David Stearns quote paints the Mets as a team at a crossroads

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New York Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns gave a revealing response on Wednesday when asked about the team's pursuit of one of the offseason's hottest commodities, Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

It's no secret that the Mets have been lusting after Yamamoto for some time now. Reports came out this week that Stearns and Mets owner Steve Cohen flew to Japan to meet with Yamamoto in person, and Stearns has essentially confirmed that Yamamoto is the Mets' top priority.

It's clear that the Mets are putting all their eggs in Yamamoto's basket, and his decision will have far-reaching implications on the short- and long-term future of the franchise. Should the Mets ink the star righty to a lavish contract, it will likely accelerate Stearns' timeline on how soon this team will try to earnestly compete for a World Series, meaning one or two more "splash" moves could be in the offing. Miss out, and any future moves will be seen as "plan B" for a franchise that historically isn't used to getting what it wants.

If baseball free agency is an all-you-can-eat buffet, the Mets haven't yet progressed past the salad bar, opting to sign smaller pieces to cheaper contracts. This has rankled Mets fans, a famously impatient bunch, as noteworthy players such as Aaron Nola, Eduardo Rodriguez, Craig Kimbrel, and Sonny Gray have already signed with other teams.

Mets fans have their hearts set on Yamamoto, and failing to secure his services will be seen as an early black mark on the tenure of David Stearns.

One great aspect of having an owner with the deep pockets of Steve Cohen is that you can just pay for the players that you covet, rather than trade valuable pieces for them. The Mets have made it clear that they are prioritizing their farm system, and last year's trade deadline bears that out. The arrival of young talented players such as Luisangel Acuna, Drew Gilbert, and Ryan Clifford via trade set the Mets up for success long into the future, but losing out on Yamamoto may end up pressuring Stearns to deal one or more prospects for more immediate help.

Failing that, it will likely mean that the team really will view 2024 as a transitional year to bigger and better things when the young pups are more ready for the big stage.

The danger of so publicly going all-in on Yamamoto is that the Mets could find themselves at the center of their own horror movie, a baseball version of Carrie doused in pig's blood as the rest of the league points and laughs.

Would it be the first time the Mets were viewed as a laughingstock? Such silly questions are beneath you, dear reader. As a lifelong Mets fan, I'm well past the point of being able to be grievously wounded by missing out on a single free agent, no matter how tantalizing his talent seems to be. Mets fans have been through enough over the years that if Yamamoto signs elsewhere, we'll still convince ourselves that this is our year by time spring training rolls around and our rotation consists of Kodai Senga and the Witness Protection All-Stars.

Still, there's a reason we've all turned on notifications for Jeff Passan in the last couple of days. Yamamoto seems like a special player, and if he comes to the Mets, it will be a cause for celebration at the end of a year that fell short in the happiness department for our favorite team. The Mets are at a crossroads. No pressure, David Stearns.

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