The best backup plan for the Mets if Shohei Ohtani is no longer an option
By Tim Boyle
Shohei Ohtani was the best free agent to be entering the 2023 season. Nothing has or will change this. What has changed is the difference between him and the second-best available player for New York Mets General Manager Billy Eppler to target next offseason.
Rafael Devers, Manny Machado, and more have already signed extensions. More will be on the way.
The difference between Ohtani and the next best free agents is so large that it’s important to have an alternative plan in place. If Ohtani doesn’t sign with the Mets and ends up with the Los Angeles Dodgers or someone else, there’s only one thing the Mets can do.
The best Mets backup plan for losing Shohei Ohtani is to trade for an extend a star
The Mets implemented the trade for a star and sign him to an extension strategy with Francisco Lindor ahead of the 2021 season. It’s exactly what they should do if Ohtani no longer becomes an option. And if you know anything about the Mets farm system, they have some intriguing pieces.
Some of those trade chips could be gone at this year’s trade deadline so it’s hard to know exactly what they’ll have in the chamber. We can, however, already begin to speculate about some of those options.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes aren’t getting the contract offers from their respective ball clubs to keep them around. They’re two of the best out there already looking toward the future and free agency. By the time next winter hits, a whole new growing star could be feeling disgruntled about his paycheck and the disrespect it represents.
It’s a somewhat unique situation the Mets found themselves able to pounce on when they acquired Lindor. There aren’t as many superstar players a year away from free agency with no chance of re-signing as one may think. And even when those players do come around, many are guys like Juan Soto who we can only dream of slipping away from the San Diego Padres. While not impossible for the Mets, the Padres are setting themselves up to win and they aren’t going to send him to Flushing to better the competition.
Eppler has helped set the Mets up well to test out their army of young bats in the coming years. The need to trade multiple prospects for a star player may not even become a need. A starting pitcher, on the other hand, might be something to invest in. Repeating some history and calling Cleveland to inquire about Shane Bieber is the most obvious move to consider. He’ll hit the open market after the 2024 season. He’d be an ideal sign and extend candidate.
Another star with the same name, Shane McClanahan, is much further away and unattainable at the moment. Unpredictable changes can always happen. Teams get sold, new stars emerge, and general managers seek out opportunities.
The Mets shouldn’t be adding star players for the sake of jersey sales. They should be looking for lockdown guys to save them for the offseason when they miss a little too much in free agency. There won’t always be a Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander available.