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…Or how I learned to stop worrying and accept the Mets offseason

I must warn you now – if you read this headline and thought that I would be writing a scathing review of the Mets offseason, this isn’t for you. Similarly, if you were hoping that this would be a collection of praise for what the Mets have done these last few months, you’re probably in the wrong place as well.

In the days leading up to last season’s trade deadline, when the Mets traded away most of the players that got fans excited in the first place, they specifically said (either through GM Billy Eppler or via Max Scherzer on his way out the door) that they would field a “competitive” team in 2024 with sights set on the following seasons. And I didn’t want to believe them. So I didn’t.

I figured it was just a concept they sold to Scherzer to convince him to approve the trade to Texas. Then I thought that maybe it was just a new approach since the whole “going big” thing didn’t work, but that they still had big plans behind closed doors.

Coming into the offseason, these expectations didn’t change. For the most part, the Mets kept saying this would be their approach, and, for the most part, I kept not believing them.

Pretty quickly it became evident that they weren’t going to get Shohei Ohtani. That would have been cool. It was also just not going to happen. Los Angeles wanted him desperately, and they got him, paying him to play two positions like he had in the past despite the fact that we have no idea how he’ll recover from his current elbow injury. It’s not the Mets’ problem, and I get that.

Then, by all accounts, the Mets swung and missed on Yoshinobu Yamamoto. As I’ve written previously, I have no idea how negotiations with players and their agents work. Reports suggest the Mets made a remarkably similar offer to the one Yamamoto ended up accepting with Los Angeles. I’m guessing LA is where he wanted to go all along, and he got what he wanted from the offer. Is it possible the Mets should have somehow learned of the LA offer and tried to top it significantly? Perhaps. In the end, they put out an incredible offer to the guy, and he took a similar offer to play with Shohei Ohtani on a team that has a brighter 2024 outlook (and beyond, I guess), who plays in southern California. Hard to blame him.

That left the Mets at a crossroads. When it comes to this year’s free agents, the dropoff after Ohtani and Yamamoto is steep. The other available players are potentially reasonable complementary pieces coming in at superstar prices. They’re just not what the Mets need. So, they seem to have decided to push on with Plan A, the same plan A they said they were following, the same plan A I didn’t want to believe. So I suppose now I believe. As we’ve all been told for years, ya gotta.

Now, to be clear, while I now believe in their plan, this doesn’t mean that I think this team will be challenging their NL East rivals for first place. They’re not fully rebuilding. Instead, they’ll field a team with a perennial 40+ home run-hitting first baseman, a shortstop who went 30-30 last year even though most people didn’t notice, a Japanese pitcher who lived up to the hype he packed with him, and the return of the closer who literally had people jumping with joy every time he entered the game in the last season he pitched. Not to mention a powerful and often clutch young catcher, one of the better outfielders in the league, and the NL batting average leader from 2022. That’s not a recipe for a rebuilding team, it’s a competitive team, just like we were promised.

Still, it’s understandably frustrating that much of the rest of the roster that will be joining that cast mentioned above will feature players who have yet to really impress, for one reason or another. It really would have been great if the Mets could have figured out the right players to add to the mix. Instead, they’re going to give their youngsters a shot. The same youngsters that many fans were clamoring for last year, when the “let the kids play” mantra was unavoidable. So, now we’ll get to see it. And we’ll get to see how they do in a lineup with some major league all-stars and not a quadruple-A team. I get it.

Also, while fans and reporters have been pushing for the Mets to sign an established DH, I am beginning to wonder what the benefit would be. Justin Turner seemed like an interesting option, although Toronto probably made more sense for him and that’s where he’ll be now. JD Martinez would be fun. He would also be expensive. He also missed 50 games last year, after missing a couple weeks in 2022. Jorge Soler would be another interesting option, although his production is far from a guarantee. Would Martinez or Soler be that much better than a platoon of Mark Vientos and DJ Stewart? Possibly. Of course, if there was ever a season to see what that platoon could yield, this seems to be the one.

Again though, I’m not entirely excited about it. Instead, we’ll go with “rather curious.” I also find myself a little perplexed by some of their moves. Most of the pitchers they’ve signed this offseason have a history of control issues. Last season’s pitching staff was frankly brutal when it came to control issues. I don’t get the strategy here. I’m not even thinking about it from a wins/losses perspective, just from a watching-the-game standpoint. It was hard to watch the Mets go 3-2 on so many batters last year. It was even harder to watch them walk most of those batters. Mets pitchers yielded 595 walks last year, third most in the NL. They finished one walk behind Pittsburgh while pitching 14 fewer innings. I’m bracing myself for some emotionally draining games.

One more point that I’d like to make about the Mets’ approach in 2024. In the current postseason format, 40% of MLB teams make the postseason. The Mets don’t have to be the best team to make it to October baseball, just one of the best 6 in the NL. The last two World Series have each featured that season’s 6th-seeded NL team. And last year’s World Series winner was the 5th-seeded AL team.

The Mets have been trying to tell their fans that their goal is to be in the postseason every year and then from there, anything can happen. This year they’re going to try to find out if their 2023 swerve towards a youth movement will show the potential to help the franchise towards that goal. This is what they’ve been saying, and now that we’re just days away from Senga and catchers reporting to spring training, I am finally ready to believe them.

Now if they would just sign Alonso…