What Steve Cohen offers Mets fans are possibilities. Which considering the recent past, in particular, is finding out you are Billy Ray Valentine in “Trading Places” or Jamil Malik in “Slumdog Millionaire.”
You are rags, then riches.
Will the Mets obtain every star on the market? No. But they are like the Yankees now. They are in the game when they want to be in the game.
They are not window shopping. They are not “monitoring” — a favorite term of the Wilpon administration. They are not middleweights. Cohen, who is doing an introductory Zoom press conference Tuesday along with team president Sandy Alderson, moves the Mets up to heavyweights. Heck, superheavyweights considering he is now MLB’s richest owner.
Those who know Cohen caution that he did not attain that wealth with foolish financial decisions. He makes favorable deals. Conversely, anyone who has seen the Mets’ books would say Cohen followed his passion, not logic, in paying a record $2.45 billion for his favorite team. He has one of the foremost art collections in the world, assembled with financial boldness.
So my expectation is that as a matter to upgrade the Mets and further galvanize his standing with the fans, Cohen will make sure to win for at least one of the big pieces available in this market even if it is an overpay.
I think it should be George Springer.
He fits the Mets’ needs in center field and as a righty bat. Springer also shares much in common with Bernie Williams. Their offensive strong suit was patience and power. They both were terrific postseason performers. Williams has four Gold Gloves, but I think Springer is actually the better defender. Both had speed, but weren’t good base stealers. Through seven seasons they had nearly identical plate appearances and Williams’ offensive Wins Above Replacement was 24.4, Springer’s is 24.5 (Baseball Reference version).
Williams was two years younger through seven seasons, but from age 31-33 had three of his best years and had two more good ones after that. Springer would be entering his age-31 season in 2021 and will probably want a five-year contract while teams try to keep it at four. That Springer’s numbers were the same as ever in 2020 (his strikeout rate was actually the lowest of his career) makes it less worrisome to ink him after the Astros sign-stealing scandal was revealed. Plus, he is a high-energy player who has displayed public grace in overcoming his stutter and becoming a public face in helping others do it as well.
Some quick thoughts on the other main candidates:
There is a dearth of superb all-around catchers. Realmuto is the best. So if you have him, the catching advantage game to game is normally significant. But long contracts at the game’s most brutal position (think Mike Piazza, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey) have not aged well. Realmuto is a tremendous athlete — and not just for a catcher. But that late-season hip injury he had with the Phillies would worry me. He has caught 5,615 1/3 innings the last six years, the second most in the majors to the ageless Yadier Molina. He turns 30 in March. Would he accept a high average on a three-year contract? Probably not.
I think we will look back and no singular player will have had more influence in making mainstream modern technology to upgrade their stuff. Bauer’s capacity for self-improvement as a pitcher is likely to net him the NL Cy Young. But he is a polarizing figure in the game. Would his strong social media presence (and at times clashes) play larger and more distracting in New York? Jacob deGrom, Bauer and — if he could get healthy — Noah Syndergaard is an intriguing power 1-2-3. You could replace Bauer with Yu Darvish if the cost-cutting Cubs are looking to move his remaining three years at $59 million. And Cohen allows the Mets to, say, take on Craig Kimbrel’s $17 million if that made a deal more possible and/or less costly in return.
The Yankees want to keep him, the Blue Jays are in on him. Snatching the best player away from the Yankees would further elevate Cohen among Mets fans. LeMahieu could play third and add the righty bat. One scenario that would cost, say, $200 million in total: sign Springer, LeMahieu and catcher James McCann. The Mets lineup diversity, defense and depth would be powerful. Keep in mind that Bauer, LeMahieu, Realmuto and Springer all were made the qualifying offer, so if the Mets sign any they will lose their second-highest draft pick and $500,000 in international bonus money — and more if it is more than one of them.
He is one year from free agency and due about $20 million for 2021. So the Indians are looking to move him. He is enticing as a switch-hitting defensive gem who plays with effervescence. But I really do think Andres Gimenez is good. Not Lindor good. But a winning, precociously smart player with upside that allows this to be an area in which Cohen does not have to spend.
If that is wrong, the Mets not only still have Amed Rosario around as security and top prospect Ronny Mauricio coming, but next offseason Lindor, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Trevor Story are in line to be free agents.
And this is the new world for the Mets — Cohen can push to the front of even the most expensive lines.
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