Robinson Cano, batting second as DH, led off the top of the fifth inning against the Nationals on Sept. 27 in the Mets’ final game of the 2020 season. He popped out to shortstop on the first pitch from right-hander Austin Voth to end an 0-for-3 day at the plate.
Last week, new owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson considered that may have been Cano’s final at-bat as a Met. Their immediate interest, though, was the $20 million Cano freed up for the 2021 season when he failed a drug test for a steroid. (Cano is owed $24 million annually with the Mariners covering roughly $4 million.) Not long after Cano’s 162-game suspension became public, Cohen said in a tweet he planned to use that $20 million and “spend it on the players.”
Cohen has plenty of options to consider in that department.
He can use it to sign a contract extension for Michael Conforto, the Mets All-Star right fielder and Scott Boras client who becomes a free agent after the 2021 season. He can also use it as extra cash to pursue this winter’s most sought-after free agents, J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer and George Springer. He can even use it in packages for trade targets like Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado or Kris Bryant.
Alderson has indicated money will not be a hindrance to his still-unknown front office in his re-do with the Mets, and some current staff members may have to change the penny-pinching way they used to think under the Wilpon regime. To illustrate his point, Alderson said during this month’s introductory press conference that he would have gone for the elite lefty reliever Brad Hand at $10 million for one year when the Indians placed him on outright waivers — had the timing been right. Cohen was still then waiting for the Mets sale to officially close.
“Today, given what we want to achieve, it’s not about how much less we can get somebody for, it’s more about getting that somebody,” Alderson said. “I don’t want to create the impression that we’re just going to go out and sign a bunch of players. But I think we now can emphasize the acquisition rather than the cost.”
Cohen slightly tempered fans’ high-spending expectations when he said the Mets won’t “act like drunken sailors in the marketplace.” He wants to build a sustainable franchise with the confidence that the Amazin’s can win a World Series in the next 3-5 years. But the affluent owner also said he wants to model the Mets franchise after the Dodgers.
Los Angeles has clinched eight straight division titles since 2013 by taking on big contracts and overpaying every now and then. Alderson was ready to pay for Hand, and there are much bigger fish on the market this offseason that can fill necessary holes for the Mets.
The Amazin’s largest concern is catcher, and Realmuto is the obvious target. Cohen can capitalize on Cano’s foolish mistake of using a steroid for the second time in his now-embarrassing career by throwing the kitchen sink at the Mets’ backstop problem.
Realmuto, who according to Newsday has been doing regular offseason workouts after recovering from a September hip flexor strain, may want to stay with the Phillies. After the World Series ended last month, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported Realmuto “would like to remain in Philadelphia and is not particularly keen on playing in New York.” The soon-to-be 30-year-old is expected to pick up $20-25 million annually.
Thanks to Cano, the Mets throwing in an extra few million for the All-Star catcher should change his mind about playing in New York.
The Mets still need to fill positions in their transitioning front office after Alderson fired GM Brodie Van Wagenen and his top lieutenants this month. Alderson indicated he’ll hire a president of baseball operations and a GM as his brass. Another name was crossed off the list this weekend.
Indians GM Mike Chernoff will remain in Cleveland, according to MLB.com’s Mandy Bell. Last week, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported that the Mets requested to formally interview Chernoff for their vacant president of baseball ops position. The search is still on for a complete front-office structure as Cohen and Alderson attempt to take advantage of MLB’s depressed market.
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