2024 is a transition year, with a number of exciting prospects on the horizon who will hopefully be ready to join the big club beginning in 2025. Our goal for this year is to bolster the team for this year and make it to the post season – not necessarily to win the division – while building a long-term juggernaut that will be competitive year in and year out with a solid pipeline of prospects ready to contribute year after year. So as we look at potential additions for this year, they should be either very short term contracts for established veterans, or young players with the potential to contribute for the next decade or more. We’ll start by looking at the two big elephants in the room for this off season.
1. Ohtani. A two-way superstar who has taken the sport by storm is a free agent who is going to command a big payday, and we have the owner with the deepest pockets in the game. Match made in heaven, right? Problem is, he blew out his arm this year and needs TJ surgery, and will be restricted to just DH next year. If I could sign him as a top DH – say 5/125 with an opt out after year 2, so if he does indeed come back as an ace pitcher by the end of 2025 he can opt out and go get that $50M/year deal, I would sign up for that in a heartbeat. But someone on the West Coast is going to be willing to bet that big money on him now and he’s going to get a mega deal now. That is just too big a risk for me, so we pass.
2. Juan Soto. A 25 year old superstar, generational talent, is one year away from free agency, will cost over $20M this year and the Padres are cash strapped and reported to be shopping him. I took a long look at this one, it would take some serious prospect capital to land him, and with Boras as his agent I’m not sure he’s going to take an extension before free agency regardless. Would love to add him to the team, but if we wait a year we might be able to do that for just money and keep our prospects. If we were in win-now mode, I’d pull the trigger, but we are not, so we pass.
With that out of the way, let’s look at where we have holes. The glaring ones are in starting and relief pitching, at least one outfielder and the bench. We had 4 baby Mets join the team last year – Baty, Vientos, Alvarez and, at the end, Mauricio. Of that foursome, only Alvarez exceeded expectations. But the jump from AAA to MLB is probably the hardest transition in all of professional sports, and it is not uncommon at all for rookies to struggle. We are going to keep 3 out of 4 on the roster and playing every day, and hope they come around and live up to the hype. Among our coming prospects, the two that seemed to take a step backwards this year are Alex Ramirez and Kevin Parada. With Alvarez establishing himself and the addition of several highly regarded outfield prospects in the trade deadline deals, I’m willing to deal these two valuable trade chips to fill some holes. My proposed trades:
1. The Mets send Alex Ramirez, Mark Vientos, Trevor Gott and AAA catcher Nick Meyer (to balance the trade values) to Cleveland for Shane Bieber and Daniel Espino. Espino is Cleveland’s #3 prospect, with a grade 80 fastball and 70 slider. He had shoulder surgery in May of this year and won’t be back on the mound until mid- 2024. Ace level potential there for the stretch run this year, and for 2025 and beyond. Bieber is a solid mid-rotation starter a year away from free agency who Cleveland is reportedly looking to move, as they are one of the very few teams with an excess of starting pitching.
2. The Mets send Nick Morabito (Mets #28) to the Royals for Kris Bubic. Bubic is a former 1st round pick, LH starter who has struggled in his first three years in the majors, showing flashes of brilliance. He hurt his arm early last year and is out with TJ surgery, should be back mid to late this year. Bubic is set to earn $2.2M in arbitration this year and under control for two more years. A change of scenery guy who could make an impact in the stretch run in 2024 and beyond … or continue to flame out. Worth the gamble.
3. The Mets send Kevin Parada to the Marlins for outfielder Dane Meyers (#13 prospect) and left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Nardi. Nardi is the prize here, a 25 year old who played his first full season this year, pitching 57 innings with 73 k’s and 21 walks, holding opponents to a .213 average against. The Marlins have a surplus of relievers and no real catcher of the future in their pipeline. Meyers is a 27 year old rookie, he hit 25 HR’s in 2022, 16 in 2023 between the minors and ML, and is a capable outfielder in all three positions, including center field.
Before moving on to the free agent moves, let’s review where we are after these moves. Our starting position players are:
4th OF Meyers
Backup infield Guillorme
Backup catcher Narvaez
We have 2 more position player roles to fill, the LH and RH DH’s. For the lefty DH, Vogelbach or Stewart are reasonable options who come cheap, I’m not sure it’s worth allocating resources for someone like Brandon Belt, who would cost ~ $12M more for a marginal improvement. Since Stewart has options, he starts in AAA and Vogelbach starts for the team, on a fairly short rope. Vogey’s not a very exciting option, but he was effective after his mental break last year, and he seems to be well liked by his teammates. For the righty DH, we’ve traded away Vientos so there’s an opening here. The Mets seemed to struggle mightily against lefties last year, so I’m looking for someone who absolutely mashes lefties for this role. My only free agent position player add is Jorge Soler, who boasted a 1.081 OPS against lefties last year, 4 years / $45M. He is also a "break glass in case of emergency" right fielder option.
Turning to the rotation, we now have Senga, Quintana and Bieber on the roster with Megill, Butto and Lucchessi as options and Peterson, Bubic and Espino starting the year on the DL but available to fill in sometime in 2024. We also have prospects like Vasil and Jarvis in AAA, who may be available to move up sometime this year as well. I want to spend a little money here as well to bolster the rotation. We’re adding Yamamoto, 9/$225M for a top of the rotation arm, and Wade Miley, 1 / $8M for a mid – bottom rotation arm. I am going to put Megill on the roster as the swing man, long relief / spot starter, and stash Luccessi and Butto in AAA. Assuming we make the post season as a wildcard team, by season’s end if some of our prospects break out / some of the injured guys come back strong, we should have a competitive rotation for the post season.
We still have a fair amount of money left, and a bullpen to build, which beyond Diaz, Nardi and Raley is kind of wide open. We are going to spend a lot of money here building a kick-ass bullpen. We start with the best available reliever, Josh Hader, 5/$90M (Spottrac estimate), who with Diaz gives us a 2-headed beast for the ninth inning. For setup roles, Jordan Hicks 4/$40M and Robert Stephenson 4/$36M (both MLBTR estimates). The final spot in the bullpen goes to Drew Smith, who returns in a much lower leverage role, unless someone else beats him out for the role in Spring training.
The last big move we make, we extend the Polar bear for life, AAV $30M. Not sure how many years, but whatever it takes. Pete’s going to Cooperstown in the blue and orange, end of story.
Your 2024 New York Mets: