Well, while we Mets fans were all stuffed with stuffing or getting in shut-eye before our Black Friday shifts on the retail fury road, Uncle Steve Cohen and new general manager Billy Eppler were writing some big checks. Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, and Starling Marte are all coming to Queens.
We all started to get worried. The potential cutoff of business on December 2nd is around the corner. Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Loup had jumped ship to play for the Angels. The press was writing biting commentaries about how no one wanted to work or play for the Mets. that we were cursed, that all of our big names would find greener pastures elsewhere and leave Citi Field a rusting hole in the middle of one of Queens’ most forgotten eyesores off the 7 line.
But just when you all think LOLMets has reached its peak – rather, its nadir – the team rises like the Home Run Apple on a walk-off grand slam. You cowards. You charlatans. How dare you disrespect the New York Mets. How dare you underestimate this fanbase. We will always find a way to overcome despair, no matter how high we must climb, no matter how far we must fall.
Let’s look at these new Mets in more detail and see how they might help out during their time on the team:
Eduardo Escobar’s coming off of a major 2021. The first-time All Star was a highlight on the otherwise-struggling Diamondbacks and a key bat after getting traded to the Brewers, smashing 28 home runs and batting .253/.314/.472 for the season. He can play just about any infield position, and in 2019 he led the entire MLB in triples (with just ten, but still.) Escobar can give the Mets the solid coverage at third base that they’ve needed; after all, the team has had to rely on Luis Guillorme for the last couple of seasons. The J.D. Davis and Jonathan Villar experiments seem to be over.
Why third base? Consider that the Mets won’t give up putting Francisco Lindor at shortstop or second base, and if they can keep Javier Baez, that will give them some flexibility in those positions as well. There’s no way that Pete Alonso won’t be anything other than first base, unless Dom Smith sticks with the team and the DH comes to the National League. So Escobar will sit pretty at third, and he’ll surely do a fantastic job of it. But if the Mets need depth in any other infield position, Escobar can jump in to help there as well.
This is a big move away from home for Mark Canha, who grew up in San Jose, spent his whole life out in the Bay Area, and played for the Oakland Athletics for his entire career up to this point. He helped the A’s go to the Wild Card game for three years in a row between 2018 and 2020, and in 2020 he was a key part of getting the team to the ALDS. In 2021 he put up a 2.5 WAR, hit .231/.358/.387 and 17 home runs, and stole a solid 12 bases. It wasn’t Canha’s best season for the A’s, but it didn’t show signs of him slowing down. He still showed that he could be a solid hitter and a key part of any section of the outfield.
The outfield is certainly an area where the Mets need to build solid depth. Last season they had to depend on minor league players from Syracuse to fill in gaps when injuries plagued the team. That created the myth of the Bench Mob, sure, but it showed a lot of weakness in the organization’s major league roster and management. Having steady hitters who can play any outfield position like Canha will give the Mets the ability to come up with stronger strategies and plug in players where they’re needed. This depends on how Canha plays in a different league and about 3,000 miles from home, of course.
Despite my previous notes about how having flexible players can give a team room to breathe, it’s also good to have infielders and outfielders that specialize in one position. Enter Starling Marte, the king of center field and the grand prize of the Mets’ Black Friday shopping spree, the player on the wish list of just about every team including the Yankees across town. Sorry, Yanks; you’ll see him at the Subway Series wearing blue and orange.
Marte’s coming off a great 2021, having played for both the Marlins and the Athletics. He comes to Queens with a 4.7 WAR last season and having batted .310/.383/.458. Sure, he only hit 12 home runs, but what Marte lacks in power hitting, he makes up for in speed. He stole a whopping 47 bases last season, the most out of any player in the entire MLB. And how he runs around the bases is how he hoofs it on the field. Marte’s skill at center field is what made him the crown jewel of every team’s eye this offseason.
You have to imagine that this will put Brandon Nimmo at right field, and it will put Michael Conforto’s career with the Mets into question. Scooter’s time in Queens has been the subject of much scrutiny over the past few months, and with the signing of Marte, it seems like either Conforto will have to adapt to a position on the team where he provides depth, or he’ll have to find a right field to cover elsewhere in the baseball world. While it’ll be nice to see Marte making money moves in the outfield, it’ll be strange for a bit, since the Mets outfield has been somewhat steady for a while now.
Every baseball team is like the ship of Theseus. If you change the players, the stadium, the location, etc., is it still the same team? Are the Mets of 2022 going to be the first-place (for a while) Mets of 2021, the post-All Star Break Miracle Mets of 2019, the World Series contenders of 2015? We don’t know. We can’t know. But with signings like Escobar, Canha, and Marte, surely the team is headed in a good direction. If anything, the new recruits come as a welcome surprise, especially at a time when most fans and press folks thought that the Mets were walking right into the Long Island Sound.
And with the deep pockets of Uncle Steve, something tells me – as it’s telling most Mets fans around the world – that this is just the beginning of the holiday festivities. Let’s go Mets, baby. Love da Mets.