It’s Time For A Hard Conversation About The Past, Present, And Future Of The Mets 

A freefall in the standings has shone a light on a Mets franchise that has a very uncertain future, with no contention window in sight.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets reacts after striking out against the Philadelphia Phillies during a game at Citizens Bank Park on September 24, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

This gives me no pleasure. Nothing about the Mets does, anymore. But as you may have noticed over the last few weeks the Mets are extremely broken, and the methods used to try and fix them have been lacking. At least in the short term. Who’s to blame?

When did it start and when does it end? What does the future look like? Let’s explore in painful detail all the ways the Mets are kind of screwed after their epic tumble from the fringes of the Wild Card race.


Like the current model, the 2023 Mets suffered through a very bad month that seemingly derailed them, going 7-19 in June, prompting owner Steve Cohen to basically issue an ultimatum: improve or get broken up. To that team’s credit, they got better, going 14-9 in July, but it wasn’t good enough for Cohen and then-GM Billy Eppler.

Just before the deadline, the team raised the white flag, trading closer David Robertson. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer followed, with Scherzer blowing up the Mets’ spot a bit by revealing that they had told him they were prioritizing World Series contention in 2025 and 2026.

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We all know what happened next, with David Stearns, at long last, taking the job as Mets president of baseball operations in mid-September. Soon, manager Buck Showalter would be shown the door, swiftly followed by Eppler after a surprising investigation into his use of the so-called “shadow” IR.  

Thrift And Hope 

This offseason, the team lived on the fringes of a weird free-agent market, publicly courting Yoshinobu Yamamoto, selling the idea that they wanted to be “competitive,” but resisting a heavy push on any other longer-term solutions. They also missed out on high-profile manager Craig Counsell, turning instead to Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza. 

Stearns has hit on a lot of his low-risk buys, including Mendoza (despite the occasional rookie mistake). While not exactly restored to his previous form as a frontline starter, Luis Severino has been very good. Sean Manaea has also shown himself to be a sturdy option out of the rotation.

Reliever Jorge Lopez has resurrected his career, not pitching to the level that he did during his All-Star season in Baltimore, but like the others, he’s been one of the better stories for this team. Last-minute signing JD Martinez took a while to get healthy and get up to speed, but it seems pretty clear that he’s going to be as advertised with the bat. 

As bad as the Mets have been (are they bad, unlucky, or both?) things could have been much worse had those three pitchers performed closer to their more recent track records. The same can be said for if the Mets hadn’t acted to deepen their lineup by signing Martinez. None of these pickups are the problem. It would be so much easier if they were. 

A Rotten Core?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 08: Francisco Lindor #12 and Jeff McNeil #1 of the New York Mets celebrate a 5-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field on August 08, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Going into this season, the universal thought was that Edwin Diaz’s return from injury would be a major difference maker and that Pete Alonso was, simply, the Mets’ most beloved and impactful homegrown player since David Wright and one of the game’s most feared power hitters. 2024 hasn’t quite worked out as planned for either. 

Diaz’s recent struggles have been loud and key to the Mets’ most heartbreaking losses, but I wouldn’t count him out to eventually right the ship and reach something closer to his 2020-2021 form, which is that of a top-10 bullpen arm. He’s too talented to not, but he’s probably not the guy the Mets signed him to be coming off that outrageous 2022 season.

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Relief pitchers are volatile. This is not news. 

Alonso is also likely going to wind up raising his average and finding a little more consistency at the plate. It seems like he’s already on the way. But his relative struggles do demonstrate that there’s volatility to players with his profile as well.

Beyond Diaz and Alonso, Francisco Lindor (an obvious candidate for a rebound based on his track record) has struggled, as has Jeff McNeil (for the second season in a row and third in four). Brandon Nimmo has been good but not great, Starling Marte has been about league-average, which probably counts as a win. Jose Quintana might be cooked. 

If there’s any hope left in this fanbase, it’s all centered on Kodai Senga (shoulder/tricep) and Francisco Alvarez (thumb) coming back strong from their injuries in the next few weeks. Maybe not even for the sake of the 2024 Mets as much as to indicate that the Mets do have sturdy long-term pieces. 

The Baby Mets

The silver lining to the Mets’ sell-off last year was that Cohen opened his checkbook to pay down Verlander and Scherzer’s contracts in an effort to get better prospects in return (Drew Gilbert, Ryan Clifford, and Luisangel Acuña — will he do it again to shed McNeil and Marte?).

Because of those arrivals, generally solid drafts, and some player development gains (helped along by infrastructure improvements), the Mets are regarded as having a farm system in or near the top 10, which is a big improvement. But when you look closer at the players that comprise that system, you wonder about the ceilings on some of their most highly regarded players and how far away they and others (Jonah Tong, Nolan McLean) are.

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Is Gilbert the second coming of Brandon Nimmo or Harrison Bader? Is Ryan Clifford going to bring his strikeouts down and his in-game power up? Is Luisangel Acuña closer to a superstar or a super-utility player? Other top prospects like Jett Williams, Kevin Parada, and Mike Vasil inspire similar questions, especially the latter two, who have struggled this season.

The (very) early MLB successes of Christian Scott and Mark Vientos in 2024 prove that players don’t always have to be a consensus top 50 prospects to make a positive impact. Brett Baty’s early (not that early) struggles show that status isn’t a guarantee either and that prospects, no matter their pedigree, are lottery tickets.

The Pete-y Problem

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – SEPTEMBER 26: Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 26, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brewers defeated the Mets 8-4. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

The Mets may have already offered Pete Alonso as much money as they’re ever going to based on the reported long-term contract (7 years and $158 million) his former reps rejected last summer. His current agent, Scott Boras, isn’t likely to be more amenable to such a number, and I don’t know if the Mets should go any higher.

The Polar Bear is a unicorn in terms of raw power and fan appeal, but his very best days might be behind him and he’s not the kind of complete hitter (ala Freddie Freeman and, prior to this year, Paul Goldschmidt) that he’s trying to out-earn.

Those are the kinds of players who offer more security against skill erosion into their 30s. Freeman (.318/.408) and Goldy (.291/.379) were annual threats to hit near .300 and get on base nearly 40% of the time from their age-30 to their age-34 seasons, the assumed main chunk of an Alonso extension. Pete hit .217 last year and his OBP was .318. This year, the latter is closer to .300.

So while moving on would be a big bet to make and a total commitment to a youth movement, it might be the prudent choice.

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This team said goodbye to Jacob deGrom because they didn’t think his ask lined up with his likely future output. They’re about to retire Darryl Strawberry’s number next weekend, and once upon a time, they let him depart to sign with the Dodgers.

The only real unicorn is David Wright, who spent his whole career with the Mets. And, as unfair as it was and is to make this comp, he signed an 8-year deal at the same age as Alonso is, and he only played the equivalent of two seasons’ worth of games after that, stepping away from baseball in 2018 due to a bad back. 

Remember, a unicorn is a mythical creature. 

When I think of Alonso’s situation, I keep thinking back to the Orioles and Chris Davis about a decade ago. He absolutely mashed as a fan favorite on a winning team, convincing the Orioles to sign him to a massive contract (when he had seemingly few obvious suitors).

The move, in hindsight, feels like it was partly motivated by sentimentality and catering to the fan base. It crippled the Orioles when Davis fell off a cliff and quickly morphed from a Three True Outcomes player to just the one (strikeouts). I can envision that future for Alonso as clearly as I can envision him getting to 500 home runs in the orange and blue (and sometimes black and now also purple).

No matter how painful it will be (and it will be really painful), if the Mets have similar concerns, aren’t beating their previous offer, and don’t go on a 10-game winning streak like now, then they should just rip the band-aid off and get something for Alonso while they can and commence the teardown.

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A week ago, I was shrieking at Steve Cohen’s errant tweet seemingly in favor of a rebuild. Now I’m ready to supply shovels, apparently. The distinct and cruel way the Mets are losing can change a person.

Your 2025 New York Mets 

With the Mets’ stable of moderately priced and highly tradeable rentals, mid core, and a farm system with as much potential as big questions, it’s fair to wonder what the Mets’ real window for contention is. Right now, 2024 seems about ready to be flushed and 2025 feels like a fantasy (2026 doesn’t seem assured either, to be honest).

Let’s break that down, assuming that things don’t get better and the Mets sell… everyone, leaving a core of (the untradeable) Lindor, Nimmo, Alvarez, Senga, and Diaz (in whatever form he is in). Let’s also say Vientos and Scott continue to perform at anywhere from 80-110% of their current levels.

Now, let’s be pessimists and say one of Gilbert, Acuna, and Baty figures it out while the others profile as middling starters until a better option comes along (or worse – Baty has often been worse). That leaves the Mets needing 3-4 potent bats, at least three starting pitchers, and a new bullpen.

Where is all that talent coming from? 

Some of the pieces they get back for Alonso, JD, and company may help, assuming they aim for more Major League-ready talent (which might mean players with higher floors and lower ceilings). There are also some useful players on the roster who profile as filler (or maybe more) like Drew Smith, Tyrone Taylor, and maybe David Peterson and Tylor Megill. But for a lot of this, it seems like the free agent market (and to a lesser extent, trades) may be the answer. Unless it’s not.

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The Problem With The Uncle Steve Fantasy 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 15: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) New York Mets owner Steven A. Cohen speaks at the Tom Seaver statue unveiling ceremony before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on April 15, 2022 in New York City. All players are wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. The Mets defeated the Diamondbacks 10-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Hearing some Mets fans talk about how signing Juan Soto and Corbin Burnes will solve everything for the Mets sounds like that Seinfeld moment when George Costanza pitched a plan to get Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. on the Yankees without really having to give up anyone. 

These kinds of fan fantasies rarely come true, even with a billionaire owner who, once upon a time, seemed willing to field a winner no matter the price. I just don’t know that anyone should assume that Steve Cohen is going to commit the billion (or billion and a half) dollars or so that it would take to make the Mets instantly whole again. At least in the upcoming offseason. 

Also, sidebar: why have we always assumed that the Mets were going to release the financial kraken in 2025 after sitting out 2024? Has Stearns or Cohen explicitly said that, or is it just something that becomes a fact because everyone expected it to happen?

The only thing I recall is patience, patience, patience preaching, hints that they’ll play at the top of the market sometimes, and that to be the Dodgers of the East, they’ve got to create a development pipeline. They also said no reset years, but when the Mets plan, God laughs… and then maybe God smacks the Mets upside the head a few times to make the point.

The Mets are awful this year despite still carrying a payroll north of $300 million. And yes, a lot of money is set to come off the books next year. But the Mets paid approximately $100 million in luxury taxes for those awful 2023 Mets on top of $320 million in payroll and the bill will be similar for this year’s underperforming squad.

Cutting payroll, drastically, allows them to reset the rate and pay less for future splurges… in 2026 and/or beyond. It’s good business, even if it means bad baseball and even worse optics for people who promised playoffs every season contention. But I just don’t see a choice. Not with this core, these assets, and the exhibited behavior of management over the last 12 months.

In short, spend your Juan Soto jersey money on something useful, like liquor or therapy.

This part is sort of me going out on a limb, but I think it’s important. The Mets aren’t just messy, they seem chaotic. Like, someone is going to write an amazing book about the 2020s Mets that gets turned into the inverse of Moneyball chaotic.

Since the start of Cohen’s reign in 2021, the Mets have gone through six baseball ops heads (if we’re counting the 11 minutes Brodie Van Wagenen had the job after Cohen assumed control), three managers, and (probably) coming soon, a second mid-season teardown in a row. 

What does any of this matter? Well, pair the churn in the dugout and front office with the on-field dysfunction, public ultimatums, the occasional stray tweet, and the aforementioned lack of a strong core or overflowing farm system. These things aren’t likely to make a guy tell a team to piss off if they’re the only one offering him a massive contract. But if you’re comparing the Mets’ situation to the situation in the Bronx or in LA or Philadelphia, how do the Mets possibly win at the bargaining table without grossly overpaying for the Sotos, Burnes, and Max Frieds of the world? And even then, there are no guarantees. 

If you think all of this isn’t a concern, consider Steve Cohen’s own words from his press conference in June 2023 before the sell-off.

“If you want to attract good people to this organization, the worst thing you can do is be impulsive and win the headline for the day. Overall, over time, you’re not going to attract the best talent.”

Obviously, I have my misgivings about Cohen, but I’ll acknowledge that while he is imperfect, he’s also not the ‘80s and early ‘90s version of George Steinbrenner, firing people every few months and dragging players and the team in the press near daily.

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And he’s also not Fred Wilpon, seemingly refusing to field a competitive team. He wants to win. He has tried to win. But he has failed, and the Mets, under Cohen’s watch, do not seem like a calm or enticing destination, no matter their perceived financial strength and the stabilizing presence of David Stearns.

To right that, the Mets need to stick to a plan (and a management team) and then they need a lot of luck and more humbleness and time than anyone could have imagined in 2020 when Cohen bought the team, in 2022 when it seemed like everything was coming together quick, and on Opening Day of this year when it was easy to let a little hope in.

Ah, hope.

As much as I’d love to see the Mets cling to the fading chances of a third Wild Card rally deep into July, the delusions about the Mets shocking the world, the value of unicorns, and the validity of fantasies and half-measures aren’t doing anyone any good. It’s just about time for the Mets to be the Mets and acknowledge that things are going to suck for a while. Reset, rebuild, reimagine, whatever the hell you want to call it, just get it over with already.