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The New York Mets traded Max Scherzer to the Texas Rangers ahead of the MLB trade deadline, and a major reason for the divorce came down to the team’s plans for the winter amid their struggle this season.
“Max asked me straight up if I’d be all-in on free agents, and I couldn’t give him that promise,” Mets’ owner Steve Cohen told reporters on Wednesday.
Scherzer himself told reporters on Tuesday that New York’s “shifting vision” was the impetus for him to waive his no-trade clause:
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“They’re looking to compete now for 2025 and 2026. It was not gonna be a reload situation in New York. It was gonna be more of a transition in 2024.”
Max Scherzer talks about his conversations with Billy Eppler and Steve Cohen around the trade deadline: pic.twitter.com/s9hT1IsVEd
“They were looking to make decisions to compete outside of my contract window. I said, ‘OK, that’s brand new news to me.’ Different than what I’d ever heard out of Steve’s mouth. I was like, ‘Alright, I’ve gotta hear this directly from Steve.’ So I had a phone call with Steve, and he basically articulated the same vantage point. That was the new vision for the Mets. That was the new timeline they were identifying. And that players that were under contract for next year could potentially be sold off at the deadline right now, and that the team could be really flipped around at the deadline. Once it became official that was the vision for the Mets, I said, ‘Yes, I will waive my no-trade clause’ under those pretenses.”
It shouldn’t come as a major surprise that the Mets pivoted. The most expensive payroll in baseball history led the team to a 50-56 record. Instead of hoping the team could turn things around and fight its way back into the Wild Card picture, Cohen and the front office pulled the trigger on a comprehensive fire sale, dealing Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Tommy Pham, David Robertson, Mark Canha and Dominic Leone.
“If you’re gonna have a 12% of getting into the playoffs, those are pretty crummy odds. I wouldn’t want to be betting any money on that, and I don’t think anybody else would, either. Hope’s not a strategy.”
– Steve Cohen pic.twitter.com/ih5XuLqNvc
That brought back a number of intriguing prospects to restock the farm system and essentially hit the reset button on the organization. There are still stars in town, most notably Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso, but the Mets are moving in a new direction from last winter’s cash-splashing spree in free agency.
Granted, that hardly means the team intends to tank:
“The expectations were really high this year, and my guess is next year will be a lot lower… I don’t want to roll a team out there that we’re gonna be embarrassed by.”
Steve Cohen says he thinks the Mets will be “highly competitive” next season: pic.twitter.com/O7x5v4lUjb
Just don’t expect the Mets to enter the 2024 season with the highest payroll in baseball. Last winter’s “win now” directive is being pushed down the road a few years after the team’s moves at the trade deadline.