Can the Mets replicate last winter’s MLB free agency success?

MLB’s hot stove season is in full swing. While no major free agents have signed a new deal just yet (outside of Edwin Diaz), rumors are flying fast and furious. The Mets, a team both willing and able to spend this winter to contend in 2023, are talking to lots of dudes.

We know they’re interested in retaining Jacob deGrom and Brandon Nimmo. We’ve also heard reports of general manager Billy Eppler and his front office either expressing interest or meeting with guys like Kodai Senga, Justin Verlander, Jameson Taillon, Andrew Heaney, and Carlos Rodon.

That’s just to name a few — it’s by no means an exhaustive list.

As New York gears up for what’s sure to be an expensive winter, there’s one burning question to ask. Can the Mets replicate their success in free agency from last year?

The Amazins won 101 games in 2022. While their first trip to the playoffs since 2016 resulted in a Wild Card Round exit, it was a banner year in many ways. It was just the fourth time New York hit the century mark as an organization. Also, the only time the Mets won more regular-season games was in 1986 when they piled up 108 victories.

What was the biggest catalyst for this success? Sure, big years from Nimmo and Pete Alonso, along with bounce-back campaigns from Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil, helped out. But it was New York’s offseason moves that took the squad to another level.

And if we specifically look at what Eppler did via free agency, each signing led to some sort of positive contribution in 2022.

Max Scherzer: three years, $130 million. Scherzer’s last two starts put a damper on his year, but it was a typical performance from Mad Max. He accumulated 4.4 fWAR while posting a 2.29 ERA in 145.1 innings. When he wasn’t on the injured list himself, he also led the rotation while deGrom was sidelined until August.

Starling Marte: four years, $78 million. Marte was selected to represent the Mets at the All-Star Game in July. His presence at the top of the order was immediately felt when paired with Nimmo. That same presence was also sorely missed in September after he hit the IL with a fractured finger. He compiled 3.0 fWAR in 118 games played.

Mark Canha: two years, $26.5 million. Canha performed close to career norms during his first year in New York. He racked up 2.8 fWAR in 140 games played, which included a .266/.367/.403 line, 13 home runs, and 61 RBI.

Eduardo Escobar: two years, $20 million. For most of the first five months, the Escobar signing seemed like the worst of this bunch. It may still be, but the torrid month of September he put together completely changed the outlook of it all. Through August 31st (420 plate appearances), he owned an 86 wRC+ and a .652 OPS. From September 1st through the end of the regular season (122 plate appearances), Escobar posted a 176 wRC+ and .982 OPS. Overall, his performance was worth 2.3 fWAR.

Adam Ottavino: one year, $4 million. The Mets fortified their bullpen by signing Ottavino in March. It seemed like a decent low-risk, high-reward signing, and New York was rewarded handsomely. Ottavino became one of the main pitchers in the bridge between Mets starters and Diaz. He posted 1.1 fWAR and a 2.06 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched. From June 1st through the end of the regular season, Ottavino twirled a sparkling 1.31 ERA.

Honorable mentions. This haul in free agency leaves out a few guys. John Curtiss ($770K) didn’t pitch at all while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Outfielder Nick Plummer ($700K) didn’t spend much time in the majors with the Mets, but he made his time count. His first career hit was a game-tying home run against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although he wasn’t a free agent, let’s not forget about the Mets trading for Chris Bassitt once the lockout was over. He was the only New York starter to qualify for the ERA title. In 181.2 innings, Bassitt posted a 3.42 ERA and 2.7 fWAR for New York.

And, last but not least, manager Buck Showalter needs to be included here. All he did was win his fourth Manager of the Year Award during his first season with the organization.

Not counting Bassitt (who earned $8.8 million), the Mets spent a total of $89.903 million in free agency for 2022. If we’re talking about the total dollars spent over the course of the contracts they dished out, that number settled in at $259.27 million.

We obviously don’t know what the remainder of these contracts will bring. However, it can unequivocally be said that each of these moves made by the Mets’ front office was a success. New York wouldn’t have been as successful and reached the postseason without them.

With a bunch of players hitting free agency this winter, Eppler is faced with a daunting task: doing it again.

Obviously, hanging out at the top of the market and having the money to spend on some elite free agents makes this task a bit easier. Under Steve Cohen’s Mets, the goal is clear — contend for the postseason and a World Series title every year. While New York continues to rebuild its farm system, a lot of those efforts will come through acquiring big-league talent to supplement the roster.

Eppler did a great job of that last winter. He’ll be hoping to avoid all the whammies once again this offseason, too.

Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

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