5 critical issues facing the Mets this offseason, from starting pitching to how much will Steve Cohen spend?

5 critical issues facing the Mets this offseason, from starting pitching to how much will Steve Cohen spend?5 critical issues facing the Mets this offseason, from starting pitching to how much will Steve Cohen spend?

NEW YORK — The New York Mets are in a singular, compelling position.

While the rest of Major League Baseball continues to suffer from the aftereffects of playing through a pandemic — namely, loss of gate-related revenue which will inevitably lead to drastic cuts in payroll — the Mets’ fan base will, presumptively, be treated to one of their best offseasons in recent history.

Even if Mets prospective owner Steve Cohen is simply approved by the league’s owners, and then just sits there, ruminating about yet another win in his professional career, fans will already be delighted with the outcome. (Plus, industry sources expect Cohen to be a little reserved, instead of rushing to spend that gigantic mound of cash on which he’ll be sitting in the owners’ suite, but we’ll get to that later.)

In truth, the Mets — for the first time in a long time — will have flexibility this winter. So how will they solve these five critical issues that face the club between now and Opening Day?

1. Starting pitching

The Mets’ starting pitching is tricky behind Jacob deGrom. David Peterson, who enjoyed a standout rookie season, is expected to slide into the rotation behind deGrom while Noah Syndergaard wraps up his recovery from Tommy John surgery. If Syndergaard can return, at earliest in April 2021, the Mets will still need three big-league starters by Opening Day. Rick Porcello (1-7, 5.64 ERA), Michael Wacha (1-4, 6.62) and Marcus Stroman (opted out of 2020 season) are all free agents. The Mets are expected to let Porcello and Wacha enter the thin market.

Cohen and his anticipated team president Sandy Alderson will primarily focus on the Mets’ starting pitching problem. Free agents Trevor Bauer and Stroman will be up for consideration, and it would be wise of Cohen, and the GM he decides to appoint, to secure re-signing Stroman amidst a starved pitching market. Who better than the GM who plucked Stroman from the Blue Jays in the first place?

2. Will Brodie Van Wagenen stick around for his third year as GM?

The Mets’ prospective owner is still undecided on the general manager who will report to Alderson. The critical question on every fan’s mind is whether the new Mets front office will retain Van Wagenen. The 46-year-old was hired ahead of the 2019 season and, after a ton of brash remarks, his team missed two straight postseasons.

It’s also unclear if Alderson will hire someone new to oversee baseball operations or whether the former Mets GM will handle the responsibility with a mix of other familiar faces, including current assistant GM Omar Minaya. Cohen and his wife, Alexandra, have a close relationship to Minaya as the News previously reported. Alexandra Cohen is from Washington Heights and her father, like Cohen, was a huge Mets fan. Will Cohen’s personal ties translate to team promotions?

Or perhaps Alderson and Van Wagenen will try working together. Van Wagenen said he “has always had great respect for Sandy” when Cohen made the announcement last month that Alderson will serve as team president.

3. Does Luis Rojas get another opportunity to manage the team?

Rojas won’t look back on his first season as a major-league manager with fondness after the Mets’ tied-for-last-place finish and myriad of starting pitching problems he was forced to navigate amid a pandemic. It’s tough to evaluate a rookie skipper with all those elements included, and at the same time, it’s easy to dismiss a manager for those reasons. Rojas has already booked 15 years in the Mets organization and his future with the club is a complex situation.

Against the backdrop of a change in ownership, Rojas’ job security is delicate. Plus, with all of the team’s moving parts this winter, does Cohen really want another hole to fill in the manager’s office? Unless he already has the perfect fit in mind, it would make sense to keep Rojas around for the continuity of the man on the top step of the dugout, alone. The skipper’s receptiveness to analytics and progressive thinking is a bonus.

4. How will the Mets culture change?

The lovable-loser mentality must be replaced with a vibrant, winning culture. Front office changes generally lead to culture shifts within organizations, though that will take some time. But Cohen should make that a priority, starting from the Mets’ farm system all the way to the Major League dugout.

The Mets have been lacking a sense of ambition for years, largely due to the financial problems of the Wilpons. It’s hard to blame the guys on the big-league roster for that. Pete Alonso was a breath of fresh air in his 2019 rookie season; a genuine, happy-go-lucky guy with a deep desire to win. But that win -at-all-costs attitude is uncommon in today’s baseball culture, let alone within the Mets organization. The Mets need to breed more players with Alonso’s drive, and they must start with a culture shift if they want to end a 34-year championship drought.

5. Will Steve Cohen spend big right away?

The hedge und billionaire has so far kept his cards close to his vest, besides the Alderson announcement. But industry sources agree on some of the expectations for his first year as Mets owner, when he’s approved.

“I think (Cohen) has to be a little reserved, to allay concerns with the other owners that he’ll blow the doors off,” said one MLB executive. “That was the intent of announcing Sandy now. The other owners know Sandy’s feelings on free agency. It doesn’t mean they won’t spend.”

The Cohen-Alderson group is expected to spend on free agents this winter, but not necessarily to the nth degree like the fan base is expecting. One industry source believes Alderson will try to caution Cohen from getting into bidding wars for this year’s marquee free agents in J.T. Realmuto and DJ LeMahieu. Then again, Cohen is in a unique position to spend big on an otherwise tame market as teams attempt to recover from lost revenue.

Cohen may not begin his ownership with guns blazing, but his money spent will still be a welcome, and drastic, improvement for the Mets franchise this offseason.

———

©2020 New York Daily News

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Visit New York Daily News at www.nydailynews.com” data-reactid=”51″>Visit New York Daily News at www.nydailynews.com

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.” data-reactid=”52″>Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Leave a Reply