BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: New York Yankees/Getty Images)
It could be easy for the Mets to punt next season with so many of their players being free agents. They are not going to sign everyone.
Most likely, Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo will be back. It’s 50-50 Jacob deGrom will be back. It’s hard to believe Chris Bassitt, Seth Lugo, Adam Ottavino, Trevor May, Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco will be back. Plus, this team is not going to get any younger. The Mets have one of the oldest rosters in baseball.
There’s no guarantee the Mets will make the playoffs next season, let alone win the NL East. The Braves will still be the favorites in that division, and there are going to be too many teams competing for wild-card spots. Plus, it could be the Mets will regress after a 101-win season. They are likely won’t be bad, but they won’t be this good, either.
This is why the Mets flaming out in the postseason is hard to take. There’s no guarantee they will get back again next season. This is where they need to take advantage of this opportunity and try to go as far as they could. They didn’t as they went down in three games on Sunday night in the wild-card series against the San Diego Padres.
Despite all that, the Mets need to think big. They need to be a player in the offseason. They have to make a move to keep up with the National League elite teams.
Here’s one they should go after: Aaron Judge.
He would provide the protection that Pete Alonso craves. He is a difference-maker that you would want to get a big hit such as a home run. Unlike Chris Bassitt, he is fit to play in New York since he gets the responsibility of playing in New York. He is made for big moments. He handled chasing Roger Maris’ Yankee single-season home run record with aplomb.
Judge is a leader. When I think of that word, I think of Kirby Puckett when he led the Twins to two World Series championships in 1987 and 1991 by getting big hits in the playoffs. This is what Judge is in a nutshell.
The Mets could have used him against the Padres. Shoot, they could have used him against the Braves in the final weekend regular season series. He would have been a player that could step up against the Atlanta Braves.
The Yankees slugger is in his prime right now. He has six good years in him. This is the right time to sign him. If the Mets want to sign a 30-year-old player, it has to be on the south side of that age than the north side of the age such as Max Scherzer at 38.
If there is a player worth going big in free agency, it’s Judge. Mets owner Steve Cohen should spare no expenses in getting him. We can assume he won’t rest on his laurels the way the Wilpons did when the Mets had good postseason runs.
Now, it won’t be easy. There will be many big-market teams out there that want him. The Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants make a compelling case for him to sign with them. It won’t be easy to go up against them no matter how much money Cohen has.
It’s hard to believe the Yankees will let Judge walk, to begin with. They know they have to pay him whatever he wants since he is their franchise player and he makes them money. They also know it would be a bad public relations move to let him leave for the Mets.
But in the end, it will be Judge’s decision. He may think the Yankees went as far as they could. He may want to have a different challenge. This is where Cohen and the Mets must pounce and sway him. It’s the least they can do. They need to bid for his service just to show they tried and they are committed to winning. This would be a message that the Mets are now run differently under Cohen than it was with Wilpons, who were content to stand pat and do nothing to be even better.
The Mets have a good shot to sign him. Shoot, if they sign him, maybe this sways deGrom to come back to finish his career with the Mets. It appears most bonafide free agents will make their decision after Judge makes his. By signing Judge, maybe the Mets can start a chain reaction of getting others to play for them such as Trea Turner.
The Mets would do themselves and their fans a disservice if they did not try to go after Judge.
After seeing this team fall flat in September and in the wild-card series, a bold move has to be made to make sure we don’t see a deja vu in the next postseason.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6