Mets hiring David Stearns: Here are the biggest questions ahead

The New York Mets on Tuesday answered the big question surrounding the club with the move everyone expected: David Stearns will be the team’s president of baseball operations.

The agreement between Stearns and the Mets is for five years, according to a league source, and he won’t officially begin the job until after the regular season.

Ahead of another big season, there are several other key questions now awaiting Sterns and the Mets.

Here’s a look at the biggest ones.

What is the timeline for winning?

This is the question that begs all of the following. After this year’s failure, when do the Mets plan to win the championship again?

New York was ready to start this season, of course, and before the trade deadline, it was reasonable to assume that approach would continue unabated through 2024. However, in dealing both Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — and listening to the offers for Pitt. Alonso – The Mets have focused on a view on 2025 and 2026 as the opening of a new competitive window.

Kodai Senga, shown here with GM Billy Eppler, is one of the few reliable players in the Mets’ rotation. (Brad Penner/USA Today)

The Mets haven’t been entirely clear on what that means for 2024. Both owner Steve Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler said the goal remains “competitive” that season (Cohen said “tremendous”) while also acknowledging that expectations will be lower than they were in The last two seasons. Now Stearns has to define this trend more precisely, refining just what “competitive” means in practice.

What is the future of House of Alonso?

The long-term future of New York’s offensive cornerstone and current face of the franchise hinges on that timeline. If the Mets are comfortable with a much lower target in 2024, continuing to explore the trade market for Alonso this winter makes sense. He’s a free agent after next season, a long-term nine-figure deal could start him at number two, and Alonso could make a nice return.

Of course, there’s also a strong argument why Alonso deserves exactly this kind of deal, especially given the Mets’ lack of options to replace his skill set. He has as many 40 seasons (three) as anyone else in franchise history combined.

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Is Buck Showalter the right manager?

Showalter won his fourth Manager of the Year award last season, providing just the right touch for a veteran roster to hold together a 101-win monster during the regular season. That magic has eluded him throughout 2023, with the team underperforming globally and often playing sloppy. Showalter has one year remaining on his contract, and it’s generally preferred across the sport that managers not enter the season as a lame duck.

There are two competing arguments here: First, the job for which Showalter was hired is different now. Instead of nurturing a veteran team, the Mets are focusing on their youth movement. Showalter may not be the best man for this particular gig, and now is a good time to hire someone. Second, Showalter’s teams did their best when little was expected of them, so the 2024 Mets may be a better showcase of his skills.

Given the time Stearns shared with him in Milwaukee, current Brewers skipper Craig Counsell will be the subject of much speculation. He did not rejoin Milwaukee despite his contract expiring after this season. However, Counsell is a Wisconsin native and may want to follow Stearns’ example in stepping back from day-to-day life this season rather than immediately pursue a different opening.

How Stearns views Showalter is a microcosm of how he views the larger operation he inherited. How much does he value continuity with some of Eppler’s new hires — whether on the coaching staff or a group of front-office officials whose words influence him — and how much does he want to start over with his staff?

Stearns inherited consultant and longtime Triple-A manager Rick Sweet, and thus did not hire a manager at either level.

When asked about his employment situation before Tuesday’s game — with the team yet to announce the news about Stearns — Showalter said he’s “not thinking about those things.”

“This is not the time and place to go there,” Showalter said.

How should the Mets handle their young players?

Tuesday night, the bottom half of the Mets’ lineup featured a quartet of important prospects: Francisco Alvarez, Brett Batty, Ronnie Mauricio, and Mark Vientos. Do they want to make that an everyday dynamic next season?

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Alvarez has established himself as the club’s everyday keeper, and Bate has been manning the day-to-day role at number three for most of this season, despite his struggles. In a short snippet of big performances, Mauricio showed elite exit speed, and he can play second base with Jeff McNeil moving to the corner outfield spot. Vientos has shown flashes of power at the major league level, and the Mets may want to move on from Daniel Vogelbach as their primary hitter (or, in the case of moving Alonso, put Vientos at first base).

Trying to break through with so many young players at the same time will come with a lot of growing pains. Last spring, when I spoke to executives about the challenges of integrating young prospects into larger markets, one piece of advice was: “Be careful about how many people you try at one time,” because the range of outcomes is so large. wide. It is unlikely that the team will hit them all at the same time.

What about Starling Marty and the field?

It is still unclear if Marty will return in 2023 after hip issues. Overall, Marty has not felt healthy all season. He had hip surgery on both sides during the offseason, causing him to fall behind his teammates in spring training. In addition to hip problems, severe migraines have limited its availability. When healthy, Marty, 34, is the Mets’ starting right fielder. But how much can they reasonably expect from him – and what plans should they make if they can no longer count on large contributions?

Last year, Marty received MVP votes and became an All-Star; As the team’s No. 2 hitter in the order, he hit 16 home runs with 18 stolen bases and produced an .814 OPS. He played in 118 matches. Marty participated in only 86 matches this season. He has a .625 OPS. Marte remains under contract for another two years and $41.5 million.

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The Mets could be positioned elsewhere in the outfield, depending on their plan for McNeil/Mauricio at second base and left field; Brandon Nimmo is firmly established in midfield. However, Marty emerges as a key question.

With Milwaukee, Stearns sometimes carried a surplus of outfielders. For example, in 2021 (and without a universal DH), the Brewers entered the season with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Aviciel Garcia. As it turns out, the group has been hit hard by injuries and poor performance, making depth essential. And after the season — once Garcia became a free agent — Milwaukee flipped Bradley and two other prospects to the Boston Red Sox for Hunter Renfrow. The financial equation couldn’t be more different in New York than in Milwaukee, which is operating on a tight budget, but the move showed an ability to get out of an unwanted contract (Bradley was owed $9.5 million after producing one of baseball’s worst offensive seasons in 2021). ) while filling the need.

How much rotation for 2024 already exists within the company?

Kodai Senga is on his way to getting some Cy Young votes, and José Quintana has been exactly what the Mets signed since he made his debut in July. after that? There have been a lot of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ younger starters for the Mets.

The inability of David Peterson or Tylor Megill to capitalize on opportunities early in the season helped diminish the Mets’ fortunes. They’ve been performing better lately, but they’re still not good enough to put them comfortably in the rotation for next season. Jose Boto and Joey Lucchesi have pitched decently in small big-league samples, but their lingering behind the uninspiring Peterson and Miguel all season suggests they remain lower in the organizational hierarchy. Mike Vassell is unlikely to reach the major leagues this season, as the Mets prefer to keep his spot open on the 40-man roster.

New York signed three starters in free agency last winter, with Verlander joining Senga and Quintana. If the Mets aren’t ready to hand the keys over to anyone else in the home stretch, they’ll need to add at least three arms back.

(Top photo of Pete Alonso: Wendell Cruz/USA Today)

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