Dodgers' offseason proves they have one big advantage over the Mets

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is still searching for a winning formula
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is still searching for a winning formula / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

The Los Angeles Dodgers made yet another free agent signing on Sunday, inking former Seattle Mariner Teoscar Hernandez to a one-year deal. While not nearly as impactful a move as procuring the services of Shohei Ohtani or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Hernandez deal proves that the Dodgers have one big advantage over the rest of Major League Baseball, and especially the New York Mets.

To the casual observer, the Dodgers and Mets have a lot in common. They're big market, deep-pocketed teams whose stated goal is to compete for a World Series title every year. The big difference? The Dodgers are already there, having made the playoffs every year since 2013. The Mets and owner Steve Cohen share similar ambitions, but just three years into Cohen's ownership, they've yet to achieve similar results.

It's that culture of winning that is the biggest hurdle the Mets need to overcome to truly compete with a juggernaut like the Dodgers, and we've seen that play out already this offseason. Once upon a time, the Mets had ambitions of signing Shohei Ohtani. He went to the Dodgers. The Mets went all-in in their pursuit of Yoshinobu Yamamoto. He joined Ohtani in L.A. With their need for outfield depth, the Mets were even rumored to have an interest in Teoscar Hernandez. At the risk of being repetitive, he'll also be playing in Chavez Ravine next season.

Steve Cohen can outspend any team in baseball, but all the money in the world doesn't matter if nobody is willing to take it.

The situation reminds me of what we've seen in other sports. The Tom Brady-era New England Patriots were a popular destination for established veterans that wanted to chase a ring. The LeBron James-era Miami Heat and the prime Golden State Warriors were often able to fill out their roster with quality players that were willing to take less money for an increased chance at a title.

Signing with the Dodgers is a virtual guarantee of being one of the favorites to win the World Series, and that matters. The Mets have done some good things since Steve Cohen has taken over, but they're not yet at the point where they're a postseason lock.

It's a Catch-22 situation, because to improve as a team, you need better players, but it's difficult to get better players when the Dodgers are like the first person in line on Black Friday, getting their pick of the litter every time.

We've even seen players, with Ohtani being by far the most prominent example, taking large portions of their contract in deferred money to help the Dodgers load up on more talent. Even with just a one-year deal, Hernandez did the same. In theory, this is something the Mets could do. They have the cash and the willingness to do what it takes to land big-time players. But unless you'd rather be in New York than L.A., what incentive do stars have to go to the Mets when they can join a stacked Dodgers roster?

To fix this, and to be able to take advantage of their ability to outspend or at least match any offer from any team, including the Dodgers, the Mets need to establish a winning culture, and quick.

This goes against the team's stated mission of building from within and bolstering the farm system, which makes it a tricky balancing act. Cohen's patient approach is a welcome one, and undoubtedly smart from a baseball perspective, but try telling that to a notoriously impatient fanbase if the Mets scuffle through another losing season that has all the makings of a "transition" year.

The best hope for the Mets is that the young players in their system are ready for primetime sooner rather than later. Francisco Alvarez is already a star, but the next bumper crop of young talent, such as Luisangel Acuna, Drew Gilbert, and Jett Williams, need to be big league-ready within the year, or two at most. Only then can the Mets mollify a fanbase starved for a winner, and like the Dodgers, that success will beget more success as stars want to join in on the fun.

As we saw this past year when the Diamondbacks reached the World Series, anything can happen in baseball. Even with Ohtani, Yamamoto, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and half-a-dozen other All-Stars, the Dodgers may be a near-lock for the postseason, but winning it all is a different beast. Still, it's a position the Mets would love to be in, and if the Hernandez signing shows us one thing, it's just how far they have to go.

manual