NEW YORK — Now that Steve Cohen has successfully gotten out from under his $315 million flight of fancy with Carlos Correa, there is no way of really knowing just how much of a difference the free-agent shortstop would have made for the Mets, who still need another bat. Or as one high-level baseball exec put it to me the other day: “Do you think Cohen, in his lust for a star, ever stopped to think that Correa would’ve had to hit sixth in his lineup? That he’d essentially be paying $300 million for a sixth-place hitter? That’s how insane some things have gotten in baseball.”
Of course, as another baseball exec asked a few weeks ago: “Since when did Carlos Correa become a $300 million player? What has he ever done to deserve that kind of money?”
Well, he had two more homers and five fewer RBIs than Eduardo Escobar last season. He’s played 150 games in a season once in eight years in the majors. He’s had one top 10 MVP finish — a fifth in 2021 when he won his only Gold Glove. He’s scored 100 runs once. He doesn’t steal bases. He’s had more than 30 doubles twice but never led the league in any offensive category, and last year struck out twice as many times as he walked. All of which re-affirms the selling power of Correa’s agent Scott Boras, who after two failed physicals with the Giants and Mets, still managed to get six years and $200 million from the Twins for his client.
Conceivably Boras could have played hardball with Cohen over Correa after the owner publicly proclaimed he had a deal with Correa before the physical was taken. But he has wisely chose not to alienate the wealthiest owner in sports and sacrificed Correa for what he hopes will be many more (richer) deals down the road.
So where does all this now leave the Mets?
Consternating as this may seem for Cohen, despite spending over $500 million this offseason, the Mets may not be any better than they were last year, and in fact, they might be the third-best team in the NL East behind the Braves and Phillies. The reason being most of that money Cohen spent did not go toward improving the Mets but rather just maintaining — as in the $102 million for Edwin Diaz, $162 million for Brandon Nimmo and the $86 million for Justin Verlander to replace Jacob deGrom.
By contrast, the Phillies’ $300 million investment in Trea Turner for shortstop vastly improved a position of need and also allows them to move Bryson Stott to second base, further solidifying their up-the-middle defense. They also spent $72 million on Taijuan Walker, the Mets’ No. 4 starter last year, and it’s going to be interesting to see if the $75 million the Mets paid out for Japanese import Kodai Senga proves to be the better investment.
At the same time, Phillies President of Baseball Operations “Dealin’ Dave” Dombrowski moved aggressively to address the Phillies’ other weak spot — the bullpen — by trading for the Tigers’ electric but often erratic lefty closer Gregory Soto and signing Craig Kimbrel and lefty Matt Strahm as additional back end bullpen pieces. While all of them have issues, collectively they still figure to make the Phillies pen better.
I have a feeling that Buck Showalter, who loves Escobar, was far more disappointed at the Mets losing out on Andrew McCutchen than the Correa deal blowing up. He saw McCutchen, who re-signed with the Pirates, his old club, Friday, as a veteran clubhouse presence who could’ve provided 15-20 homers as an extra outfielder/DH. Now the Mets will take another look at Adam Duvall, just two years removed from leading the National League RBI, but who strikes out way too much.
In all probability, the missing link power bat Showalter is looking for will have to come from within in the person of Brett Baty, whose surgically repaired thumb will be monitored closely this spring. Believe it, there was nobody more elated by Correa deal going south than Baty, who feels his time has come. We shall see.