In the late hours of Thursday night, while Ohtani was getting shown on TV at the Rams game with his shiny new Rams jersey, I think people forgot he had been in Los Angeles this entire time. His world baseball classic teammate and superstar, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, signed with the Dodgers. For the small price of 325 million dollars for 12 years of that famed right arm of his. I can only imagine the joy Dodgers fans are feeling as their team now has a new and amazing pitcher. While the majority of the sports world believed he would go to a New York team, his heart seemed to always be Dodger Blue, and that is where the star will pitch for the next 12 years. I know many baseball fans, especially Mets fans, are furious right now. Asking questions like what is the point of having an owner worth almost 20 billion dollars if he won’t sign the big names or why give all this money to an old Verlander but not to the young Yamamoto. I’m here to ease a lot of this pain for Mets fans and explain why not getting Yamamoto might be a blessing in disguise, especially for the upcoming season. We are also going to dive into the contract negotiations, the puzzling mind of Steve Cohen in negotiations, and how this might noy be so bad for the Mets in the end.
We all know by now the travel plans of Cohen to Japan to try to convince Yamamto to play for the Mets. Despite his best efforts in the free agent market, I believe the Dodgers had the inside track on this race, and that’s what finally moved the needle to sunny Los Angeles. As of today, no one, besides the actual attendees, know the exact details of the contract negotiations that took place, but we do know some things. We know that the Yankees offered him 10 years and 300 million dollars, and the Mets and Dodgers offered him 12 years and 325 million dollars. The Yankees were smart because I think that is the better contract, especially for a pitcher, but it’s surprising that the Yankees were not willing to go higher than that number.
The biggest thing that bugs me about this contract negotiation is the actual amount of money that the Mets decided on. We know that the Mets made the initial offer of 12 years, 325 million dollars, and the Dodgers matched it, and he ultimately chose the Dodgers. We don’t know if Yamamoto’s agent gave the Mets another chance to offer more money or if he was just using the Mets this entire time to get a bigger contract, something we have seen done this offseason with both Craig Counsel and Yamamoto. But the big issue is the money that Cohen offered Yamamoto. We heard all offseason long on the private planes he took to Japan to meet with the pitcher or how he had Yamamoto at his house for dinner in Connecticut. Cohen was clearly very motivated and wanted him in these meetings, but when it came to the money side, he came off as nervous and unwilling to give him an offer he could not refuse. Just think if Cohen had offered Yamamoto a contract worth upwards of 350 million dollars, there is no way Yamamoto could turn that money down. If Cohen was serious about getting this star to play for the Mets, he should have realized why it would be more appealing for him to be a Dodger or a Yankee but said you can be a Met and have a 350 million dollar contract. That, in my eyes, would be the only way to get a yes from Yamomoto because it really feels like he played the Mets to get more money from the Dodgers.
Let’s rewind the clocks back to around this time last year. This Mets team had just won 101 games and lost out to the Braves for the division crown, but still made the playoffs. Despite having a great regular season, the Padres would win the wild card and knock the Mets out of the playoffs. As disappointing as that was, the Mets went into the offseason hoping for continued success and went out and signed a great, but old, pitcher in Justin Verlander. Mets fans were optimistic, but this team bottomed out, despite having the highest payroll in baseball the Mets won a disappointing 75 games. I think losing out on the Yamamoto sweepstakes lets Mets fans breathe a little easier this season and not get their hopes up higher than they should be. The Mets tried with big free agent pitchers, but it didn't work last year, and signing a 25-year-old to a 325 million-dollar contract before he’s played one single game against major league competition is a tall risk to take for any organization. Mets fans need to realize that this is going to be a redefining season. It’s no fun, and it never is fun, but getting your hopes up and wasting a bunch of money on paying people when they aren’t even playing for your team is the consequence this team will have to endure.
Because of these ill-advised contracts to Verlander and Scherzer, the Mets were forced to trade them away last season and try to get prospects in return. The players brought back from the Rangers and Astros are good young players that will help this ball club win games, but not in the immediate future. It’s annoying when your team is bad because of how long these seasons are and how frustrating it can be at times. At least the Jets only play once a week. This rebuild will take time, and if Sterns wants to do it the right way for the Mets to have continued success, then fans will need to be patient with the performance on the field.
If I could wave a magic wand, it would be to have a sit-down, one-on-one meeting with David Stern and Steve Cohen. Have them explain to me what the Mets plans are and how they will build this team into a competitive franchise. Just so I can reiterate to the readers and ease the angst a little for these upcoming seasons. I know that will never happen, but I have trust in David Sterns, and you should too.
In the end, after all the dust settles and we look back at this offseason, it is completely possible that Mets fans will be happy losing out on the Yamaha sweepstakes. This man, while amazing and what scouts say is a can't-miss player, has yet to play in a single major league baseball game. The lack of reps against big league arms is the most worrisome thing in any general manager's eyes when talking about Yamamoto. The Mets are building for the future and should be focused on looking for experienced big league talent that can help this ball club in the future. I’m asking Mets fans to be patient because if Sterns wants to do this rebuild the right way, it's going to take a couple years, and these offseasons will get all too familiar. Let’s not forget that Juan Soto is the same age as Yamamoto, plays every day, and already has 5 years of major league experience, not to mention a World Series championship. Soto will be a free agent next year unless the Yankees lock him up during the season. The Mets should just focus their next big expense on that electric bat. The prospects will come, the prospects will develop, and the right movies will be made. Sterns will not be running this club like a small market team, and the Mets will still try to get those sought-after free agents. This season will be rough, but the future is bright for the Mets.