Web Analytics
Mets Hire David Stearns: Five Questions Facing New Boss, Including What To Do With Pete Alonso, Buck Showalter » TheSportsDay Mets Hire David Stearns: Five Questions Facing New Boss, Including What To Do With Pete Alonso, Buck Showalter » TheSportsDay

Mets hire David Stearns: Five questions facing new boss, including what to do with Pete Alonso, Buck Showalter

The New York Mets will hire Milwaukee Brewers executive David Stearns as their president of baseball operations once the regular season concludes, CBS Sports HQ has confirmed. Stearns, who stepped down from his post at the end of last season, will become the Mets’ top baseball operations decision maker, overseeing incumbent general manager Billy Eppler and company.

Stearns is coming off a highly successful tenure with the Brewers, one that saw him guide Milwaukee to the postseason in four consecutive years despite never ranking in the top half of the league in payroll. (The Brewers are primed to once again make the playoffs this year, giving them five berths in six tries.) As for his new team, the Mets have been one of the season’s biggest disappointments. They enter Wednesday with a 66-78 record, putting them only 1.5 games ahead of the Washington Nationals for last place in the NL East.

Just what challenges is Stearns likely to face once he officially moves into his new corner office? Here are, in our estimation, the five biggest questions facing him and the Mets this offseason. 

1. To extend or trade Alonso?

The Mets, of course, reacted to their underperformance by trading away a number of key veterans at the deadline, including aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. They also reportedly entertained offers for franchise first baseman Pete Alonso, who is scheduled to hit the open market after the 2024 campaign.

Stearns will need to determine what the best path forward is with Alonso — be it an extension, a trade, or a willingness to punt that decision down the road.

Alonso, 29 come December, has been a highly productive and popular member of the Mets lineup since debuting in 2019. He’s made three All-Star Games since and has amassed a career line of .253/.345/.533 (138 OPS+) with full-season averages of 46 home runs, 118 RBI, and 4.2 Wins Above Replacement. Viewed from that perspective, extending Alonso is a no-brainer, even if he ends up requiring in excess of $25 million annually.

Here’s a look at the five highest paid first basemen in MLB history based on their average annual value:

The catch is that Alonso is a right-handed-hitting and -throwing  first baseman, and those have a tendency to age poorly. José Abreu, for example, has had a miserable season with the Houston Astros after signing a three-year pact with them worth nearly $60 million. Abreu was significantly older (he’ll turn 37 in January), but there’s a great deal of risk in betting long term on a player who offers limited defensive value and positional versatility. 

It’s for that reason that members of rival front offices have expressed to CBS Sports their belief that Alonso is unlikely to fetch the Mets a king’s ransom through trade. Might the marketplace prove to be so tepid as to cause Stearns to hold onto Alonso, at least until the next July? We’ll find out soon enough. 

2. Will they chase Ohtani?

Speaking of big-money contracts, the Mets had been identified as one of the most obvious suitors for impending free agent Shohei Ohtani. 

The two-way superstar recently tore his ulnar collateral ligament, a development that may prevent him from pitching next season. Ohtani is still expected to be available to hit for most of the year, depending on if and when he undergoes Tommy John surgery. He’s also still expected to break the MLB record for the most lucrative contract in league history, with several executives speculating to CBS Sports that he could top $500 million. 

The dilemma facing Stearns and crew is whether they should get serious about landing arguably the most talented player in the history of the sport or pass on the opportunity and use those resources elsewhere to improve a roster that clearly isn’t a single player away from contention. 

3. Is Showalter on his way out?

Whereas the Mets are widely expected to keep general manager Billy Eppler in tow as their second in command of baseball operations, there hasn’t been as much reported about their intention with skipper Buck Showalter. 

Showalter, 67, has another season remaining on his contract. Teams are often reluctant to expose their managers to lame-duck situations. Usually, that means they either make a change or sign the manager to an extension before they head into their final season. There are always exceptions, and Showalter might end up proving to be one as Stearns settles into his new surroundings.

Still, from our perspective, there would appear to be a few factors working against Showalter remaining in town beyond this season.

Foremost, Showalter is the manager of a highly disappointing and expensive team. Teams who underperform like the Mets have this year often make a change just to shake up the culture. Additionally, incoming executives tend to want their own people installed in power positions. It probably doesn’t help Showalter’s case that Stearns’ former manager with the Brewers, Craig Counsell, is expected to become a free agent once the season ends. 

Granted, Stearns may not want to make a change right away, and he may have no interest in reuniting with Counsell. But until the Mets declare that Showalter will return next season, it’s going to be a topic of speculation.

4. How will they upgrade the rotation?

No matter how Stearns and crew proceed with respect to Alonso and Ohtani, they’re going to have to address the rotation. 

You figure that the Mets have two starting pitchers they feel comfortable penciling into next year’s plans — those being right-hander Kodai Senga, who has been phenomenal in his first season stateside, and veteran lefty José Quintana. Otherwise? It’s hard to see the Mets entering camp next spring with David Peterson, Tylor Megill, or José Butto in their projected rotation.

The free-agent starting pitching market looks rife with question marks. If Ohtani is unavailable to pitch in the short term, that may leave lefty Blake Snell as the top arm on the market. Lucas Giolito and Aaron Nola, both having uneven campaigns, are two other notable names certain to be available. 

The Mets have been active in scouting Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto ahead of his expected posting this winter. If they do pursue Yamamoto, they’ll face a lot of competition. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was among those who attended Yamamoto’s last start, his second career no-hitter.

5. What about the farm system?

Eppler and company received high marks from other front offices for their work at the deadline. The Mets added several notable prospects to their farm system, including infielders Luisangel Acuña and Marco Vargas and outfielders Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford. 

It seems as though Stearns will inherit the goal of continuing to build a player-development pipeline that, in time, will allow the Mets to spend less money on their big-league roster in the pursuit of winning a title.

“You are rightfully disappointed and so are we. This is not where we wanted to be in 2023. Our goal is to be a consistent contender,” owner Steve Cohen recently wrote in a letter to season-ticket holders. “The only way to do this in a sustainable way is to build a pipeline of high caliber talent in our farm system that will fuel our major league team for years to come.” 

What exactly that means for this winter is to be seen, but, if we had to guess, you’d be wise to bet against Stearns trading away from the top of his farm system for short-term veteran help.