We all know Steve Cohen has to do something.
He has assured us that the New York Mets will operate as a “big market team,” a foreign concept in Queens in recent memory. As a fan of the team he is now the CEO of, he’s felt the discontent with unsuccessful season followed by unsuccessful season, hidden by a random lengthy postseason run each decade, which never compensates for the overall lack of competitive baseball coming from Flushing overall. Especially when compared to that team in the Bronx, as well as contenders in their own division, all of whom have won a World Series’ since the Mets last did in 1986.
Similar to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov — though, that’s probably not the act he wants to follow and would much rather channel George Steinbrenner making a splash by getting Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson in the ’70s — Cohen set five years at the benchmark for bringing a championship to New York. The Mets will officially be in a 35-year drought when Opening Day 2021 arrives.
“I’m not in this for a short-term fix. I don’t want to be good one year and bad three; I want to be good every year,” he said in his opening presser. “That’s the goal, and the team I want to build.”
Then he later added, “If we don’t win in the next three to five years, I’d consider that slightly disappointing.”
Well, with the Winter Meetings beginning in a few days, what better time to start?
Clearly the Mets plan on going big-game hunting, with rumors already tying them to every conceivable big-name free agent imaginable; even the ones Met fans don’t want any parts of. Cohen himself has been active on Twitter, responding to fans, asking for their thoughts, and increasing his engagement every step of the way. (It’s reasonable to question the continuation of such activity if the Mets do struggle next season, and who would blame him otherwise.)
But being fan-friendly in the honeymoon phase is easy. And, by the way, it’s smart. I myself just got hired here a few weeks ago, so I understand exactly the play Cohen is trying to execute. He’s obviously a determined mind who wants great baseball to consistently return to Citi Field. Queens had a glimmer of hope between 2015-and-2016 that swept through New York City for a short-lived shot in the vein with every passing Yeonis Cespedes home run or Jacob deGrom strikeout. It was the Amazin’ magic every Met fan parent bestows upon their children when asked why hasn’t the team been great in their life outside of three to five seasons, depending on how you evaluate 1999 and 2016. Spending money during free agency is one way to highlight your ambition. You could throw money at J.T. Realmuto. You definitely fortify your bullpen, as you began to with Trevor May yesterday. May credits Cohen with wanting to come here, as did Marcus Stroman when he decided to stay. And other players love it because of what it indicates; their CEO gives a damn about winning.
But for a real splash? Make a trade.
Francisco Lindor is one of the biggest names in baseball. Now at 27, he’s in the prime of his career. He’s already made four All-Star teams and has finished in the top-10 in MVP voting on three occasions from 2017-2019. He’s also likely on the move because of his pending 2022 free agency, and Cleveland will probably operate in a fashion resembling the old Mets, by trading their star before extending him. This is the statement Cohen should make.
Maybe the deal looks similar to what MLB.com speculated the package could look like, minus Austin Hedges and Jeff McNeil. Perhaps you package Amed Rosario as the core piece in exchange for Lindor, and attach two or three of your better prospects for Cleveland to build with. But overnight, it signals that Cohen isn’t just talking, but that he’s really ‘bout it, ‘bout it. That the off-season aggression isn’t just a promise, and that the fan discontent isn’t merely statement filler, but he means it. It also means that you’re willing to get one of the guys talked about in the offseason, not merely waiting until Rick Porcello is available at the end of the line … respectfully.
And the real statement to make would be extending Lindor. You’re committed to immediate but also sustainable winning, locking up the glamour position of shortstop for years to come with a legitimate superstar, and — some friendly advice from a fellow Puerto Rican — you may want a Latino superstar serving as one of the faces of your baseball team, especially a guy known as Mr. Smile.
This city has a history of gravitating toward marketable stars. The many Latinos in the city, a healthy portion of whom are Met fans, will go all out for one of their own, as they did for Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran once upon a time.