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The 2023 Trade Deadline likely ushers in a new Mets Era — again

The 2023 Mets were a colossal and expensive failure — but a massive trade deadline produced some silver linings, and changed the course of the franchise.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets have been a franchise of change for the last few years. In November of 2020, they were bought by Steve Cohen, releasing the franchise and the fanbase from the vice that was Fred and Jeff Wilpon, finally giving the organization a ray of hope that simply did not exist for years — at least as long as I can remember.

They capitalized on that momentum, trading for and giving new face of the franchise Francisco Lindor a deal that constitutes as a lifetime contract before the 2021 season. They responded to an inconsistent 2021 on the field by doing the unthinkable, signing Max Scherzer, and seemingly everyone else, to try and win the World Series.

While they did not go out and do that, they did win 101 games — second best in franchise history — and gave us playoff baseball for the first time since 2016. While the playoffs went, well, poorly, as they went out sad in the Wild Card round against the Padres, it was easy to dream on bigger and better things.

They followed that season up by signing Justin Verlander to replace future franchise legend Jacob deGrom, and a few other players to try and take an even bigger step forward in 2023.

Unfortunately. they took about one million steps back.

Basically everything that could go wrong did. Edwin Díaz was lost for the season before it ever started, blowing his knee out celebrating a victory in the World Baseball Classic. Verlander had a teres major strain that cost him the month of April. Max Scherzer kept getting caught with goop on his hands — and even got suspended for it — and was also marred with injuries and inconsistently. Jeff McNeil looked like 2021 McNeil, where he was bad, not 2022 McNeil, when he won the batting title. Starling Marte looked like a shell of himself, coming off offseason surgery. The rest of the team got mired in slumps left and right, and took too long to come out of them.

Despite that, they started 14-7, and looked good enough to overcome those flaws. But then they just kept losing, and losing, and losing. Calling up top prospects Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez proved to be Not Enough to stop the bleeding, and before we knew it they were faced with a decision: do you sell at the deadline?

And sell they did. Oh boy, did they sell.

Starting with David Robertson, they sold basically everything. The aforementioned Robertson went to the Miami Marlins. Max Scherzer went to the Texas Rangers. Justin Verlander went (back) to the Houston Astros. Smaller pieces like Tommy Pham and Mark Canha went on their merry way to teams with higher aspirations than the Mets. It was as drastic a sale as one can imagine.

While it was a tough pill to swallow (and my friends who are reading this know, I REALLY did not want to swallow that pill), the silver linings are impossible to ignore.

Cohen, who has not been shy in flashing his financial muscle in bringing these players to Queens, flashed it to get them out of Queens as well. He paid down significant chunks of Scherzer’s salary to get Luisangel Acuña. He did so in an even bigger way to get Verlander back to Houston, getting top prospect Drew Gilbert, and Ryan Clifford, a prospect on the rise.

They turned older, declining players in Scherzer and Verlander (though, do not get me wrong, Verlander is still quite good), and a closer in David Robertson and transformed their minor league system overnight. Err, or over a weekend, rather. Drew Gilbert is the number one prospect in the system, as he was in Houston, and is ranked 36th overall by Baseball Prospectus. Luisangel Acuña is number two, and came in at 59th. Marco Vargas — who they got for Robertson — also had support for Baseball Prospectus’ Top 50. Ryan Clifford was ranked 80th by them. The returns for Mark Canha — Justin Jarvis is an interesting upper minors pitcher, and Tommy Pham — Jeremy Rodriguez, an International Free Agent who was 45th in his class — are interesting, albeit on a smaller scale. Even Ronald Hernandez, the second piece in the Robertson trade, is likely going to be in my top 15 in the system come winter — at the time of the trade I flirted with him in the top 10.

Billy Eppler has had his faults as Mets GM, but he absolutely nailed this deadline when looking at it objectively. Adding four of Baseball Prospectus’ top 100 in one swoop, elevating one of the worst systems in the sport into a very solid one with a few trades and boatloads of cash, which is a good thing. They were not going anywhere this year — and frankly likely next year if they ran it back — so they pivoted and used their financial advantages to fix a problem every single Mets fan would admit was a problem — an utter lack of widespread minor league talent, especially after Alavrez and Baty graduated.

Subjectively, however, I was Going Through It. I went through the five stages of grief, going from denial (it’ll just be David Robertson and the pending free agents!), to anger (they’re gonna be TERRIBLE next year), to bargaining (The Mets will always be The Mets), depression (self-explanatory when trading multiple Hall of Famers), and finally, probably an hour after the deadline officially ended, acceptance, which is the basis of this article.

I basically spent the majority of the weekend conflicted. The returns were excellent, more than I could have ever expected for the contracts and ages of the players involved, but the path to seeing the Mets win a World Series for the first time in my life felt further and further away, where it was oh so tantalizing close when pitchers and catchers reported this winter. It did not help when Billy Eppler and company were banding about and discussing 2024 as a step back (albeit still a competitive campaign) to a better 2025 and beyond, which frankly does not sound like a real year. I was, unfortunately, not blessed with patience.

But frankly, after hours and hours of discussions with folks smarter than I and definitely more rational than I, something clicked — this is just a new era of Mets baseball, albeit one that came on quicker than we would like. Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo are here for their careers, and will be the bedrocks for whatever comes next. Brett Baty and Francisco Alavaez are rookies. Guys like Kodai Senga have plenty of years left. They suddenly have a lot of interesting prospects who can help at various points in the future.

After that, it really is wide open, for whatever executive comes in after the season (*cough cough* davidstearns *coughcough) to make in their image. There is, well, a lot of dead money on the books for next year, but the short-term contracts they dished out in order to win quickly do not hamstring them past, really, next year.

The path for the Mets to contention is markedly different than it was this time last year, or in February when our hopes and dreams began in earnest with Spring Training. That is disappointing, even for the most hopeful of fans. However, they kick started a minor league system that was in dire need of it (and i mean D I R E need), and hit a reset button with an idea of competitiveness as soon as 2024.

The Mets have been a franchise that has turned the pages change for the past few years, and we are simply turning to another chapter, with one of the biggest sell-offs in modern memory as its prologue.