a good chance another organization may be making that call on his club option next winter.
The Mets also hold an $11.5 million club option on outfielder Mark Canha which may be an interesting call depending on if they want to get younger in the outfield in 2024. There has been speculation that Brett Baty may move to left field and he could potentially supplant Canha full-time in left field if the Mets decide to move in that direction. Both Canha and Escobar are highly regarded clubhouse guys so it'll be interesting how their cases play out next offseason, if not sooner.
When shifting to the bullpen, left-handed reliever Brooks Raley also has a $6.5 million club option for 2024 should the Mets be impressed with his performance in 2023. Raley was an effective left-handed option out of the bullpen for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2022, and if Raley ends up being the southpaw we have missed since losing Aaron Loup last winter, I could easily see the Mets potentially extending his option another season.
Last but not least is Darin Ruf who the Mets also hold a club option for in 2024 that's worth $3.5 million. Ruf who was one of the most disappointing players on the Mets roster last season isn't necessarily guaranteed a roster spot in 2023. However, should the 36-year-old Ruf be given a chance this spring to turn it around, and if he rebounds the Mets will have a decision to make on his future as well.
There are many in-house decisions that the Mets will have to make next offseason, especially if they choose to go with more of a youth movement in 2024 as many of these players are getting up there in age. One thing is for sure, if the Mets are again aiming for marquee-free agents next offseason, they will have the flexibility with some money potentially coming off the books as well as the deepest pockets in baseball in Owner Steve Cohen.