Steve Cohen’s money is valuable. Of course it is. But it has significance now in a greater way because of how the Mets are constructed.
The Mets are depth challenged at the upper minor leagues. Thus, they should be keeping as much — if not all — of their major-league collateral as possible to withstand the long season since they cannot expect much help from below in 2021. Following this philosophy would eliminate the Mets from serious trade discussions for someone such as Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor.
They should proceed in this fashion nevertheless. The Mets can play Andres Gimenez at shortstop and upgrade elsewhere with not only Cohen’s cash advantage as the majors’ richest owner. But this also is the right offseason to maximize a money advantage. Many teams are not expected to play aggressively or at all in free agency.
Therefore, the Mets can strike early for, say, a George Springer, Charlie Morton, Jake Odorizzi barrage — yes, two potentially high-end starters to deepen the rotation. Then they can wait and see if, as expected, the free-agent market remains logjammed and prices fall. At that point, Cohen’s wallet could differentiate the Mets if, for example, the competition is all in a similar forum for a desirable player. Could the reliever who is being offered two years at $14 million-ish (think Trevor May type) by other clubs see the Mets go to two years at $18 million? The Mets essentially can do this to restock two or three pen slots and/or win for James McCann to catch.
When asked over the weekend if he agreed with the strategy that the Mets should be using financial capital rather than expend personnel to make improvements, Alderson said, “Absolutely right. There are only two currencies in baseball — one is players, the other is money. If you are not spending money, you have to spend players. … We have to be careful how we use players in transactions.”
One remnant of Brodie Van Wagenen’s tenure as Mets general manager is that he traded away lots of organizational prospect depth chasing a playoff spot the past two years. That represented big deals for Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Marcus Stroman that cost Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson. But there was another layer removed as well, with pitchers such as Blake Taylor (a key to the 2020 Astros bullpen) and Jordan Humphreys being given up for temporary backup center fielders Jake Marisnick and Billy Hamilton.
“We’ve got no depth at Double-A and Triple-A, so we are doing all we can to sign six-year minor-league free agents to fill out depth with our top two minor-league teams and provide up-and-down depth for the season,” Alderson said.
On this track, the Mets recently signed a contingent of major-league veterans to minor-league deals such as Jose Peraza, Mallex Smith and Arodys Vizcaino.
That underscores why the Mets should be protective of what they currently possess. A player such as Lindor not only would cost $20 million-ish for 2021 — and be in line for a long-term deal as he enters his walk year — but the Indians will expect a significant return, one likely that would need a package fronted by at least one from the Gimenez, Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo.
There might be trade possibilities in which teams desperate to move money would take little in return. It is another form of free agency. And the Mets should be players there. That is about trading second- and third-tier prospects.
But that is as deep as the Mets should go. This has to be an offseason of protecting internal talent while adding from the outside. It makes having Cohen’s cash so extra valuable in this moment.
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