Another disappointing season complete, the Mets are about to embark on their most important offseason in recent memory — a sentiment that was true last year, too, even if it developed in such a way that the onus fell to this winter.
Here are five questions that will shape the Mets’ next weeks and months:
1. Who will the Mets hire as head of baseball operations?
This question is the biggest, looming over all of the others.
The Mets tried to hire a president of baseball operations last offseason but, after being unable to find and/or talk to a candidate they liked, lowered the standard to a general manager. That didn’t work out, either, so now they’ll search again.
Names most frequently attached to the opening include Billy Beane, the longtime Athletics boss who once was team president Sandy Alderson’s mentee; Theo Epstein, the curse-buster in Boston and Chicago who has been a consultant for MLB since leaving the Cubs a year ago; and David Stearns, the onetime Mets analytics intern who has built a perennial contender in Milwaukee.
Beane and Stearns are under contract with their respective teams, so the Mets would need to be granted permission by those clubs to speak to either. No such hurdle exists with Epstein.
During a season-ending news conference with Oakland reporters on Monday, Beane dismissed being linked to the job as speculation, noting that has happened periodically in his career. But he also didn’t deny interest.
From there, answers to other front office-related questions should come into focus. What will they do with acting general manager Zack Scott, who is on administrative leave following his drunk-driving arrest in August? What about recently promoted assistant GMs Bryn Alderson and Ian Levin, plus other hires from last winter?
2. Who will be the manager?
Steve Cohen and Alderson acted decisively on this front, announcing less than 24 hours after the season ended that Luis Rojas would not return as the Mets’ manager (with decisions on his coaches to be made this week).
That allows the incoming head of baseball operations to choose his own guy, which can only help the Mets lure one of their high-profile targets.
Without knowing who will choose the manager, it is difficult to predict who will even be considered. But it is worth noting that the Mets’ past three managers — Luis Rojas, Carlos Beltran, Mickey Callaway — were first-timers. It might be time to get an experienced voice in the dugout.
3. Which free agents will return?
The Mets have a long list of notable free agents, including Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Javier Baez, Michael Conforto, Aaron Loup, Jonathan Villar and Jeurys Familia.
Syndergaard and Conforto are candidates to receive a qualifying offer, which is a one-year contract for about $20 million. If they accept such an offer, they will be back in the fold by early-to-mid-November.
Stroman and Baez, who enjoyed strong seasons, should enjoy favorable markets for their services.
4. How will the Mets spend Steve Cohen’s big bucks?
The 2021 Mets had a franchise-record payroll of more than $200 million. Based on built-in raises and the holes they will need to fill, the 2022 Mets are a virtual lock to have a payroll even higher — probably much higher.
Top-tier spending is expected to be the norm, of course, under Cohen, whose net worth is an estimated $14 billion. So expect more big swings a la acquiring Francisco Lindor and almost signing Trevor Bauer. But it is difficult to tell what shape that spending will take this offseason until the person making these decisions — the eventual chief baseball executive — is known.
5. How will the Mets approach a potential work stoppage?
The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association is set to expire Dec. 1. If they cannot reach a new agreement by then, there may be an indefinite transaction freeze. As such, some within baseball believe teams might be more aggressive with their to-do list between now and then.
How much the Mets contribute to that depends, again, on the front-office situation. If their search lingers into November, maybe not so much. If they identify and lock in their person before the postseason ends, they can hit the ground running once the offseason begins in earnest.
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