Now that we have heard from David Stearns, who started as the Mets’ president of baseball operations on Monday, we can move on to the next thing: the immense amount of work he has to do between now and spring training.
Here are five questions about the offseason to come:
1. Who will the Mets hire as manager?
If Stearns and the Mets really do want Craig Counsell, his longtime manager in Milwaukee, they will have to wait until the Brewers are done in the playoffs. The same is true for any number of other candidates who don’t have an extensive relationship with the new boss.
In the meantime, Stearns said the Mets will initiate “a real process” with “a wide net” looking for the best guy for the job. That probably will take weeks, at least. Stearns has never hired a manager before, so even though he has an idea of what he likes — a true partner and someone he can grow with, he said, in this marriage of sorts — he will have a lot of information and candidates to sift through.
“We're not going to rush this process,” Stearns said. “If there are candidates that emerge quickly that are really strong candidates and the right fit, that’s great. If we have to wait a little longer, I'm fine with that, too.”
Owner Steve Cohen said: “[Stearns is] entitled to pick his person and the goal would be to align philosophies.”
2. Will Stearns go big-game hunting?
Shohei Ohtani will be a free agent. Juan Soto might be available via trade. Yoshinobu Yamamoto is expected to be allowed by his Japanese team to come to the major leagues.
At a time when Cohen has signaled that he might reel in the Mets’ free-spending ways of the recent past — and the Mets overall are hesitant to trade prospects as they try to build the farm system — the three names above represent possible exceptions.
Ohtani is the best baseball player in the world and may well command the largest contract in the history of North American professional sports. Soto, who turns 25 this month, had a .930 OPS in what felt like a mediocre year for him and is a safe bet to earn hundreds of millions of dollars upon reaching free agency after the 2024 season. And Yamamoto may well be the best pitcher available in free agency.
3. How will the Mets fill out the rotation?
The Mets have two starting pitchers under contract for 2024: Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana. That means they need to add at least two and maybe three starters, depending on how Stearns & Co. feel about their other in-house arms.
Filling out the depth chart is a group who have mixed results in the majors (David Peterson, Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi and Jose Butto) and a next wave that probably will be ready at some point in 2024 (Mike Vasil, Blade Tidwell, Christian Scott, Dominic Hamel, Tyler Stuart). Not all of those nine will prove to be viable major-league rotation pieces, but if a few are, that is a huge win for the Mets.
But they still will have holes for 2024. The top of the starting-pitcher market includes — besides Yamamoto — Aaron Nola and Blake Snell. If the Mets aren’t interested in paying for that top tier, the rest of the field includes Jordan Montgomery, Lucas Giolito, Sonny Gray, Seth Lugo (if he declines his player option), Hyun-Jin Ryu, James Paxton, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda.
4. Who will Stearns hire to run the farm system?
The Mets’ organizational instability, marked by a revolving door at manager and the top of the baseball operations department, very much extends to the role of farm director.
Incredibly, they are looking for their fifth person for that job in seven seasons. That has meant regular turnover in player development philosophies, priorities in hiring minor-league coaches and other variables that matter when trying to groom young players to be major-league contributors. Nobody has had much of a chance to implement their systems and stick around long enough to see the results filter up.
This hire won’t get a fancy introductory news conference like the new manager, but it is extremely important nonetheless.
5. Will Pete Alonso sign an extension?
All right, fine, let’s throw this in at the end. The idea of trading Alonso never made any sense. Stearns took the PR layup at his introductory news conference and tried to stamp out rumors by saying, “I know over the summer there was some trade speculation and I'll just say, I expect Pete to be the Opening Day first baseman next year.”
Still, Alonso’s looming free agency — scheduled for after the 2024 season — will be a story hanging over the franchise until it is resolved one way or another. As always, though, it takes two, and we don’t know Alonso’s degree of interest in a pre-free agency deal.