SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For roughly one hour on Tuesday at the site of this week’s GM meetings, Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns met with agent Scott Boras in a way he never before experienced.
When Stearns led the Milwaukee Brewers, he occasionally acquired Boras clients, but operated with a much lower payroll in comparison to running billionaire owner Steve Cohen’s Mets. They have a good working relationship. But these days feature a major shift. Stearns will be talking at times to Boras about a different segment of his clientele. That list includes players like Pete Alonso, who is set to be a free agent after the 2024 season.
This early into the offseason, however, the conversations typically consist of more philosophical talk. Stearns isn’t exactly going to be dropping f-bombs like Yankees GM Brian Cashman — “I don’t think I have the tenure in this town to start dropping f-bombs in my press conferences, but I appreciate Cash’s enthusiasm for his team and his operation,” Stearns said when asked — but the New York native knows where he now works and the expectations.
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“Certainly, working in a New York environment is very different for David than working in a Milwaukee environment,” Boras said. “He’s grasped the concept of his ownership. He’s certainly communicated those to us, let us know what they are.”
To further dive into what we’ve learned so far from the GM meetings, here’s a list of nine Mets musings.
1. It doesn’t sound like Alonso will get traded this offseason. Stearns said that teams have inquired about Alonso’s availability on the trade market. But that’s no surprise. Why wouldn’t they? He ranks among the game’s elite first basemen and holds just one more year on his contract. Despite the interest, Stearns reiterated his stance from his introductory press conference last month, when he said he expected Alonso to be the Mets’ opening-day first baseman.
“I think I do not anticipate him getting traded,” Stearns said. “I don’t draw lines in the sand. And I’m never gonna say never. But I absolutely think it’s fair that I don’t anticipate him being traded.”
Keeping Alonso only makes sense for a team that has indicated it remains interested in competing for a playoff spot next season.
“Pete’s a really good player,” Stearns said. “He’s been a good player and a high-producing player on the Mets for a long time now. We’re fortunate to have him. I’m looking forward to watching him play this season.”
Scheduled tweet: Pete Alonso has homered💪 pic.twitter.com/AHpqthilkZ
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 10, 2023
2. What about 2025? And beyond? During their conversation on Tuesday, Boras — as only he would — said he indicated to Stearns that, “When it comes to the Polar Bear, we’re not in contract hibernation.”
Boras’ clients typically go to free agency, but the agent is famous for saying that he works for his players and does what they tell him to do. Per Boras, Alonso has instructed him to at least listen to what the Mets have to say. That doesn’t mean an extension is likely; specifics about the conversation between Boras and Stearns, particularly as it related to Alonso, were kept hidden. But even if Alonso does go to free agency, it’s entirely possible that he could re-sign with the Mets just like Brandon Nimmo — another Boras client — did last year.
Last month, The Athletic surveyed a handful of scouts about how Alonso may age as he approaches his 30s given his carrying tool profiles as elite power.
“Those are all things that we’re gonna have to take into account as we look at it,” Stearns said. “We understand how important power is. And we also have to take a look at the other parts of his game.”
3. Boras dropped some interesting insight regarding his expectation of Cohen continuing to spend, despite the Mets’ disappointing 2023.
“When you have the bigger jet, and you say you’re going slower, you’re still going faster,” Boras said. “That’s about what I would say about the Mets. I think their idea and their vision is long-term, no doubt. I think they see advantages in this market and next year’s market. The Mets have a lot of work to do. They inherited a team that had a very limited minor-league depth and therefore they have to do some very unique things in free agency to ramp up and particularly be competitive with the National League East.”
The key words: “… they see advantages in this market and next year’s market.”
In this market, Boras represents a bevy of top players, including pitchers. Stearns on Tuesday unsurprisingly said pitching would be the Mets’ priority. They need at least a couple of starters. Some Boras clients include Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery. His position player list features Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger and J.D. Martinez.
At the top of Boras’ list next year, ahead of Alonso: Juan Soto.
Regarding the budget and Cohen’s appetite for continuing to spend, Stearns has struck a consistent note.
“Steve has clearly demonstrated that when the right players are there, and when the right opportunity is there, he’s going to invest in the team,” Stearns said. “And so my job is to now really determine what are the best opportunities for us and how do we construct this roster, so that we can compete in ’24. But we also give ourselves the flexibility and the opportunity to continue to add to the team going forward. And that’s what I’m aiming to do.”
4. The Mets’ starting pitching, which already appeared thin, absorbed a blow on Tuesday when the Mets announced lefty David Peterson would miss approximately six or seven months following surgery to repair the labrum in his left hip.
For the majority of Peteson’s career with the Mets, he has dealt with chronic hip issues. Toward the end of the season, things progressively worsened. The issue persisted when he started to train in the offseason, so the Mets last week had him visit doctors who recommended the surgery. The hip problems never impacted Peterson during games, but they did hinder the ability to make some mechanical adjustments at times. Perhaps in the long term, the surgery helps.
David Peterson, Glove Position changes.
Early 2023 (white uni) on the Right
Current mechanics on the Left. pic.twitter.com/ewyAo9LQnf
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 28, 2023
For this season, though, it’s a setback for the player and team. Peterson failed to run with an opportunity early last year, but showed some signs of improvement late in the season. At 28 years old and arbitration-eligible, every season now carries added significance for Peterson’s long-term role. The Mets counted on him to compete for a rotation spot, and now they’ll be even further inclined to seek external depth for a rotation that features just two locks in Kodai Senga and José Quintana.
“It takes someone who certainly when I took the job, I thought was going to be part of our mix for the first half of the season, and now he’s not available,” Stearns said. “And so that does change our depth chart. We’ll have to make sure we have sufficient depth and it’s certainly my hope and my expectation that he’s going to be able to play an important role on our team in the second half.”
With no pitchers from the top of the minor leagues quite ready for the majors, the rest of the Mets’ options consist of Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi and José Butto.
5. Following Carlos Mendoza’s hiring as manager, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is expected to stay with the Mets, a league source confirmed to The Athletic. SNY first reported that Hefner would stick around. Within the industry, several executives view Hefner as a bright mind who is adept at handling a pitching staff while also possessing the scouting acumen to help a front office.
Joey Cora, who coached third base the last two seasons under Buck Showalter, joined the Detroit Tigers, a league source said. First base coach Wayne Kirby’s contract expired.
The status of other coaches remains unclear.
6. Starling Marte likely won’t need another surgery, Stearns said. After undergoing double groin surgery last season, Marte was limited to just 86 games. He produced just a .625 OPS and took a step back defensively in right field. Marte, 35, still has two years left on his contract and owns the third-highest average annual value ($19.5 million), but the Mets must supplement their outfield with quality options and depth because they don’t know what they can expect from him in 2024.
Stearns said that he’s not afraid to have many good players at a particular set. With the Milwaukee Brewers, that sometimes meant carrying more than three solid outfielders. Might he do something similar in New York?
“I think anytime you have a player who’s coming off of nagging injuries or significant injuries, you have to insulate yourself,” Stearns said. “And we’re certainly going to try and do that throughout the offseason to ensure that we have depth not only in the outfield, but across our entire roster so that inevitably when injuries do pop up or if they linger, we’d have the ability to go to other really quality players.”
7. Despite needing to be shut down in late September because of a partially torn elbow ligament, Jeff McNeil won’t need surgery, either, per Stearns.
“He’s doing well,” Stearns said. “He was in New York, actually saw him at Citi Field last week for a checkup. He was working out in the weight room. He says he’s feeling good, our doctors are pleased with his progress.”
8. The Mets remain undecided on whether to tender Daniel Vogelbach a contract for next season. Stearns acquired Vogelbach in Milwaukee in 2020, so he’s well-versed in Vogelbach’s game, which includes getting on base and controlling the strike zone.
Stearns recently made a slew of roster cuts, trimming the 40-man roster to 33 players. The Mets don’t need to make a decision on Vogelbach until later this month. He’s projected to make $2.6 million through arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors, so he could be a cheap and useful depth piece for the roster. But he doesn’t have a position and the Mets need more production out of designated hitter.
9. Stearns said he won’t hire a GM this offseason to replace Billy Eppler because there’s too much going on and that process requires, as he put it, immense time. But he has made an important first hire to his front office, adding Eduardo Brizuela as a VP/special assistant, league sources said. Brizuela spent 16 years with the Brewers, working his way up to vice president. He has experience in international scouting, minor league operations and player acquisition. In the World Baseball Classic, he served as Venezuela’s assistant general manager (Mendoza was the team’s bench coach).
“He’s phenomenal, such a great connector of people,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said. “I have nothing but praise for him. He’s wonderful. He’s a great, great evaluator. He’s a great guy in player development. He’s got a chance to be a future general manager.”
(Top photo of Pete Alonso: Adam Hunger / Getty Images)