New York Mets fans should feel optimistic about free agency so far

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: A New York Mets batting helmet in the dugout before a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: A New York Mets batting helmet in the dugout before a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The New York Mets are a different team with new ownership. For once, the fan base should be optimistic about free agency.

The New York Mets are undergoing a major transformation under new owner Steve Cohen, and are poised for a big offseason. Now, they have a new GM and a few new impact players leading up to the holidays. They have yet to make their big splash, but Mets fans should feel optimistic about the direction their team is heading.

It’s tough to be a Mets fan. That is no secret to anyone familiar with the franchise. Being a big market team, their front office moves are constantly looked at under a microscope, and have been subject to harsh criticism in the past. From Jason Bay to Yoenis Cespedes to Jed Lowrie, the Mets have made their fair share of expensive gaffes in the free agent market.

However, the Wilpon’s sale of the team to billionaire Steve Cohen gave Mets fans a new hope. Being the only MLB owner unaffected by the pandemic, all indicates have suggested the Mets will be big spenders this offseason and re-vamp their roster.

More Mets. New York hitches their wagon to McCann. light

That’s great, right? Not so fast.

The New York Mets’ history suggests they need to be smart with their money, and refrain from overpaying over-the-hill veterans. Thankfully, it appears the Mets are moving in that direction.

Following his purchase of the team, Steve Cohen decided to clean out the front office, and placed former Mets GM Sandy Alderson as team president. Alderson, who was very successful and well-liked during his tenure as GM, assumed baseball operations responsibilities while they searched for a replacement for Brodie Van Wagenen.

While the free agency market has been somewhat quiet so far, Alderson and the Mets have made a few moves that hint that they have learned from their past mistakes. Their first move was retaining starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. Stroman accepted his $18.9 million dollar qualifying offer to remain in Flushing, which was a positive sign for things to come.

Stroman, a native of Medford, New York, pitched well for the Mets in 11 starts after he was acquired at the trade deadline from the Toronto Blue Jays. However, he missed the entire 2020 after opting out. In a contract year, the Mets hope he can return to his All-Star form.

Next on their to-do list was to sign former Minnesota Twins set-up man Trevor May. While Mets fans were hoping to see their team sign a different Trevor, they should be excited about this move. The Mets have had one of the worst bullpens in baseball the past few years, highlighted by a terrible 4.87 ERA since 2019. Despite Edwin Diaz’s late resurgence in 2020, the rest of the bullpen is mediocre at best.

May will provide them with a hard-throwing, high-strikeout rate late-game reliever that can sure up the back end of their pen. His 2020 numbers don’t jump off the page, with a 3.86 ERA and a career-high 1.93 home runs per nine innings allowed. However, he also struck out a career best 14.7 per nine. His average fastball velocity also increased from 95.9 MPH in 2019 to 96.7 MPH in 2020, so the peripheral numbers give Mets fans something to be excited about. The Mets now have a potential shutdown 1-2-3 punch with May, Seth Lugo, and Edwin Diaz at the end of games. That will save Jacob deGrom some sleepless nights.

Furthermore, his “down year” allowed the Mets to sign him to a rather cheap 2-year/$15.5 million deal. That is an absolute bargain for a the role he is going to fill in the Mets bullpen. The modern day MLB reliever is volatile, so its hard to pay premium price for top talent as there is no guarantee success will be repeated from one year to the next (just look at Diaz). Thus, the fact that the Mets were able to ink an under-the-radar reliever to a team-friendly, short-term contract is an absolute win for Cohen’s new regime.

New York Mets
New York Mets /

New York Mets

The other gaping hole they needed to address was catching. Wilson Ramos is a free agent, and the Mets have made it clear they want nothing to do with him and his inability to block and frame balls. So, the Mets’ top priority should be signing J.T. Realmuto, right?

Not quite.

The New York Mets decided to go with the next best free agent catcher available, James McCann. They signed him to a 4-year/$40 million contract to make him the full-time catcher in New York. McCann is coming off two great offensive seasons in Chicago, where he slashed .276/.334/.474 with 25 homers and 75 RBIs. McCann has also established a great reputation as a game caller, and is a good defensive catcher.

While Realmuto would have been nice, he would have come at a ridiculous price tag, one that will be far too risky for catcher. At the end of the day, there is a lot to like about the McCann signing, and it is further proof that the Mets have their priorities straight this offseason.

On the same day the Mets signed McCann, they also hired their new GM. Jared Porter will take over the reigns from Brodie Van Wagenen, and will be tasked with cleaning up the mess he made. Van Wagenen made a series of trades that set back their farm system, but Porter is known for his scouting abilities. He started his career as an intern with the Red Sox in 2004, and became Director of Pro Scouting in 2012. He has spent the last few years as the assistant GM with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He now takes over the Mets operations, and it will be interesting to see how he approaches the rest of the offseason. There is no reason to think these moves suggest the Mets will refrain from making some big splashes this offseason as well. In fact, it makes it all the more likely. The Mets have been linked to all the big names including Trevor Bauer, George Springer, DJ Lemahieu, and more. While the McCann signing likely puts them out of the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes, Cohen and Alderson have given Jared Porter more than enough money to play with.

The Mets will sign one or more of those guys. Its a matter of when, not if. The Mets have emerged as the front-runners to acquire Springer, and don’t be surprised if a deal comes sooner rather than later. There is still a long way to go in the 2020-2021 offseason, and there are still plenty of dominoes to fall. It is too early to truly evaluate the Mets’ offseason moves, but it seems they are moving in the right direction.

Still, they are the New York Mets, so anything can happen. But for now, Mets fans can feel optimistic about their future.