It was early December a year ago when the free-agent market burst into action, with the likes of Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler agreeing to nine-figure deals shortly after Mike Moustakas went to the Reds for four years and $64 million.
The Mets were hardly players in that market. They let Wheeler go to the Phillies without making an offer, and were content to bring in Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and Dellin Betances in hopes of bounce-back seasons.
Soon, the impact of having Steve Cohen running things in Queens should be evident.
“I’d expect more movement throughout the league in the coming weeks,’’ one player agent said. “It’s been as quiet as we thought it would be and once the non-tendered guys hit the market this week, we’ll have a better read on what’s available and you’d think that’s when it will start to pick up and the Mets will be in the mix more than they have in the past.”
Signs continue to point in that direction.
On Saturday, Cohen replied on Twitter to a fan inquiring about the offseason that there was “nothing to report yet. Lots of irons in the fire.”
Cohen made a big splash when he took over the Mets earlier this month. This past week in an interview with SNY, Cohen admitted finding a president of baseball operations proved more difficult than he had anticipated.
“I’m a little surprised we haven’t been able to find people for the front office,” Cohen said. “I thought it would be a little bit easier than it has been. Baseball is kind of funny where you have to ask for permission and we are not getting a lot of permission, whatever the reasons are.’’
The Mets continue to search for a general manager to serve under team president Sandy Alderson, who was Cohen’s first hire.
The hedge fund maven Cohen has also followed through on his vow not to immediately pour money into the free-agent market.
That hasn’t hurt the Mets much yet, although they had figured to be contenders for Charlie Morton, who signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Braves.
And with teams throughout the league hurt by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mets should have plenty of opportunities to strike in free agency, with George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, DJ LeMahieu and Trevor Bauer all on the market and ideally suited to fill roles in Queens.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t have any competition.
While the Phillies laid off 80 employees last week — reducing their front office workforce by 20 percent according to The Philadelphia Inquirer — other teams may continue to spend.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said earlier in the month that his team’s payroll is “not going down” under new general manager Perry Minasian, who replaced Billy Eppler, the former assistant GM with the Yankees.
And Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his team doesn’t “have a hard-and-fast budget. It’s fluid.”
But as the agent noted, Cohen has made no secret of being a longtime Mets fan and he’s about to have a chance to remake the organization.
“This is a unique situation and we’re about to find out how he handles it with Alderson,’’ the agent said. “We don’t know much about what they’re going to do, but they won’t be quiet.”