Potential Mets' Free Agents to Keep Warm With

The MLB season mirrors New Jersey’s weather patterns as the season commences with the unpacking of bulky coats and returns as those coats do to closets and cubbyholes alike. The baseball offseason is always everchanging as it sprouts countless conversations about pure fantasy over the next couple of months.

There is some assurance with NBA and NFL transactions. If you watched Dallas in the 2021-22 NBA playoffs, then Jaylen Brunson’s emergence with the Knicks wasn’t a surprise. If you watched the New Your Giants make Nate Solder the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league in 2018, then you know nothing is for certain and nothing lasts forever.

At 162 games, the baseball season can feel as if it will last forever. That games will last forever, and recent updates will look to shave more times off games. The length is believed to be the reason for the next generation’s indifference; their dismissal of what was once known as ‘America’s Past-time’. It’s long past time that mantle was moved to American football with its ability to stretch a 60-minute counting clock into 200 actual minutes on average.

All that time is necessary to fill the days inside where it’s warm, waiting for the weather to allow Jersey residents to leave the house. So until then, it’s fun to think about the decisions David Stearns will make in his first year as President of Baseball Operations for the New York Mets. And honestly, it’s unfair to apply additional weight to the man owner Steve Cohen has wanted since he purchased the team a few years back.

Stearns is 38 years old, making him one of the youngest general managers in the MLB, but don’t expect miracles within his first three months on the job. Yes, he’s hired a manager in Carlos Mendoza and started replacing executives and hiring top talent in positions that will never be seen by fans, but who’s decisions will affect the future. The future is always looking ahead while contemplating about next season and as for the 2024 season, the needs are somewhat obvious.


Jose Quintana and Kodia Senga are two starters at the top end of any rotation, but there’s an obvious need for another top end starter or two and an inning eater at the back end. Right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is 25 years old and is expected to become like former Mets starter R.A. Dickey. He was not the conventional pitcher who bouncing around multiple organizations for nearly a decade. Dickey came up midway through the 2010 season and finished the season with a 2.84 ERA.

For those unaware of the dying sun that was Dickey, he threw a version of a knuckleball about 80% of the time. The wobbling pitch had two variations – the ‘slow’ version around 72 MPH and a ‘fast’ one that peaked around 83 MPH. Add your standard two-seam and four-seam fastball and batters didn’t know what to expect. Mets' fans just experienced something similar with Senga as the league adjusted to his stuff. For a glorious two seasons, Dickey was one of the best pitchers in baseball and has a Cy Young from 2012 as evidence. With three Eiji Sawamura Awards, Yamamoto will be expected to do the same upon arrival.

Whether Stearns signs Yamamoto or two-time Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, a two-time Cy Young winner whose free agent saga seems somewhat quiet in comparison, that’s only one starter and the Mets need three. The hope is since Stearns oversaw success with the Milwaukee Brewers, a “small-market” team valued around $1.6 billion, and is now overseeing Cohen’s bankroll, he’ll make smart signings like when the Mets signed Rick Reed after the 1995 season.

Reed wasn’t memorable for nearly a decade to start his career, except for actions taken around the 1994-1995 MLB strike season. He spent the 1996 season in the Mets minor league system, then emerged in 1997 for a five-year stretch with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.  He made two All-Star games, but more importantly started 138 games and could be counted on the take the ball every fifth day for a potential quality start. Maybe that equates to Sonny Gray or Kenta Maeda this offseason, but who’s going to be the team’s Steve Trachsel?

Trachsel finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year standings in 1994. Two years later, he was an All-Star during a 13-9 season with a career-best 3.03 ERA. Two years later, he won a then career-high 15 games for the first Chicago Cubs' playoff team since 1989. A decade later, Trachsel started a two-year run of futility with a 16-33 record and a combined ERA well over five. So why would the Mets sign him to a two-year deal in 2001 after all this? Because for five straight seasons, Trachsel made a minimum of 31 starts and finished with over 200 innings pitched. Every pitching staff needs a workhorse and in today’s baseball, innings pitched are at a premium.


Regardless of your team’s roster, Shohei Ohtani should be at the top of your free agent list. A winner of two of the last three AL MVP awards, there is no price too much for this generational talent and that’s before one considers his prowess on the pitching mound. Mr. “We Got Now” will make his decision when he chooses to.

The Mets can’t choose to enter the 2024 season completely dependent upon a healthy Starling Marte, mostly because it’s hard to imagine he’ll improve from his career average .788 OPS. He routinely peaked over .800 before arriving in Queens, then earned down-ballot MVP votes in the 2022 season that serves as the lone time anyone saw Marte healthy and that was only through August.

The addition here is likely to be Teoscar Hernandez or another quality player that won’t come with the hype that followed Bobby Bonilla’s move from Pittsburgh to Queens. Born in the Bronx, his career started with four MVP caliber seasons in Pittsburgh alongside Barry Bonds. Hindsight says a wiser man would have waited a year and overpaid the better player.

A wiser man might also not have fallen for a Ponzi scheme, but history always has the advantage of knowing what was really happening. Is it possible Bonilla’s wise men advised him to take the deferred money and ensure payment from an ownership group without actual funds? Either way, a national joke has been made of the day when a 1995 All-Star is paid over a million dollars, something any of us would love to have.


Juan Soto is a three-time All-Star outfielder who is likely to be traded for top talent, then signed to a massive long-term deal. There’s seemingly little fear that this possible deal would turn out like Bonilla, but that was before every action and transaction was detected and described for all to determine an opinion on. Stearns has to focus his top attention on adding starting pitching, then a starting outfielder before finding an infielder. They have enough internal help with Jeff McNeil and Ronny Maurico to make things work like Howard Johnson did when he arrived in 1985.

Affectionally known as HoJo, he came up as a third baseman with some stints in the outfield for the Detroit Tigers before a December trade brought him to Queens. Walt Terrell pitched much better than Will Ferrell has in any movie with five consecutive seasons with 200 innings pitched.

HoJo consistently got in the lineup, providing speed and power in a stocky frame that made young fans believe anything was possible. In 1987, he hit 36 HRs and stole 32 bases. Two years later, he stole 41 bases with 36 HRs and led the league with 104 runs scored. He would finish fifth in the NL MVP voting in 1989 and again in 1991 with another 30-30 campaign.

HoJo didn’t come up through the Mets’ minor league system, but it always felt like he did. Like he was a part of the talent train from Tidewater that produced Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra and Rick Aguilera. A mix of major league players who would shine for a season or two, then fade into the background as part of a consistent funnel. Even when Dave Magadan, Kevin Elster, Eduardo Alfonzo and Jose Reyes came up, there was always a Gregg Jeffries to ruin the punch.

The actual on-field actions of players like Jay Payton or Amed Rosario could never match the level of hype for names known by fans only attached to quotes from so-called experts and numbers from some league you never heard of. It’s the demand to quench a thirst for content to satisfy a voracious fan base that hasn’t celebrated a championship since 1986. It’s hearing about first-round pick Dominic Smith and his patience batting from the left side coming up in the minors. How he’ll be the answer at first base for the future with Gold Glove potential and a bat that…

A bat that was broken over the head of fellow rookie first baseman Pete Alonso, who slugged his way to the first base job with a spring training performance to remember. Stearns “expect(s) Pete to be the Opening Day first baseman.” It could be with Smith as his backup; it could be with a new contract. Two things can be true at the same time, and that’s the truth.