The New York Mets started the 2023 season with World Series aspirations and an MLB-record $353.5 million opening-day payroll. But a dismal 50-55 record has the Queens-based franchise and its billion-dollar owner throwing in the towel at the trade deadline with a flurry of cost-cutting moves.
The Metsies shelled out $500 million to assemble the most expensive roster in MLB history. New York paid a combined $264 million to re-sign outfielder Brandon Nimmo and closer Edwin Diaz.
Another $197.7 million was spent to sign free agents Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, and David Robertson. Still, an overachieving Miami Marlins squad with a $121 million payroll is fighting for a playoff spot while the Mets are planning for next season.
The Mets began their full-scale sell mode by trading closer David Robertson to the Marlins for two minor leaguers, infielder Marco Vargas and catcher Ronald Hernandez. The 38-year-old veteran reliever went 4-2 and notched 14 saves with a 2.05 ERA over 44 innings this season.
New York co-ace Max Scherzer was the next domino to fall two days later. The Mets dealt the three-time Cy Young Award winner to the Texas Rangers in exchange for top prospect Luisangel Acuna, the younger brother of Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuna.
"We used this opportunity to bring a player into this organization that we're extremely excited about that's close to the big leagues, said Mets' general manager Billy Eppler. "It's talent that you can't access."
While the odds of New York playing meaningful games in September has decreased significantly, Eppler refused to acknowledge the obvious that New York's once-promising 2023 campaign has turned into a nightmare.
"I do want to be clear that it's not a rebuild, it's not a fire sale, it's not a liquidation," stressed Eppler. "Generally, with clubs that are going to go through a rebuild, you have to endure five, six, seven years of losing, and we don't have the appetite for that. "What we want to do is use
Scherzer has posted a 9-4 card this season with a 4.01 ERA and 121 strikeouts over 107.2 frames. The 39-year-old flame-thrower has struggled to keep the ball in the park this season and has surrendered a career-high 1.9 home runs per nine innings. The downsizing Mets will also pay approximately $35 million of the remaining $58 million on Scherzer's contract.
Although his former teammates were not happy with the flurry of trades, they fully understood the economics of the game.
"Obviously, having a guy who's going to be a Hall-of-Famer get traded away stinks, said New York first baseman Pete Alonso. "If a guy with a no-trade clause can get traded, anyone can."
Nimmo, who inked an eight-year, $162 million contract over the winter to remain with the Mets, said he understood that the franchise had to go in a different direction after the team failed to live up to its lofty expectations.
"I get the business side of it. We've tried two years of, really, just not caring what we spend and going to get the best players. We won 101 games one year, and we don't know what this year will end up being, but it's not what we wanted. The unfortunate part is we need to try a different way."
New York shipped outfielder Mark Canha to the Brewers last week in its third trade in five days. The 34-year-old, who spent seven seasons with the Oakland A's before signing with the Mets last season, knew his days in the Big Apple were numbered before actually getting traded.
"The uncertainty is uncomfortable," Canha said on Sunday. "You want to know. It's a helpless feeling because there's nothing you can do about it. It's always in the back of my mind. You compartmentalize things, but the worst part is not knowing. I try not to worry about it, but that's not easy."
The Mets have a strong core with Alonso, Nimmo, and shortstop Francisco Lindor. But if New York is going to become serious playoff contenders, talented youngsters like Brett Baty, Francisco Álvarez, and Mark Vientos will have to become consistent contributors.
Despite shipping Scherzer to the Lone Star State, the Mets still have a respectable starting rotation of Verlander, Senga, Quintana, and Carlos Carrasco.
"Like I said, we just don't want to endure long stretches of being bad. That's not going to be satisfying to anybody." Eppler said. "We're going to have a competitive team."
However, Eppler hedged when asked if the Mets could make another significant trade and remain competitive in the National League East division.
"That's hard to say," exclaimed the beleaguered GM.
For a season that started with legitimate World Series ambitions, the Mets have fallen a long way in a very short time. The dramatic shifts in their strategy and performance have certainly impacted MLB betting trends, with many speculating about the team's future direction.