Was it coincidence the Mets went the extra mile to sign Brandon Nimmo and then grabbed David Robertson away from the Phillies on the same day that Jacob deGrom gushed about the Rangers’ “vision to build something special” as the reason he signed with Texas?
I’m going to guess no, absolutely not. In fact, are you detecting a pattern here?
Remember when Steven Matz, or at least his agents, ticked off Steve Cohen last offseason by reneging on what the owner thought was an agreement to sign with the Mets? All he did was promptly go out and make Max Scherzer the highest-paid pitcher (per year) in baseball.
Translation: Every time Cohen gets mad the Mets get a little closer to winning a championship. In theory, anyway.
In truth, who knows? The timing could be completely coincidental. The Mets wanted Nimmo back all along, even as his price tag grew far beyond what anybody expected even a month ago, as he wound up getting $162 million for eight years.
And Robertson is the perfect complement to Edwin Diaz as the primary set-up man. The Mets tried to get him at the trade deadline last summer and didn’t have the pitching prospects to outbid the Phillies, but now they land him with a one-year deal for $10 million.
So maybe this had nothing to do with deGrom. Cohen does have a fairly significant day job, building his multi-billion dollar hedge fund business, and chances are he wasn’t watching the deGrom introductory press conference in Texas this afternoon.
Still, I’m betting that one way or another the comments got back to him. Not that deGrom was intentionally taking shot at his old team when he repeatedly talked about how impressed he was by the Rangers’ plans for the future.
Actually, he probably just couldn’t bring himself to admit publicly that he simply signed with Texas for the money, the $185 million for five years that the Mets were never going to come close to matching -- and rightly so, based on his recent injury history.
Had he done that I would have applauded him for his honesty and said he had every right to leave, even though it’s still kind of odd that he seemed to have such a chip on his shoulder about that $137 million contract he signed with the Mets in 2019.
Since he’s signed with Texas, in fact, I’ve heard from a couple of significant Mets’ people about how withdrawn he was at times even when he returned from injury this past season.
One person who was on the team bus after a particular game, sitting near a group of pitchers, said several of them, led by Scherzer, were in animated conversation about pitching, something we all saw going on in the dugout throughout the season.
“The weird part was deGrom was sitting in that same area but he wasn’t involved at all in the conversation,” the person said. “He hadn’t pitched that night so that wasn’t it. He was just sitting by himself, not engaged with anybody. It just seemed strange.”
You hear this stuff and it’s hard not to think deGrom did indeed want to go elsewhere. The Rangers’ desperate need for pitching just made it easy for him to do so.
And he did thank the Mets and their fans during his press conference. Yet his comments about “vision” could certainly be interpreted as though he were saying he believed more in the Rangers’ chances of building a sustainable winner than he did of the team that won 101 games in Queens last summer.
At the very least, as many fans pointed out on Twitter, the comments had a vibe that was reminiscent of Mike Hampton once famously saying he left the Mets and signed with the Rockies because of the quality of their school systems.
So whether it’s true or not, the idea of Cohen possibly responding by saying, “I’ll show you who has a vision” is exactly why Mets fans are convinced he’ll win championships for them for many years to come.
In any case, by re-signing Nimmo and adding Robertson, after already getting Justin Verlander to replace deGrom, as well as Jose Quintana and reliever Brooks Raley this week, Cohen is clearly willing to blow by that $300 million payroll level that he had previously indicated might be a barrier of sorts, even for him.
Furthermore, the Mets are apparently very much still in the hunt to sign Kodai Senga, the Japanese pitcher who has star potential, which could give them even more quality and depth in their rotation than they had last season.
Extending for Nimmo was important, allowing Starling Marte to stay in right field while keeping their lineup intact. They could certainly use more power, but perhaps that will have to come from rookies Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty.
Meanwhile, Robertson is still dominant, even as he turns 38 next season, with that great curveball that neutralizes lefties (they hit .169 against him last season). He looms as an ideal eighth-inning guy they could have used last year, even as well as Adam Ottavino pitched.
Bottom line, this was a big night for the Mets, a big week. It could be that Cohen also saw what the Phillies were doing, continuing to beef up their ballclub after going to the World Series, and decided he’d respond in kind.
But it’s more fun to think he heard the deGrom comments and immediately got on the phone with Billy Eppler to say, “Get Nimmo done. Get Robertson. Get. Get Get.”
And I’m absolutely sure Mets’ fans believe that’s exactly what happened.