Friday, February 23 2024

After the Mets dealt Max Scherzer to the Rangers (and Justin Verlander to the Astros, among other trades) at the deadline this past season, Scherzer spoke about what the team had told him regarding their direction as he weighed whether or not to waive his no-trade clause.

Basically, as Scherzer told it after speaking to then-GM Billy Eppler, 2024 “was not going to be a reload situation in New York,” with it being “more of a transition year” as the club focused more on 2025 and 2026.

Without focusing too much on the current reality — that the above was paraphrased second-hand information from a disgruntled former player who had spoken to a GM who no longer works for the team — there were two major issues with it at the time.

The first issue was that if the Mets were indeed focusing on 2025 and 2026, it absolutely did not mean they were “punting” on 2024 — a false narrative many ran with at the time and have continued to push this offseason.

What it meant was that they might not go as wild in terms of total spending this offseason as they did in prior offseasons, and that they would be even more cautious when it came to dealing their most prized prospects — three of whom were acquired at the 2023 deadline.

The second was that by using common sense and deductive reasoning, and by examining a roster with plenty of elite players and a wave of young talent close to contributing, it was clear that the Mets had no intention of doing anything in 2024 but (at the very least) competing for a playoff spot.

To sum it up, the Mets possibly having lower expectations entering the 2024 season than they had entering 2023 (when they were among the top picks to win the World Series) did not mean they intended to be non-competitive.

When new president of baseball operations David Stearns was asked at his introductory news conference what being competitive would mean to him in 2024, he said it meant being a “true playoff contender.”

Pete Alonso, Steve Cohen, David Stearns, and Yoshinobu YamamotoPete Alonso, Steve Cohen, David Stearns, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Pete Alonso, Steve Cohen, David Stearns, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

And how the Mets have been operating this offseason is reflective of a team that is looking to construct a playoff-worthy roster.

The first offseason clue came as Stearns repeatedly shot down the potential of trading Pete Alonso. Yes, some of what Stearns said can be chalked up to exec-speak. But if he had plans to deal Alonso, he would’ve likely adeptly dodged any question about his future instead of being forthcoming and close to declarative about it.

If a team was in true rebuild or punt mode, they would almost certainly cash in on Alonso via trade with him a year away from free agency and his future uncertain. The Mets will not be doing that.

Then came the Mets’ rumored interest in Luis Severino, who — as I wrote on Nov. 15 — would likely be getting a one-year, prove-it deal.

If the Mets were not trying to seriously compete in 2024, it would’ve made little sense to pursue a high-upside pitcher like Severino who was coming off a brutal season and could be gone after 2024.

Instead, they could’ve pursued pitchers with higher floors but limited upside as they looked to address the back of their rotation, or filled multiple rotation spots in-house with guys like Joey Lucchesi and Jose Butto.

But they inked Severino to a one-year deal worth $13 million.

To be clear, Severino is far from a guarantee. But it’s the kind of low-risk, high-reward move that could pay serious dividends.

Luis SeverinoLuis Severino

Luis Severino / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

Finally, if you want the clearest sign that Scherzer’s claim that 2024 “was not going to be a reload situation in New York” was misguided, all you have to do is look at the players the Mets are currently pursuing.

As SNY’s Andy Martino has been reporting, the Mets have strong interest in Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is perhaps the hottest commodity on a market that includes Shohei Ohtani.

Yes, the 25-year-old Yamamoto would make sense for the Mets even if they were looking to take a step back in 2024 since he’ll likely be signing for eight years or more, but … the Mets aren’t looking to take a step back.

Beyond Yamamoto, the Mets have been linked to Jordan Montgomery and Eduardo Rodriguez. They’re also interested in Shota Imanaga.

One executive told Joel Sherman of The New York Post that his perception is that the Mets are going “full bore” in trying to sign Yamamoto, Imanaga, and others.

“They’re not messing around,” the exec told The Post. “I don’t think they have the stomach for a year or two to get the ship turned around.”

Beyond their search for more starting pitching, the Mets will be adding multiple arms to a bullpen that will again be anchored by Edwin Diaz. It also seems likely they’ll add a legitimate designated hitter, with Jorge Soler, J.D. Martinez, and Rhys Hoskins among the most interesting names on the free agent market.

No matter who the Mets end up with beyond Severino, their smart aggression this offseason is apparent — and disproves the false narrative about their supposed meek intentions for 2024 that is still somehow floating around.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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