The New York Mets head into the 2020/21 offseason with money to spend. Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto will be one of their top priorities after turning down club options on Wilson Ramos and Robinson Chirinos.
The Mets were 21st in wins above average at catcher last season, primarily down to the performance of Ramos. The veteran former National posted a .684 OPS, almost 200 points below Realmuto’s showing for the Phillies.
With the Wilpon era nothing more than a nightmare-creating memory for Mets fans, there’s renewed, rare optimism in the blue and orange half of the Big Apple. Steve Cohen arrives with expectation of spending, and the 2020 free agent class is a good place to start for the richest owner in MLB (Cohen is worth north of $14 billion).
Early sourced reporting of Cohen’s approach suggests he will be cautious in his investment. You don’t get that rich by throwing cash around recklessly. According to AMNY, Cohen will not ‘make too many high-priced moves’, though it was also noted that he will ‘do the no brainer moves quickly.’
A lot can be read into that. What classifies as a no-brainer? How many is ‘too many’ high-priced moves?
Plenty of Mets fans would argue Realmuto is a no-brainer given their need at catcher. Realmuto is a no-brainer for the majority of MLB’s 30 teams. He will unquestionably fall into the high-priced category, though, with Yasmani Grandal’s four-year, $73 million contract with the White Sox serving as the benchmark.
The market will be slow this offseason, and teams will be reluctant to spend, but Realmuto is going to have interest. The Mets will need to commit at least $70 million to be able to sign him.
Spending big this offseason might not be the same as other winters. If Cohen is willing to make frequent use of his chequebook, the Mets could capitalise on the caution of other franchises. Players like Realmuto, Trevor Bauer and George Springer could be available at a cut price.
Aside from pursuing one of the top two or three catchers in the game, signing Realmuto would be a major statement of intent for the Mets. The Phillies dealt Sixto Sanchez to get Realmuto and are yet to seriously contend since the trade.
Snatching Realmuto from their division rivals would be a signal of change, particularly after the Phillies signed Zack Wheeler from New York last offseason. It would majorly weaken a direct opponent and address one of the Mets’ greatest needs.
Philadelphia’s rebuild has not gone to plan, and losing Realmuto at all, but especially to the Mets, would be a brutal blow, a sign of a franchise stuck in the sub-.500 wilderness.
The Mets, for the first time in recent memory, head into free agency as a team to watch. Cohen is an unknown compared to the predictability of other MLB owners, an unknown that brings unparalleled excitement to Citi Field.
Realmuto does not solve all of the Mets’ problems on the field. He might not be the best value free agent on the market, but it would be a turning point for a franchise that has become synonymous with corner-cutting and disappointment.