Four things Carlos Correa’s shock signing means for Mets as Steve Cohen tries to put team ‘over the top’

There was a hot stove early Wednesday morning: Carlos Correa signing with the New York Mets.

Correa’s 13-year, $350 million contract with the San Francisco Giants reportedly hit a snag Tuesday when a medical issue arose during his physical. The Giants canceled Correa’s scheduled introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon, and apparently that’s when the Mets swooped in. Correa’s new contract is worth $315 million over 12 years.

“We needed one more thing, and this is it,” Mets owner Steve Cohen said New York Post after the Korea agreement. “That was important… That puts us on top. This is a good team. I hope they are a good team!”.

Correa may indeed be the “one more thing” that “puts us over the top,” as Cohen put it. That doesn’t mean the Mets are done for the offseason. There are still two months left until spring training and we can’t rule them out for anything. Let’s break down what Correa’s signing means for the Mets moving forward.

1. The lineup has been upgraded

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The obvious statement is obvious, but prior to signing Correa, the Mets hadn’t done much to improve a lineup that was fifth in runs scored in 2022 but only 16th in home runs. Only three of the 12 postseason teams hit fewer home runs. Cohen re-signed Brandon Nimmo, though he spent most of his money on pitching this offseason (Edwin Díaz, José Quintana, Kodai Senga, Justin Verlander, etc.). Now the Mets have added Correa to the lineup.

Here’s New York’s new look:

  1. CF Brandon Nimmo, LHB
  2. 3B Carlos Correa, RHB
  3. SS Francisco Lindor, SHB
  4. 1B Pete Alonso, RHB
  5. 2B Jeff McNeil, LHB
  6. RF Starling Marte, RHB
  7. DH Daniel Vogelbach, LHB
  8. LF Mark Canha, RHB
  9. C Omar Narváez, LHB

Correa replaces Eduardo Escobar at third base, and Escobar, if not traded, figures to platoon with Vogelbach at DH. Escobar is a switch-hitter, but he’s actually better against left-handed pitchers, so he and the lefty-swinging Vogelbach could form a very productive platoon. Signing Correa upgraded third base and DH.

2. McCann will be on the move

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This was likely to happen with or without Correa. The Mets signed Narváez earlier this week and figure to pair him with incumbent Tomás Nido behind the plate. Top prospect Francisco Alvarez, who made his MLB debut in late 2022, is ready for the majors and will also be part of the catcher/DH combo. That leaves veteran James McCann without a defined role.

McCann, 32, has hit .220/.282/.328 in his two seasons with the Mets and is owed $12 million for each of the next two seasons. The free agent catching market has been picked clean and the trade market doesn’t offer much either. Clubs in need (Cubs? Diamondbacks? Rays?) reach out to the Mets and see how much money they’re willing to eat to move McCann.

For the Mets, moving McCann isn’t so much about saving money — they have about $388 million committed to payroll in 2023, saving a few bucks isn’t Cohen’s priority — it’s about clearing a logjam and creating a more functional roster. They might pay McCann’s entire salary just to move him. With the signing of Correa, the McCann deal moves closer to top priority.

3. They should continue to add to the bullpen

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The bullpen is the only area of ​​the roster the Mets can still significantly improve. They were able to keep Díaz, their closer and Adam Ottavino, as well as bringing in David Robertson and Brooks Raley this offseason. As things stand, New York’s bullpen looks something like this:

There is still room for improvement and, earlier this week, The Mets were rumored to be interested in White Sox closer Liam Hendriks. If they don’t want to go the trade route, free agency still offers lefties Andrew Chafin and Taylor Rogers and righty Craig Kimbrel. It’s hard to think of a better place for Kimbrel to try to reinvent himself, no? He shouldn’t be the guy with the Mets.

The point is, expect the Mets to continue to chip away at this bullpen and improve the roster as much as possible. You don’t commit nearly $400 million in payroll just to enter the season with question marks in middle relief.

4. Batty and Escobar are candidates for commercial purposes

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Bati more than Escobar. The Mets could easily keep Escobar as a high-quality infield and DH depth. He has just one year and $10 million left on his contract. Baty, meanwhile, entered 2022 as one of the top 30 prospects in baseball, and is now edged out by Correa at third base. The Mets could move Baty to a new position (left field?), though that’s easier said than done. (Just ask the Cardinals about Nolan Gorman at second base.)

At this point though, why wouldn’t the Mets at least gauge the trade market for Baty, a nearly MLB-ready third baseman with no obvious path to playing time after signing Correa? The Athletics, Cubs, Giants, Marlins, Rays, Tigers, Twins and Yankees stand out as clubs that could use a young third baseman. Maybe the Mets could turn Baty into, say, a young center fielder who can take over when Nimmo has to move to corner in a few years. It never hurts to listen. I could also listen to Baty.

It’s fair to wonder if all these moves have made the Mets the NL East favorites. Prior to Correa’s signing, FanGraphs had the Braves as the projected best team in baseball with a .567 winning percentage. The Yankees were right behind them at .566 and the Mets were third at .560. On paper, it’s close enough that injuries and the normal randomness of baseball could decide the division race. The NL East race skyrocketed last season, remember.

However, Cohen and the Mets are leaving nothing to chance. Adding Correa is a huge upgrade and frees up the front office to do something like, say, trade Baty for Hendriks to significantly improve the bullpen. Or use Escobar as the platoon’s lefty beast instead of forcing him into the lineup on a daily basis. Correa improves the Mets themselves but also through the dominoes he has on the rest of the roster.

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