The last 48 hours were the first time the New York Mets played second fiddle to another team this offseason. The San Diego Padres made two major trades, which brought in Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. Both players make the Padres significantly better, but it still leaves the free-agent market wide open. It still leaves the Mets to move in any direction they want.
— SNY (@SNYtv) December 24, 2020
San Diego was a big player in the free-agent market for starting pitching, but they no longer need the help. They are absorbing $32.5 million for 2021, $31.5 million for 2022, and $34 million for 2023 by their major trades. The $98 million for two great pitchers over three seasons seems like a bargain. Those figures are exactly why the Padres made the deals.
It was a cost-effective way to better their starting rotation. The trades show the Padres are reluctant to improve through the free agents because they already rank in baseball’s top five payrolls. Improving through the free-agent market would push them toward the luxury tax threshold. A small market team during a global pandemic will not survive with a large payroll for a long time. They are doing all they can to take advantage of their small window to win.
Sweep the Market
Unlike the Padres, running out of money will never worry the Mets. This allows the Mets to control the market because this offseason’s two biggest moves did not affect their plans. Snell and Darvish were not on the top of their list if they were even on their radar. Trevor Bauer, George Springer, and Liam Hendriks are still on the market, while Francisco Lindor is still an Indian.
The Padres are the offseason winners at the moment, but the Mets still have a bevy of moves to make. They will not act like “drunken sailors” despite having the money to act like one. Through free agency, the Mets will not lose any of their prospects like the Padres did in their trades. The loss of a draft pick is the worst loss the Mets could suffer by signing anyone who declined a qualifying offer.
The lesson of the Padres moves and the slow churning offseason is that every team is strapped for cash. Cohen’s money will not sign everyone on the free-agent market, but it will not stop the Mets from getting their targets. The funds put the Mets at the top of every agent’s and their client’s list in the offseason. The Mets are using a patient approach with their acquisitions, which is paying off so far, but as the calendar flips to 2021, the sense of urgency will need to increase.