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The Mets’ refusal to spend is making them go galaxy brain

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Things could be a lot easier in an alternate universe where the Mets seriously tried to sign elite free agents.

Washington Nationals vs New York Mets Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

As the trade deadline approaches, nobody who pays attention to the Mets could object to the team trading away players with expiring contracts—players like Zack Wheeler, Todd Frazier, and Jason Vargas. But the buzz around the Mets suggests that they’re working really hard to trade Noah Syndergaard, and the latest scheme to get rid of him and replace him with one year of Marcus Stroman is perhaps the most galaxy brain thing the Mets have put out into the universe this year, which is saying something.

As has been the case for the past few summers, it’s obvious that the team needs starting pitching help in the upcoming offseason. They could make things really simple by signing Gerrit Cole, who will turn 29 years old in September, to a market rate contract over the winter. We know pretty damn well that they will not do it, and in all likelihood, they’ll probably pass on even showing interest in him. If they sign him and this piece looks bad in hindsight, that would be fantastic.

With Cole in the fold, they’d have the following pitchers under control for considerable amounts of time:

  • Jacob deGrom through 2023
  • Gerrit Cole through presumably at least 2023
  • Noah Syndergaard through 2021
  • Steven Matz through 2021

That doesn’t guarantee a perfect rotation, but the top three pitchers would make for a hell of a trio for the next two years—two years that will include Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, who have been among the very best hitters in baseball this year, are young, and don’t cost the Mets much money. Michael Conforto will be around for those seasons, too. And so will Edwin Diaz, unless the Mets end up trading him, too.

Contention wouldn’t be guaranteed, either, but the Mets would be in a very good position after making one move for an elite free agent—despite having sat out the free agencies of plenty of other elite players over, well, most of their history.

But when a team won’t indulge in that sort of thing and does things like floating the notion that they might brush up against the luxury tax at a time that they’re getting a boatload of money back from the insurance policies they have on the contracts of David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes, it’s almost understandable that the baseball operations department would start thinking of crazy ideas that could theoretically make the Mets a competitive team while avoiding paying the best players in the game.