SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The first major move of the David Stearns era was an unexpected one, with the hiring of manager Carlos Mendoza on Monday afternoon.
Mendoza wasn’t the experienced, pedigreed manager that fans were expecting. Entrusting a first-time manager to take the most expensive roster in the game and turn it into a winning product is a bold move, but three other teams saw something in Mendoza as well and his name has surfaced in past managerial cycles.
With the search complete the club can shift its attention to the offseason with the general manager meetings this week in Scottsdale, Arizona. Here’s what to watch for from the Mets.
The Mets’ big league coaching staff underwent significant changes only two years ago when Buck Showalter was hired. Last year, with an effort to keep the staff together, some roles were shuffled. Glenn Sherlock went from working as the bench coach and went back to the bullpen as the catching coordinator to be able to work closely with rookie backstop Francisco Alvarez. Eric Chavez was promoted from the hitting coach to the bench coach and Jeremy Barnes was promoted to the top hitting coach role. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner received a contract extension.
But the Mets will look to pair a more experienced bench coach with Mendoza, a rookie skipper. Gabe Kapler could be in the mix for that role and with the news that Craig Counsell is replacing David Ross in Chicago, the former Cubs World Series winner could be an intriguing candidate as well, assuming he would be willing to take a lesser role as a bench coach.
That might leave Chavez as the odd man out. Billy Eppler saw managerial potential in the former third baseman but with Eppler now gone it’s fair to question Chavez’s status. It’s also fair to question the status of the rest of the staff as well since managers are typically afforded the courtesy of bringing in some of their preferred coaches.
We’ll start to see what the markets could look like as options are exercised and declined and teams clear 40-man space in anticipation of transactions.
The Mets picked up the club option on left-hander Brooks Raley, who proved to be one of the more reliable bullpen arms in 2023, despite being forced to shoulder a heavy load as the only left-hander for much of the season. However, Brooklyn product Adam Ottavino declined to exercise his player option and became a free agent. Ottavino told The Athletic that the uncertainty surrounding the Mets factored into his decision. He told Daily News a few months ago that he was unsure of a return.
“I definitely want to be here,” Ottavino told The News in September. “But we’ve got to see how the market shakes out. You’re not trying to sell yourself short, but I want to be here.”
The Mets also outrighted right-handers Bryce Montes de Oca and Peyton Battenfield to Triple-A Syracuse. Right-handers John Curtiss, Elieser Hernandez and Denyi Reyes, and outfielder Tim Locastro elected free agency. In addition, the Mets claimed infielder Zack Short from Detroit.
For the second year in a row, the Mets are expected to be in the mix for a Japanese pitcher. Yoshinobu Yamamato, a 25-year-old right-handed starter who has posted three seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA, has been posted by the Orix Buffaloes. Last year, the Mets had two future Hall-of-Famers leading their rotation. With Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander now gone, the Mets need an ace to put behind Kodai Senga. It’s not every day that you get a 25-year-old with Yamamato’s stuff becomes available, though the Mets will likely have to acquire another starter or two as well.
Though homegrown starters David Peterson and Tylor Megill showed promise at the end of last season, the Mets didn’t see enough to be able to say definitively that the two belong in the rotation next season. Which brings me to the next storyline…
FREE AGENT TARGETS
The Mets, under the ownership of Steve Cohen and the guidance of Stearns, don’t believe that free agency is a sustainable way to build a perennial contender. Instead, they view it as a way to supplement the roster and add depth.
However, that doesn’t apply to Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani could command a contract worth $500 million guaranteed. His next deal is going to dictate the rest of the market so it may be sluggish if he takes his time making a decision. In the meantime, the Mets will have to be prepared to target other players.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez could be a huge boost to the rotation if the Mets want to pay him $20 million a year to pitch behind Senga. Aaron Nola could pull a reverse Zack Wheeler and go from the Phillies to the Mets. Outfielder Tommy Pham might have gone scorched earth on his former team, but he sure did produce at the plate this season.
The Mets have stayed relatively quiet but now that the true offseason is here, we’ll start to get an idea of what they want to do and how they think they can do it.