The New York Mets can do no wrong this year. The offense has shown multiple faces, being able to beat opponents by blasting the ball out of the park or by the “Moneyball” way of things - drawing walks, milking pitch counts, and slapping doubles all across the field. The starting pitching has performed well without Jacob deGrom, thanks to an emerging ace in Tylor Megill and finally, Edwin Diaz leads a solid bullpen.
Year one of the Steve Cohen era had its ups and downs, but year two seems to be going in the right direction, thanks to a strong offseason. An offseason in which, Cohen and Sandy Alderson established a general manager in the front office, added an ace-level pitcher, and continued to transform the team by taking quick advantage of the hitters market before the lockout.
However, when Cohen first purchased the team, he spoke of becoming a “Dodgers East,” a team that basically sells itself with its success and eventually, uses Cohen’s finances as a cherry on top, rather than the deciding factor for the team’s success. Are the Mets any closer to developing into that team?
With the Mets now seeing the success on the field, how closer are the Mets towards building a Dodgers East franchise?
The Dodgers, at 18-7, are in the midst of another successful season, but zooming out and you see the success the Mets and their fans crave. Since 2013, the Dodgers finished first in the National League in eight of the last nine years with a second-place finish in 2021 as their only blemish. In that same span, Los Angeles made the NCLS five times, the World Series three times, and won the "giant hunk of metal" in 2020.
On the field, the Mets have caught up, but its the talent away from the diamond where New York needs to focus in order to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Making the New York Mets the place to be
The next step for the Mets is to build their front office and make the organization an ideal career step into (and back into) baseball. The Mets got the clue, somewhat, in their first Cohen year, adding guys like Carter Capps (now a pitching coach with Seattle University) and Ben Zauzmer showed that the Mets knew what they had to do.
The Dodgers have, over the last decade, done the same. Even while spending on the field, Los Angeles made their front office stronger with names like Farhan Zaidi, Josh Brynes, and Alex Anthopoulos getting restarts with the Dodgers front office, and in the case of Zaidi, and Anthopoulos, moving on to higher front office roles with different organizations.
For New York, that stands for building and organizing the front office beyond the President's role. Adding David Stearns from Milwaukee would give the Mets their Andrew Friedman - a stalwart to run the organization for the next 20 years, but can the Mets find a Brandon Gomes? Gomes is a former player who joined the Dodgers front office and was named the team’s general manager role this past season.
This also factors into their minor league spots as well. Better role management in the minor leagues, often leads to more options for internal roles, whether it be on the bench or in the scouting department. In general, the next step for the New York Mets front office and overall office roles is to have a uniform structure that promotes evolution and advancement.
Depth and Development
When we discuss the Dodgers and their decade-long success, the finances are the first topic, and rightfully so, but no one talks about their ability to draft and develop players and properly scout opposing teams’ minor league rosters. That has been just as important as their ability to throw money out to potential players.
For every Mookie Betts, there’s a Chris Taylor, a once fledgling infield prospect for the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles traded Zach Lee for him and turned Taylor into a high-level utility player, thanks to improving his swing, and thus, making him more of an offensive threat. Guys like Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Henrique “Kike” Hernandez, and Phil Bickford fit the bill.
Along with their success of plucking minor league players and developing them, they’ve been the best drafting team in baseball. In every facet of the draft, the Dodgers have been successful, from drafting good first-round picks (Corey Seager, Walker Buehler, Gavin Lux), to later-round players (Cody Bellinger, Edwin Rios, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May), Los Angeles has supplemented big salaries with young, talented prospects.
Not only that, but Los Angeles has been great at developing prospects to then use them in trade. Here are just a few trades the Dodgers have made over the last few years and the prospects sent away in those deals:
- Manny Machado trade: Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon, Zach Pop, and Breyvic Valera.
- Rich Hill and Josh Reddick trade: Frankie Montas, Jharel Cotton, and Grant Holmes
- Yu Darvish trade: Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brendon Davis
- Mookie Betts trade: Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong.
- Trea Turner and Max Schzerer trade: Keibert Ruiz. Josiah Gray, Gerardo Carrillo, and Donovan Casey
The Dodgers have some losses here - Montas has developed into an above-average starter with Oakland, and the same goes with Alex Verdugo with Boston. Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray are future cornerstones of Washington’s rebuild, while Boston has Jeter Downs as one of their top prospects. However, it’s safe to say that the Dodgers won each one of these trades.
In fact, the deal they probably wish they had back was the Tony Watson trade with Pittsburgh that gifted the Pirates current top prospect Oneil Cruz.
For the Mets, this combination of development and trade success is almost impossible. After this recent three-year stretch of trading multiple first-round picks and top prospects, New York’s farm system seems barren after the initial top players. In the near future, names like Mark Vientos, Brett Baty, and Francisco Alvarez will supplement some of the loss on the hitting side, but the pitching side is bare, and only got worse as they - correctly - flipped J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller to Oakland for Chris Bassitt before the season.
The 2022 MLB Draft will be a chance for the Mets to get back on track. With two picks within the first 15 selections, New York will have one of the larger bonus pools to work with - meaning they could make the most of their first ten rounds with some solid upside picks and manipulate the money added with that additional first round pick.
Once the Mets find a better balance with their farm system, using that as a tool for the development of players could only help them in the long run as they attempt to sustain success.
The New York Mets are playing well and should be able to contend for a playoff berth this season, if not win the National League East. However, in order to reach Steve Cohen’s lofty goals of assuming a “Dodgers East” like position, there are still steps to be climbed, specifically in the front office and on the draft and development side of things.
These things take time and the New York Mets are on the right path, which is all we can ask for.