As other teams look to shed payroll amid a pandemic, Steve Cohen figures to bring a fat wallet to free agency.
The new Mets owner — who will close his $2.4 billion deal to acquire the team from Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz within the next 10 days — seemed anxious to get started Friday, after receiving league approval to take control of the club.
“With free agency starting Sunday night, we will be working towards a quick close,” Cohen said in a statement.
The Mets will have the luxury of going top-of-the market to fill needs at catcher and within the starting rotation. The two most obvious pursuits would be J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Bauer, the top position player and starting pitcher, respectively, available through free agency. George Springer is another top free-agent available and would fill a need for a potent right-handed bat and center fielder.
Also expect the Mets to beef up their analytics staff and technology, two areas of weakness. The Mets presently have six staffers in analytics. It isn’t uncommon for MLB teams to employ 20-plus analysts.
The front office, under new team president Sandy Alderson, likely will be reshaped. Cohen announced last month his plan to hire Alderson, providing the new owner with a respected baseball counsel as he assumes the reins.
Bobby Heck, a special assistant with the Rays, has emerged as a possibility to assume a prominent role in baseball operations, according to industry sources. The 54-year-old Heck was previously the scouting director with the Astros, overseeing drafts that formed the nucleus of a World Series champion and perennial playoff team. Heck has also been linked to the general manager openings with the Phillies and Angels.
Heck’s name surfaced in 2018 when the Mets were searching for Alderson’s replacement in the GM seat. A source said it was Cohen, then a Mets minority owner, who suggested Heck to team COO Jeff Wilpon. The job instead went to Brodie Van Wagenen, who is now left dangling amid the transfer of ownership to Cohen.
Billy Owens, an assistant GM with Oakland, is potentially on Alderson’s radar. Alderson served as a consultant to Athletics executive Billy Beane the last two seasons, where he forged a working relationship with the 49-year-old Owens.
Former Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi, who has twice worked under Alderson, can’t be discounted. The 61-year-old Ricciardi has spent the past two seasons as a special assistant with the Giants and is among the candidates for the Angels’ GM opening. Ricciardi was the Blue Jays’ GM for eight seasons before coming to the Mets.
Alderson is expected to hire a president of baseball operations who would report to him, along with a general manager. Van Wagenen has two years remaining on his contract, but the odds are stacked against his return. A source said Alderson has communicated with Van Wagenen on a limited basis in recent weeks, but it’s unlikely the GM’s future was finalized during those discussions.
A source said there is a possibility director of player development Jared Banner will depart the organization. Banner arrived from the Red Sox with assistant general manager Allard Baird, who was hired by Van Wagenen.
Though special assistant Omar Minaya has a personal relationship with Cohen, a source said it’s not a slam dunk for him to return to the Mets, as Alderson likely will get the final say.