The Mets’ free agent moves are fun, but they still need more pitching to avoid another pitfall

The Mets are going for it in 2022. That’s the theme of the offseason so far that has delighted fans with virtual suitcases of cash being handed out to Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and one of the best pitchers of the last decade Max Scherzer. Mets owner Steve Cohen came to the franchise with the promise that he would spend money to keep New York in the running for the postseason year after year, and these recent moves show that he means business.

However, we still don’t know if the Mets’ big moves will be enough to lift last year’s 77-win team back into the hunt for October. The 2021 Mets also had stars at the top of the roster, but injuries to Jacob deGrom and poor hitting throughout the lineup led a squad that was supposed to win over 90 games falling out of the pennant race in the middle of September.

The sad part was that the Mets fell apart despite the hot hitting of midseason acquisition Javier Baez, who won’t be back in 2022 because he just signed a huge contract with the Detroit Tigers. The middle infielder the Mets did get, Escobar, probably won’t hit as well as Baez, but he’s also likely to cause less drama in the clubhouse. Baez’s choice to direct a thumbs-down gesture to the fans and then explain to the media that he thought paying customers were being too negative caused me and other fans to blow a gasket.

So I’m happy Baez is gone, even though his production might be missed. Besides, his constant swinging and missing in the shortened 2020 season and the first half of 2021 was a bad indication of how Baez might turn out in a long-term deal.

One good thing about the veteran contracts the front office gave out in November is that none of them are super lengthy commitments. The Mets have Escobar and Canha for two years each, Marte for four, and Scherzer for three. Canha gives the Mets another high-OBP outfielder to pair with Brandon Nimmo, while Marte’s defense should be an improvement in center field. Marte also matches up well with Lindor in the lineup, as both guys can get on base and steal a lot of bases. There are now a number of options to bat in front of Pete Alonso, but that’s something for whoever the manager is to figure out.

That brings us to Scherzer, who has the potential to carry the Mets back to the postseason if he and deGrom can pitch up to their potential and stay healthy. Since joining the Nationals for the 2015 season, Scherzer has had an ERA below 3.00 in every year expect 2020, when he only made 12 starts because of the pandemic. Not only has he been awesome, but he’s been consistently awesome.

The Mets should be favored in almost every game that deGrom and Scherzer start, but the bottom of the rotation is still a big question mark. Taijuan Walker made the All-Star team, but in the second half he was lit up for 20 home runs and a 7.13 ERA in 13 starts. If the Mets don’t bring Marcus Stroman back, they’re looking at some combination of Tylor Megill, David Peterson, and Carlos Carrasco making the rest of the starts, and none of those guys were consistently tolerable in 2021. Signing Stroman or another reliable starter is a must, even with the star power at the top of the rotation.

It’s great that the Mets have ownership now that can ensure that even the most pricey free agents are in play. However, the most successful baseball organizations are built with homegrown young players that can be extended on reasonable contracts before they hit free agency. Just look at what the Braves did with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. Most of the best players don’t hit free agency in their prime. Cohen’s money can keep the Mets from bottoming out, but they won’t be a consistent contender until they win in drafting and player development. Until then, we’ll hope that the free agents keep producing the way they did before the Mets acquired them. Or in Lindor’s case, start producing that way.

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