Mets Face Key Turning Point In Cohen Era

Mets Face Key Turning Point In Cohen Era

By: Frank Schaeffer 

When Steven Cohen purchased the New York Mets in Sept. 2020, his stated goal was to win a World Series within 3-5 years. He showed his commitment to that promise by investing big money to sign Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, overpaying for battle-tested veterans at the tail end of their careers in hopes of pushing his playoff team from 2022 over the finish line.

When it was apparent it was not working out, he pivoted by spending even more money in deals for Scherzer and Verlander, agreeing to pay most of their contracts in exchange for receiving Rangers and Astros top prospects who are believed to be within a year or two of contributing in the big leagues.

Perhaps no other owner would have considered such a bold move. But by adding Luisangel Acuna, Drew Gilbert, and Ryan Clifford to Mets prospects Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Jett Williams, Christian Scott, Blade Tidwell, Mike Vasil, Brandon Sproat, Tyler Stuart, Dominic Hamel, Alex Ramirez, Kevin Parada, Nolan McLean, Calvin Ziegler, Nate Lavender, Cohen gave the team’s first President of Baseball Operations a jump on possibly reaching that 5-year goal by the end of the 2025 season.

And perhaps even more shrewdly, Cohen’s plan was undoubtedly built around going all out to sign Juan Soto, the top free agent to be this offseason.

No doubt, Soto is the main piece to this puzzle. He is the reason the Mets showed restraint this offseason by signing players to short-term contracts while building organizational dept, while developing their young prospects in hopes of signing Soto in the offseason. The formula is one that has led to sustained success for organizations such as the Dodgers, Braves, and cross-town Yankees in the past.

Build a team with as many home-grown players under team control, then spend big to add free agents that make sense – in this case Soto, who is just 25.

Soto could very well cost 12-years, $600 million plus, but it is a no-brainer Cohen will pay that freight.

The bigger question is the future of Pete Alonso, the Mets’ slugging first baseman who will turn 30 before the 2025 season. Surely his agent Scott Boras will want an 8-to-10-year deal in the $300 million range. The problem is power hitters are one-dimensional and when they decline, it usually happens quickly.

The question Cohen faces is not whether to spend $600 million or more on Soto, but what to do with Alonso, who with Francisco Lindor has been the face of the Mets with his 192 home runs in less than 5 seasons, given the Covid-shortened 2020 season.

Do you let Alonso get to free agency as Boras will surely want? Or, do you use this year’s failures of Boras to get long-term deals for Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery and hope to get Alonso at bargain of say 5-years, $200 million?

Or… do you flip him at the trade deadline to add a piece like say, Vlad Guerrero Jr., whose half-brother was signed by the Mets during the last international signing period? Or maybe you flip Alonso to the Orioles for a nice return of prospects who are close to big-league ready?

Guerrero is 25 and better fits with Soto’s age and the ages of the Mets top prospects. The Blue Jays also have top prospect LHP Ricky Tiedemann, 21, who fanned 82 batters in 44 innings last year in the minor leagues as well as 20-year-old LHP Brandon Barriera, their 1st round pick from the 2022 draft. Despite all the pitching prospects the Mets have coming up, there is a lack of left-handed starters in the Mets farm system

The Orioles have 22-year-old prospect Coby Mayo, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound 1B/3B who batted .290/.410/.973 with 29 HR, 99 RBI in Double and Triple-A last season. The Orioles have one of the top CF prospects in CF Enrique Bradfield Jr., along with 25-year-old OF prospect Heston Kjerstad, and LHP Cade Povich, 23, who fanned 171 in 126.2 innings between Double and Triple A in 2023.

Winning a World Series in 2024 isn’t the biggest task Cohen and Stearns face this season. Neither is signing Soto this offseason. It’s what to do with Alonso that could truly be the key to a sustained championship window for the Mets starting in 2025 and beyond.
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