With the offseason upon us, here are five major questions facing the Mets as they approach a new era.
1. When will Steve Cohen’s purchase of the Mets get voted on?
Multibillionaire Steve Cohen’s $2.475 billion deal to buy the Mets is done, pending approval from MLB, which will put it to a vote by team owners. Cohen needs yeses from 23 of 30 teams — he already has one, outgoing owner Fred Wilpon — to join the club.
Every indication has been that Cohen indeed will get the necessary support. The bigger unknown is when that might happen. MLB already has owners meetings scheduled for mid-November, so that would seem to be the latest a vote would occur. A source said this month that a vote is likely to be held well before then.
In the meantime, Cohen is allowed to consult on Mets decisions. But the sooner he takes over for real, the more runway he will have to implement the changes he desires.
2. What will Cohen do with Brodie Van Wagenen?
Of all the near-term decisions Cohen needs to make, the general manager’s fate is probably at the top of the list.
That is especially true after Cohen announced Thursday that former GM Sandy Alderson will return as team president. Alderson will be the overseer of everything, including the GM, a job previously done by chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.
Two years is not long enough to fully and fairly evaluate a GM’s performance. But Van Wagenen’s track record — everything from the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano blockbuster to everyday roster management — isn’t pretty, so it would be impossible to blame Cohen for designing his own front office.
If Van Wagenen is gone, the status of his inner-circle members would also be in question to some degree. His hires include assistant GMs Allard Baird and Adam Guttridge and executive director of player development Jared Banner, plus manager Luis Rojas.
3. How will the Mets fix their catcher and centerfield problems?
These are two of the most important positions on the field, and they are ones where the Mets have been deficient — especially defensively — for years.
Wilson Ramos has a $10 million team option ($1.5 million buyout) for 2021. Robinson Chirinos has a $6.5 million team option ($1 million buyout) for 2021. Neither is particularly good, and Ramos in particular took a step back offensively this season (following a step back last season).
Fortunately for the Mets, J.T. Realmuto, probably the best catcher in the world, is going to be a free agent. Also fortunately for the Mets, they are about to have the richest owner in baseball. Under multiple GMs, they flirted with acquiring Realmuto from the Marlins in the couple of offseasons before Miami dealt him to Philadelphia. Now, he can be had for nothing but money.
In center, Brandon Nimmo is more than adequate as a hitter with his elite on-base skills, so maybe the Mets roll with him again to keep leftfield free for Jeff McNeil/Dominic Smith. But, defensively, Nimmo is best suited as a corner outfielder.
Connecticut native George Springer of the Astros is going to be a free agent. So is Jackie Bradley Jr., an exceptional defender but streaky hitter.
4. How will the Mets fill out the rotation?
Gone are the days when flamethrowing homegrown arms make the rotation the Mets’ signature position group. Jacob deGrom will headline the starting five again in 2021, sure, but after that it is all question marks.
When is Noah Syndergaard, who had Tommy John surgery in March, expected to be healthy enough to pitch? (Memorial Day-ish?)
Did David Peterson do enough to earn a spot in the back end, or do team decision-makers prefer he go to Triple-A, a level at which he has never pitched? (The former, probably.)
Do the Mets prefer Seth Lugo as a starter or reliever? (Depends, in part, on some of these other questions.)
Can they count on Steven Matz for anything? (Good question.)
NL Cy Young Award favorite Trevor Bauer headlines this year’s class of free-agent starters. Masahiro Tanaka, Marcus Stroman - who opted out of this season - and James Paxton are among those also available.
5. What unexpected changes will occur?
This, ultimately, is the biggest question of them all. Everything conventional wisdom tells you about the Mets may no longer be true. An ownership change is the kind of paradigm shift unseen in the franchise’s recent history, and there is no telling the extent to which Cohen does — or doesn’t — want to change the organization.
Maybe he wants to shake up the major-league core. Maybe he’ll tap into his access to all sorts of top business executives to help Alderson run the non-baseball side. Maybe he is content to let the status quo remain while he learns about his new toy and doesn’t make many changes at all this winter.
OK, fine, that last one seems unlikely.