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The Mets should have been in on Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg

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Cole has signed with the Yankees, while Strasburg returned to the Nationals,

World Series - Houston Astros v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This won’t take long, really: The Mets should have been in on elite starting pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, both of whom signed elsehwere. Strasburg set a new record for the largest contract given to a pitcher when he signed for seven years, $245 million with the Nationals yesterday, and Cole blew that out of the water by signing for nine years, $324 million with the Yankees.

As those negotiations were happening, the Mets did nothing. As has almost always been the case over the past couple of decades, the team sat out the market for elite free agents. And instead of trying to complement an excellent core—Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard—the team is doing things like trying to clear Jed Lowrie’s salary in order to free up space for someone like Rick Porcello or Dellin Betances.

The Mets don’t have much in the way of guaranteed salaries beyond the 2020 season. Jacob deGrom and Robinson Cano are the only two players on long-term deals at this point, and Jeurys Familia is the only other player guaranteed a contract beyond next year. The Mets will obviously retain a bunch of players going through arbitration years, but they should have been in the mix for the best pitchers on the market, especially after letting Zack Wheeler leave for the Phillies in free agency.

The Mets said their projections for Wheeler didn’t match up with the contract he got in Philadelphia. In isolation, that could be fine—and their projections might be right. But you can’t really argue with Strasburg or Cole getting the contracts they got, and if the Mets wanted to sit out Wheeler so they could go after one of those two pitchers instead, it would be hard to complain. But the problem with all three pitchers—and plenty more who have either signed elsehwere or are still on the market—is that they’re earning a significant amount of money.

Even with the Wilpons in the process of selling the team, there should be an effort to make the Mets the best team they can possibly be. And yet there is no effort at all.