Eppler Kicks Off Mets’ 2021 Offseason with Right Moves

Last Updated on December 11, 2022 by Lil Ginge

The Mets front office started the 2021 offseason in an unusual way: by doing good things. In fact, Mets’ General Manager Billy Eppler did three great things in one day. First, Eppler and the Mets brass signed third baseman Eduardo Escobar, hoping to improve the dismal defense of J.D. Davis. Their second strike was signing outfielder Mark Canha to bolster an outfield sorely needing some performance enhancement. And they finally capped the day by bagging star centerfielder Starling Marte, thereby bolstering their already strengthened outfield.

All in all, not a bad off-season day’s work.

A New York Met catcher Mike Piazza bobblehead doll
This bobblehead doll approves of the Eppler deals.
Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Mets Sign Escobar, Canha, and Marte

The Mets, as they so often did when the Wilpon family owned the franchise, started the offseason in what seemed like questionable fashion. They failed to keep star lefty reliever, Aaron Loup, losing him to a major overpay by the Los Angeles Angels. Noah Syndergaard, always a major question mark for the 2022 MLB campaign, also fled the pressure cooker of Flushing, Queens for the safer spaces of the Angels. 

And in my personal biggest disappointment, the Mets did not acquire future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander and his lovely superstar bride to help anchor their starting rotation behind Met superstar Jacob deGrom for the next year or two.

None of these players should have been considered mandatory acquisitions for next year. But, the fact that seemingly none of them wanted to play in Queens was beginning to cast a potentially negative light on the Mets’ offseason.

That all changed yesterday when the Mets went out and acquired three (3!!!) good baseball players that fill major needs: one infielder and two outfielders. Let’s take a look at what makes these moves so good.

Eppler Signs 3 Players To Reasonable Contracts

Not only did the Mets acquire three good players, but they managed to do so without overpaying any of them in dollars or years. This can be seen as a masterstroke by new Mets GM Billy Eppler. He will hopefully continue to avoid long-term overpays for this underperforming franchise in the near term.

The Mets signed Escobar on a merely two-year, $20 million dollar deal (pending physical). Reports say this also includes a club option for 2024. Depending on how Eduardo performs, the option could work to the Mets’ benefit. 

Then, the Mets struck again by reportedly signing Mark Canha to a two-year, $26.5 million dollar deal. Like Escobar, Canha’s deal is pending a physical and includes a 2024 club option. In this day and age, locking in good players for under four years can often seem like brilliance. Even if the players are on the wrong side of thirty, the downside risk is limited compared with five or seven-year deals.

The Mets Get A Star In Starling Marte

Finally, Starling Marte signed for four years and $78 million total, pending a physical. While this is a lot more money than Eppler paid the other two, Escobar and Canha are merely good players. Marte put up a legitimate all-star-caliber year in 2021. He had a 134 wRC+, great baserunning, solid defense in center field, and a total fWAR of 5.5 wins. 

Even if Marte can’t repeat that career year over the next four years, he should still hit his very solid career averages. He has averaged 118 wRC+, 289 / 346 / 458 triple slashy, and around 3 to 4 WAR per season. 

Assuming 1 WAR to be worth around $8 million dollars, if he averaged just 3 WAR over each of the next four years that would be worth a $96 million contract. This is significantly more than the $78 million the Mets will reportedly be paying him. That’s good value and frees the Mets up to make even more moves.

The Trouble with Stroman and Baez

Signing flawed players like Marcus Stroman and Javier Báez to seven-year deals would be exactly the kind of nightmare moves Eppler is helping to avoid. If the Mets were a “one player away from World Series contention” type team, a massive overpay for older top or second-tier players on the free-agent market may make sense. But given the struggles of last year, the Mets are hardly a “one player away” type team.

In fact, they are closer to needing a complete rebuild than competing. The team, as a whole, massively underperformed compared with expectations in 2021. But that hardly means that they will see major improvements from their underperforming players in 2022. And letting underperformers who are seeking big paydays – Michael Conforto, I’m looking at you – walk away is another smart move I hope the Mets implement this offseason.

Marcus Stroman clearly knows his value on the free-agent market, as does Javier Baez. They are going to try and extract every single dollar. This could result in massive overpays, especially during the latter years of their next contracts. The types of overpays the Mets should seriously avoid at this point.

Furthermore, Stroman and Baez were good performers on a bad team. So, merely bringing them back is not going to help the Mets turn into an overnight competitor. Yes, while the three moves we saw today help, the Mets likely still aren’t a Stroman-Baez tandem away from going deep into October.

Of course, the Mets aren’t done yet. They are reported to be looking hard into more starting pitching. That’s important. Because, as of right now, their rotation consists of ace Jacob deGrom, underperformer Carlos Carrasco, second-half bust Taijuan Walker, and the deeply uncertain newbies of David Peterson and Tylor Megill

Next Up For The Mets: Starting Pitching?

There are a ton of enticing names on the free-agent market for starting pitching. Not least of which are:

  • Max Scherzer
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Robbie Ray
  • Kevin Gausman
  • And, of course, Marcus Stroman.

Because there are great options on the market, this should lower the pressure for the Mets to have to sign Stroman to whatever price he commands. If the Mets and Stroman can make it work for a reasonable contract, great. If not, see you later.

The New York Mets Have Unfinished Business

Ultimately, the Mets are a long way off from calling it an off-season. And it is way too soon to judge whether this offseason has been a success or not. We probably won’t know until a significant portion of the 2022 season is over.

But, if yesterday was any indication as to how the rest of the offseason will go, Mets fans should be highly optimistic. The Billy Eppler regime seems to have the ability to find some diamonds in the MLB player rough. I was skeptical of his hiring at first. But if he continues to make more moves like Escobar, Canha, and Marte, we may be in for actual success in 2022. 

Imagine the thought.

If you enjoyed this article on Billy Eppler’s off-season acquisitions, check out my article on how The Mets Should Give Carrasco One Month.

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