At 75-87, the New York Mets were arguably the most disappointing team in baseball this past season. They entered 2023 with a record $330.7 million payroll, and their end-of-season competitive balance tax payroll sat around $375 million. That will come with a CBT bill in the $100 million range, so, all-in, owner Steve Cohen is looking at a $475 million or so outlay in 2023.
That is money poorly spent in the context of the team’s record, though the Mets have a plan in place. They are using Cohen’s wealth to try to contend in the short-term while building up the farm system for the future, and when things went sideways this year, they pivoted and sold at the trade deadline. To do so, they ate a bunch of money to get better prospects in return for Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and others. It’s just money. Cohen has plenty of it and the Mets leveraged it into premium young talent.
It’s unclear whether Cohen is willing to run a similarly astronomical payroll next season. He finally got his white whale in September, when he hired David Stearns away from the Milwaukee Brewers to run his baseball operations. Stearns brings small-market savvy and resourcefulness to a big-market operation. I’m certain Cohen hopes Stearns can keep payroll below 2023 levels, if not in 2024 then definitely long-term.
Going from 75-87 in 2023 to the postseason in 2024 is not unreasonable. The Texas Rangers went from 68-94 in 2022 to World Series champs in 2023. There are three wild-card berths per league now, and the Mets can afford to reinforce the roster. Selling at the trade deadline this summer does not mean the Mets are rebuilding. Hardly. They’ll be in it to win it in 2024.
With that in mind, here are four things the Mets can do — nay, should do — to vault themselves back into the postseason race next year.