BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Wednesday’s back page of the New York Post)
Citi Field was the happiest place on Earth on Thursday.
The Mets announced Brandon Nimmo had officially signed an eight-year, $162 million contract at a press conference that featured him, Mets general manager Billy Eppler and Mets manager Buck Showalter. Afterwards, those three along with Nimmo’s agent Scott Boras posed for a photo-op.
Later, Nimmo and Showalter were off to join Santa Claus, aka Todd Zeile, to hand out gifts to the young kids. Nimmo served as an elf while Showalter and his wife Angela assisted the newly minted outfielder.
The Mets finished off the day by signing Omar Narvaez to a one-year, $8 million deal that includes a $7 million player option for 2024.
Yes, it has been some offseason for the Amazins. After a 101-win season that ended with a first-round playoff series loss to the San Diego Padres, they went on a shopping spree of $476.7 million for free agents this winter.
Third-year Mets owner Steve Cohen has backed up his talk about spending to win since the day he purchased the Mets. He talked about wanting to win a championship in five years. With the season starting on March 30, the Mets will be in their third year with Cohen. There is no time to waste, and with this spending spree, there is a sense of urgency.
After losing Jacob deGrom to the Texas Rangers and Chris Bassitt to the Toronto Blue Jays as free agents, the Mets pivoted by signing Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, Kodai Senga, David Robertson along with resigning Edwin Diaz and Nimmo to complete their spending spree. They also acquired Tampa Bay Rays reliever Brooks Raley and Miami Marlins relievers Elieser Hernandez and Jeff Brigham along with claiming Yankees reliever Stephen Ridings off waivers.
Here’s the question now: Is this good enough to advance in the playoffs and go all the way to the World Series and win it all?
No one doubts that the Mets are improved from last season. They should have more depth in relief, and they can still sign Adam Ottavino to build the bridge to Robertson and Diaz. Their starting rotation should be in good shape with Verlander and Quintana replacing deGrom and Bassitt respectively.
However, in the National League, there are many great teams the Mets have to battle. The Padres became even better by signing Xander Bogaerts to their loaded lineup that boasts Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto. The Philadelphia Phillies are coming off a World Series appearance, and they should be better equipped adding Trea Turner to join a great lineup featuring Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins.
Oh, and the Atlanta Braves will still be good with the dynamic young talent they have in Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Vaughn Grissom and Michael Harris II, not to mention acquiring Sean Murphy to make the lineup more potent and Joe Jimenez to build the bridge to Braves closer Raisel Iglesias. Expect them to make another move.
The Mets should be in the playoffs this season, but they did not spend to make the playoffs. They spent to win a championship.
They fizzled out in the postseason this past season, because the team ran out of fumes. Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor played almost every game, so they had nothing left in September. Max Scherzer was likely pitching through a shoulder injury, which explains why the Padres homered off him four times in Game 1 of the National League wild-card series and why he gave up nine hits, including two home runs, and four runs over 5 ⅔ innings against the Braves in his final regular-season start.
With Verlander’s postseason experience and Scherzer in good health, the Mets feel it could make a difference this time around. Plus, Senga has had postseason success in Japan.
It comes down to hitting, though. The Mets did not do enough of that against the Padres. In the deciding game of the best-of-three series, they only had one hit and no runs in their 6-0 elimination loss to the Padres.
Yes, hitting is a crapshoot in October because the quality of pitching is so much better. But the Mets can change that by not playing Alonso and Lindor in so many games. It is incumbent on Showalter to know how to push his players to the max and when to lay off.
One can understand this past season since this was Showalter’s first season with the team. He now knows enough about his players to know when to push them and when to let up.
The Mets had a good offseason in the sense that they fine-tuned their team.
As for whether it results in postseason success, no one can know until October.
But after spending $476.7 million to finetune this offseason, it is worth finding out if it pays off.
This will be the beauty of the regular season and postseason.
This writer can be reached on Twitter: @LeslieMonteiro6