The New York Mets may have lost out on free agent superstar Carlos Correa, but they remain legitimate World Series contenders in 2023. However, the Mets no longer can be considered favorites to win a championship next season.
Just three weeks ago, Mets owner Steve Cohen said as much. Breaking the news that New York had reached a 12-year, $315 million agreement with the stud infielder, Cohen told the New York Post, “We needed one more thing and this (signing Correa) is it.”
Cohen then added, “this puts us over the top.”
He was right. Correa was the missing piece to a ridiculous offseason haul.
Signing Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana and David Robertson and bringing back Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo and Adam Ottavino cost the Mets a lot of money this offseason. The Mets, though, looked similar to the 2022 squad that won 101 games but flamed out in the wild card against the San Diego Padres.
They needed to add another difference maker. Correa was that.
But their best-laid plans blew up when doctors reportedly took issue with Correa’s medicals, specifically an old ankle injury that may not age well down the road. The Mets tried to renegotiate the deal and Correa reportedly ended up re-signing with the Minnesota Twins for six years and $200 million Tuesday.
I'm officially proclaiming Carlos Correa the wildest free-agent saga ever.
One team scheduled a press conference.
A second team's owner talked about why they needed him – on the record.
And he didn't end up signing with either team!
There's never been anything quite like it
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 10, 2023
Make no mistake. Losing out on Correa is a blow. And the Mets are no longer World Series favorites. But here’s why they’ll still be World Series contenders in 2023.
3. Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty provide excellent internal options
Last season, the Atlanta Braves rallied to win the National League East after bringing up two of their top prospects. Centerfielder Michael Harris won NL Rookie of the Year honors and pitcher Spencer Strider won 11 games with a 2.67 ERA.
The Mets could have a similar 1-2 punch this season. Francisco Alavarez is the top prospect in all of Major League Baseball and Brett Baty is New York’s second-ranked prospect. Each made their MLB debuts last September and should be ready to contribute to the Mets this season.
First career home run for Francisco Álvarez! pic.twitter.com/EJd8VY2Gfa
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 5, 2022
It’s possible one or both could start the season in the majors. But the wise move would be to let each get needed at bats in Triple-A before being brought back up.
The smooth-swinging Baty is no longer blocked by Correa at third base. And the power-hitting Alvarez could easily supplant Darrin Ruf as the right-handed DH while playing another day or two per week behind the plate.
Neither will step in and play to Correa’s star level. But the kids very well could provide a jolt to the lineup nonetheless, becoming important cost effective contributors.
2. The Mets roster, lineup is still among the best in MLB
It was noted earlier that despite a flurry of offseason moves and boatful of money spent, the Mets roster, without Correa, looks very similar to the one from last season. But it should be noted, that’s not a terrible thing.
The Mets return two players who received MVP consideration last season, in Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor. NL batting champion Jeff McNeil is back. The player who sets the table, Nimmo, was re-signed. Starling Marte, coming off an excellent 2022 campaign, returns.
Pete Alonso continues to be the engine that makes this Mets offense run. His 40th home run, a three-run shot, brings the Mets right back into this thing.
Marlins 4, Mets 3, bottom four. pic.twitter.com/5rvWGAy1kF
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 28, 2022
There’s a good chance Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha provide more consistency and punch than they did a year ago. DH could be fortified by another signing, trade or call-up of Alvarez and/or Baty.
Remember, the Mets scored the third-most runs in the NL last season, even though they went cold down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Despite losing Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, the rotation looks solid and deep, headed by Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, two sure-bet Hall of Famers. And they have the game’s best closer in Diaz, his set up man (Ottavino) from a year ago and added a terrific veteran reliever (Robertson) to the bullpen mix.
Correa would have made the Mets the favorites in a very tough NL East. But they look like a 100-win team again, which puts them in the thick of things against the Braves and World Series runner-up Philadelphia Phillies in 2023.
That’s not a bad place to be. Even without Carlos Correa.
1. Steve Cohen
Cohen has proven that he’ll go to any length to win. He has invested heavily in revamping the Mets scouting, analytics and player development departments. He signed Scherzer last winter for $43 million per season. And this offseason, he lavished Verlander with the same $43 million per on a two-year deal after deGrom bolted for the Texas Rangers as a free agent
The Mets free agent frenzy this winter increased their payroll to slightly north of $350 million, easily the most in MLB history. That doesn’t include the near $90 million in luxury tax they’ll owe.
Yet Cohen was willing to add another $25 million per on top of that absurd total.
“In the end, what the (heck’s) the difference?” Cohen told the Post. “If you’re trying to make a move, you make the move. If it’s (a few percent) more, what’s the difference?”
With that attitude, it’s clear Cohen will continue to do whatever it takes to bring a World Series champion to Flushing. So, if the Mets need to add a bat, say at third base or DH, at some point before the trade deadline arrives Aug. 1, they won’t limit themselves to bargain-basement options.
No one is off the table anymore for Cohen’s Mets. He is ready to flex his financial muscle at any moment. That separates the Mets from every other MLB team.
Steve Cohen is a difference maker and the No. 1 reason the Mets will remain World Series contenders.