The Mets’ first move of the offseason was signing Starling Marte, who adds much needed speed to an offense that struggled last year. They also signed Asdrubal Cabrera and Zack Wheeler in a flurry of activity as they announced their 2018 roster Tuesday.
The “new york mets roster” is a team that has been plagued by injuries. However, the Mets have added talent and depth with Starling Marte and more.
Black Friday is intended to be a frantic, wild-eyed search for discounts, since it is a wonderful American tradition. And the Mets were definitely frantic on this particular Black Friday — we can only picture Steve Cohen’s eyes when his team signed three free-agent batters in the space of a few hours. We’ll have to wait and see whether any of the agreements for this trio qualify as a good deal.
The Mets have had an exciting offseason so far, with their first priority after finishing with a 77-85 record being to recruit an executive to supervise everything. They took their time, as they were connected to everyone from Theo Epstein to Branch Rickey in the rumor mill, but they eventually settled on former Angels general manager Billy Eppler.
Meanwhile, as the early free-agent market for starting pitchers heated up, former rotation members Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz signed elsewhere, while Justin Verlander, Eduardo Rodriguez, Anthony DeSclafani, and others came off the market, New York saw former rotation members Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz sign elsewhere. Then, on his always-entertaining Twitter stream, Cohen went off on Matz’s agent.
It’s all been a touch frantic and a little out of control. In other words, the Mets have been in Black Friday mode all along; it’s just that they didn’t have any players to show for it until the day after Thanksgiving.
Let’s take a fast photo using a wide lens. Following the reported agreements with Starling Marte (four years, $78 million), Mark Canha (two years, $26.5 million), and Eduardo Escobar (two years, $20 million), Roster Resource projects the Mets to have a luxury tax payroll of $229 million in 2022, while Cots Contracts projects $223 million. That is the highest total in the majors, surpassing the Yankees and Dodgers (for the time being — that is certainly subject to change with it still so early in the hot stove season).
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Despite their large cash commitment, the Mets have made no moves to boost a starting rotation that is thin on depth and plagued by injury concerns. Yes, it’s still early, and Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, and others are still available. However, it’s difficult to say how these acquisitions would affect New York’s 2022 outcomes without knowing the answer to a looming question: how far is Cohen prepared to go in terms of payroll?
For the time being, we’ll ignore that and focus just on the Mets’ three signings in the position player category. On the surface, none of the agreements seemed to be a significant overpay, as they all fell within the range of Kiley McDaniel’s market rankings and estimates in terms of duration and value. So, if we consider each contract to have more or less fair market value, we may concentrate on the baseball effect.
The easiest way to describe New York’s new trio is to say that it boosts the roster’s floor rather than its ceiling. That may not sound glamorous, but if you cheer for the Mets, it should sound rather nice following last season’s second-half collapse.
Marte was the best free-agent center fielder available, and there were plenty of competing clubs with whom he might have fit, whether we’re talking baseball or a deal. The Mets’ acquisition of him — and the fact that they did it without overpaying for him — is a welcome development for a club in desperate need of one.
All three of the new Mets are coming off seasons in which they were 32 years old, thus they might be considered post-prime players or guys on the cusp of their primes. Marte, being the most athletic of the three, has the characteristics of a player who should age well. He’s a throwback in that his game is based on average and speed, but he does have some power to fall back on if his wheels start to show signs of wear and tear.
Marte has batted at least.277 in every season since 2013, and he is coming off a.310 season in which he set a career best with 47 steals. He earned a handful of Gold Gloves as a left fielder with the Pirates, but he’s a little over average in center field, according to the stats. With a four-year contract, you should be confident in his offensive profile holding up as he approaches his mid-thirties. But you have to be concerned about his ability to stay in center field, where the Mets desperately need him. However, they should be good till 2022.
Canha presumably fills the void left by free agent Michael Conforto, who now seems unlikely to return to New York. Canha has a lower ceiling than Conforto and, as a result, a larger risk of collapsing. But, in the grand scheme of things, his recent work has been comparable. He’s older than Conforto, bats right-handed, and doesn’t play as well on defense. His deal is also expected to be far less valuable in total than the one Conforto eventually signs.
In terms of Escobar, he joins a group of veterans who compliment each other and can play numerous positions. He’ll be in the same class as Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis. For the time being, Pete Alonso will play first base, Francisco Lindor will play shortstop, Robinson Cano will play second base, and Marte will play center field. After that, explore the alternatives available to the Mets’ manager at each position (assuming they choose a manager):
Dominic Smith (L), Canha (R), Davis (R), McNeil (L), and others are designated hitters.
Escobar (S), McNeil (L), and Davis are at third base (R)
Canha (R), Smith (L), McNeil (L), Davis (R), Escobar (R) are the players in left field (S)
Brandon Nimmo (L), Canha (R), Davis (R), Escobar (R) are the players in right field (S)
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Furthermore, Nimmo will go from New York’s planned center fielder to Marte’s backup, with McNeil and Escobar able to fill in for Cano at the keystone. Luis Guillorme, an infielder, and prospect Ronny Mauricio might both fit into this juggling act.
The picture that emerges is of a well-balanced and adaptable position group capable of getting greater performance out of more roster places if Eppler, the new manager, and the analytics department all press the proper buttons game in and game out.
It’s also a pricey bunch, and an issue might come if Eppler begins to see the holdovers (McNeil, Davis, Smith) as trade possibilities in order to save money on the margins and perhaps help bring back some starting pitching. The Mets need pitching, but the new-look club works better as a whole than it would if Escobar and Canha were just everyday players.
For the time being, New York has added depth to its roster as well as positional and lineup flexibility, all while securing the best center fielder available on the free agency market. And all it took was a large sum of money from Steve Cohen. After years of their club not spending like the big-market franchise it is, Mets supporters all throughout the city needed something to cheer them up on Black Friday.
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