So far this offseason, we’ve graded the majority of the Mets’ moves:
- Signing Justin Verlander: A+
- Signing Jose Quintana: B+
- Trading for Brooks Raley: B
- Re-signing Brandon Nimmo: A+
- Signing Kodai Senga: A+
- Signing David Robertson: B
- Signing Omar Narvaez: C
- Re-Signing Adam Ottavino: B+
This has also been the most active offseason in a long while, so we missed quite a few transactions. Let’s cover those, before wrapping up with some global observations.
Re-Signing Edwin Diaz to the largest reliever contract in history
Note: This article was written before Edwin Diaz suffered what appears to be a serious knee injury during the World Baseball Classic. Obviously, that’s incredibly unfortunate for Diaz, for his Puerto Rican teammates, and, of course, for the Mets. However, this will not affect the off-season grade in any way. No organizational mistake was made here, and I’d go so far as to commend the Mets for allowing their players to participate in the WBC - it’s a fun, valuable event that illustrates how global a sport baseball is. This sucks all around, but don’t let it get you down about the Mets’ season (they built an adequately deep bullpen for once!) or the WBC.
Edwin Diaz is really, really good. Like, historically good. His 42.6% K-BB% last year was the 4th best mark of any reliever season since 1995 (2012 and 2017 Craig Kimbrel, 2020 Devin Williams), and his 0.90 FIP was the fifth best over the same time span (2012 Kimbrel and 2020 Williams again, 2003 Eric Gagne, 2014 Aroldis Chapman). His performance could be described as incredible, disgusting, nasty, stupefying, and other various adjectives. He posted 3 fWAR as a reliever. None of this is groundbreaking, but I’m trying to paint a picture here.
At the same time, $102 over five years is a lot of money for a reliever. Relievers, even elite ones, are mercurial by nature - Diaz himself has been a borderline non-tender candidate himself at various points in his Mets’ tenure. There were certainly no relievers of his quality available in free agency since there are only a small handful that have ever been this good, but there’s a real argument to be made that the safer option might’ve been to avoid such a long term commitment and build a less exciting but still adequate bullpen with lower-dollar signings. For instance, imagine the Mets signing Chris Martin and Pierce Johnson this offseason in lieu of Diaz.
Is that the “smarter” baseball move? Maybe, from a certain OG saber-perspective. However, in recent years, teams have been more eager to invest in quality relievers in order to more effectively concentrate talent in the highest leverage spots. Moreover, while the long-term cost of Diaz is high, his AAV is actually relatively modest given his contract, and that’s ultimately what affects luxury tax calculations (not that Steve Cohen cares about such things). Perhaps most importantly, this is the more fun answer; how can you let Diaz and his trumpets walk away after such an electric season, particularly when he was clearly so eager to stay?
All that is to say that while this isn’t a move that will win you any awards for ingenuity or financial savvy, it was a solid decision that didn’t even really break the bank and certainly didn’t prevent the Mets from adding more. That’s enough for an A in my books, even with the downside risk it entails.
Tommy Pham, Darin Ruf, and the bench
It seemed pretty obvious going in to the offseason that the Mets would need to add a right-hand hitting player to their bench. The outfield was thing, and describing Darin Ruf’s time with the Mets as a flop would be polite. Unfortunately, the Mets really had a hard time convincing the optimal players for this spot to join the team for a limited role. Adam Duvall, Andrew McCutchen, and AJ Pollock all wound up signing elsewhere for more playing time after being connected to the Mets.
Enter Tommy Pham, who had a...let’s call it tumultuous 2022. Inked to a one-year, $6M deal, Pham will be the 4th outfielder for a team whose outfielders all have injury and load management concerns, and also figures to see some time at DH. That latter role will likely expand due to Darin Ruf’s lingering wrist injury this spring. Pham’s production has declined on both sides of the ball over the past several seasons, but his batted ball data is better than his top-line numbers suggest. He’s a fine bench option.
Could the Mets have done better here? Perhaps on paper, but as demonstrated this offseason it’s difficult to get starting-caliber players to sign in a spot where they’ll get less playing time, even if you offer them more money. In that way, the somewhat underwhelming additions in this department aren’t the fault of the front office brass. Moveover, Brett Baty’s ongoing ascent (.474/.524/.684 line in spring as of this writing) could push Eduardo Escobar into this right-hand hitting reserve role, something he’s well suited for given his platoon splits, handedness, and defensive versatility (i.e. his ability to play a lot of positions not very well).
Still, some additional reinforcements would’ve been good, and giving Ruf such a clear path to the job coming into the season was less than ideal given his 2022 performance. Someone like Robbie Grossman or Jordan Luplow - both of which signed deals for part time roles with modest money - would’ve been good secondary additions to Pham. For failing to address this, the grade gets dinged in this department, down to a B-.
Building pitching depth
It’s not as sexy as signing top-end free agents, retaining your own stars, or bringing in big-name international players, but sickos (read: people like me) are probably most impressed with the way the Mets rebuilt their organizational pitching depth this offseason. With a pipeline that, while improving, is still years away from producing the sort of optional, quality depth arms a contending team needs, the Mets systematically targeted intriguing relievers with upside and options that greatly lengthen their organizational depth chart.
They traded for Jeff Brigham and his super sweepy slider as well as Elieser Hernandez and his maddeningly inconsistent but intriguing pitch mix, sacrificing only an organizational depth outfielder to do so. They claimed Stephen Ridings from the Yankees, then took Zach Greene from the same org in the Rule 5 draft. They claimed Sam Coonrod from the Phillies, William Woods from the Braves, and Tayler Saucedo from the Blue Jays (who they later lost to the Mariners). They signed enough good relievers so that Bryce Montes de Oca and Eric Orze will not be relied on off the bat and that David Peterson and Tylor Megill can be kept stretched out as starters. This is a really impressive body of work, and the Mets should be commended for recognizing this need, targeting it aggressively, and adding so many good options.
On the position player side, there was less work to do, but the Mets’ made solid additions nonetheless. Danny Mendick is a quality depth infielder that the Mets brought in on a guaranteed deal as what amounts to a priority NRI - a creative way to flex their financial might without spending another $500M. Tim Locastro also bears mentioning as a fun, useful 6th outfielder to stash at Triple-A. Not the impactful depth-building moves that we saw on the pitching-side, but important nonetheless. On the whole, the Mets’ minor moves this offseason get a sterling A+.
The Correa Debacle
Too much ink has already been spilt on this front, but it’s impossible to discuss the full scope of the Mets’ offseason without mention of this saga. Make no mistake, Correa would’ve made the Mets a better team in 2023, and the news of his signing in late December made the Mets into the best team in baseball for a time. We all know what happened next; a holdup that everyone said would be resolved quickly never was, with concerns over Correa’s ankle sinking his second mega-deal of the offseason. Eventually he wound up signing a significantly smaller deal with the Twins when the Mets and Scott Boras couldn’t agree to a restructured deal.
Up front, no one knows it this result was the right one. Circumstantial evidence would certainly suggest there are very legitimate reasons to be concerned about Correa’s ability to be a high-level player in three years, but few of us are medical experts and none us has seen the records. However, no matter how you slice it, the Mets don’t look great here. You don’t want your owner calling Jon Heyman in the middle of the night while on vacation in Hawai’i to announce a signing that is not yet official, even if he’s spending money in a seemingly genuine effort to win. You also don’t want members of your front office anonymously and not-so-quietly bragging about how they’re so smart for convincing their multi-billionaire boss to not spend money on the team.
That said, these mistakes are being rectified. We’ve heard nary a peep from Cohen since the Correa deal went south. Meanwhile, the faction of the front office most likely responsible for extremely lame and outdated process leaks are no longer with the team; Bryn Alderson was fired, while Sandy Alderson was very quietly shuffled out of team leadership without even an official announcement until it was noticed in the team media guide. Mistakes were made all around here, but the organization does seem to be working to ensure such things don’t happen again. Most importantly, the major league team is still excellent even without Correa on board. This story was an integral part of the story of the offseason, but it’s ultimate effect on the roster - and our final grade - will be fairly minimal.
I won’t burry the lede - the Mets offseason gets an A+. They addressed every need the team had, rebuilding the rotation and bullpen, retaining their offensive star in centerfield, and adequately addressing the organizational pitching depth for the first time in more than a decade. The roster could use another reliever and another bench bat, the Omar Narvaez signing remains odd, and we all could’ve done without the Correa saga. Perhaps you think they should lose points for lack of difficulty because the team is going to run a $336M payroll, but I’m not going to adjust the grade because the front office used all the resources available to them. Besides, the front office did do enough interesting things on the margins to support the conclusion that they are improving their internal processes and gradually moving towards a top-level decision-making architecture (even if they’re not there just yet).