QUEENS — Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler’s tune changed around the trade deadline upon the realization that the Mets’ 2023 season could not be salvaged. Instead of being a true “win-now” team after dealing away numerous veterans including Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Eppler teased that a truly contending window won’t come until 2025 or 2026, meaning the team would take a step back next season.
But new president of baseball operations David Stearns wants to toe that playoff line a bit more than what other members of Mets brass led on.
“I think we should be in the playoff race and a true playoff contender,” Stearns said at his introductory press conference on Monday. “That should be our goal… Our goal is to begin that now.
“We’re going to do our best to put together a team in 2024 that is competitive and we’re going to do it in a way that does not detract from our competitiveness in the future. That is the needle to thread, but that’s our goal.”
There is still an undeniable focus on the farm system — a pipeline that received a major boost at the deadline when the team acquired their top two prospects in Luisangel Acuna and Drew Gilbert along with other Top-15 talents like Ryan Clifford, Marco Vargas, and Justin Jarvis.
“It’s better both through some maturation of current players here and a very aggressive trade deadline,” Stearns said. “I think it’s a whole lot better this year. There are some very promising players at the upper levels of the system and I’m eager to get to know them better.”
In a perfect world, at least according to Stearns and Cohen, those young talents fill in some of the gaps on a roster that already has its foundation in place. After all, Francisco Lindor is one of the top shortstops in the game, Pete Alonso is an elite slugger, Francisco Alvarez could be one of the top offensive catchers in baseball, and Brandon Nimmo continues to develop as a top-tier center fielder.
“We’ve got some pretty good players on the Major League roster right now,” Stearns said. “And we’ve got some young guys who broke into the big leagues. We have a chance to be good.”
Sustainability aside, Stearns still will have some of Cohen’s massive fortune to work with in free agency, which gives him much more than anything he had with his near-decade running the Milwaukee Brewers. However, he opted not to comment on potentially going after Shohei Ohtani.
But the possibility of the Mets being a big fish once again on the open market still looms.
“We’re in the biggest market in the country, we have plenty of resources,” Stearns said. “So we’re going to aim to put together a competitive club next year that our fans can be excited about and enjoy.”