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What to know: Mets 2020 offseason FAQ

@AnthonyDiComo
October 9, 2020

NEW YORK -- As the offseason begins to take shape, the Mets have questions. Lots of questions, from the highest levels of the organization on down. Here’s a primer for everything the team will face in the coming weeks and months: When will the Mets’ ownership situation be settled? Likely

NEW YORK -- As the offseason begins to take shape, the Mets have questions. Lots of questions, from the highest levels of the organization on down.

Here’s a primer for everything the team will face in the coming weeks and months:

When will the Mets’ ownership situation be settled?
Likely soon, and perhaps within a few weeks. Earlier this month, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that he wants to process the Mets’ sale from Sterling Equities to Steve Cohen “as quickly as possible” to give the club a fair opportunity to build its roster this winter. When the Mets first announced plans of a sale, sources said a vote would take place no later than the MLB Owners Meetings in November. Now, it seems like the process could finish sooner.

Cohen has already signed an agreement to purchase the team and is simply waiting for approval from MLB’s other 29 owners to make the transaction official.

5 key questions for Mets this offseason

What will the front office look like once that happens?
All we know right now is that Sandy Alderson will return to serve as team president, almost certainly with a general manager reporting to him. The major question is whether the Mets will retain current GM Brodie Van Wagenen in that role or dismiss him following two straight seasons without a postseason berth. If the Mets choose the latter route, it’s unclear whether they will immediately hire a new GM or proceed on an interim basis with others on staff -- former big league GMs Allard Baird and Omar Minaya or ex-assistant GM John Ricco, most likely -- running the show.

Which players are set to become free agents?
Outfielders Yoenis Céspedes and Jake Marisnick, infielders Jed Lowrie and Eduardo Núñez, starting pitchers Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha and relievers Justin Wilson, Jared Hughes and Erasmo Ramírez will all hit the open market next month.

Will any of them receive qualifying offers, and what is the deadline for that?
Stroman is a prime candidate to receive a qualifying offer, which is a one-year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries in Major League Baseball (last year, it was $17.8 million). If Stroman rejects it to seek a multi-year deal on the open market, the Mets will receive Draft-pick compensation.

No other pending free agents are candidates for the qualifying offer. The Mets have five days after the final game of the World Series to extend an offer to Stroman, who will then have 10 days to decide whether to accept it.

Which players have options, what’s the dollar figure and impact on payroll and when must those decisions be made?
Reliever Dellin Betances has an intriguing player option worth $6 million if he accepts. If Betances rejects that option, the Mets must pay him a $3 million buyout, giving him incentive to do so unless he doesn’t believe he can beat a one-year, $3 million contract in free agency. It’s possible Betances could opt for the security of his current deal, considering he is coming off a season in which he pitched though injury, had significant velocity loss and produced a 7.71 ERA. He is, on top of everything, a New York native.

Right-hander Brad Brach also has a $1.25 million player option. Another local player, Brach is a strong candidate to accept it after posting a 5.84 ERA in relief.

Additionally, the Mets hold team options on catchers Wilson Ramos ($10 million, with a $1.5 million buyout) and Robinson Chirinos ($6.5 million, with a $1.5 million buyout), as well as third baseman Todd Frazier ($5.75 million, with a $1.5 million buyout). The club isn’t likely to exercise any of those.

All option decisions must be made within three days of the World Series finale.

Who might be a non-tender candidate, and when must the club make that decision?
Of the Mets’ 10 arbitration-eligible players, pitcher Robert Gsellman is the most prominent non-tender candidate. It’s a tricky situation. New York didn’t get a great look this year at Gsellman, who missed significant time due to injuries and, when healthy, unsuccessfully tried to stretch out to be a starter on the fly. Gsellman has been an important piece for the Mets in the past, but he’s starting to get expensive, having made $1.23 million through arbitration last season. New York will have to decide if his upside is still worth the cost.

Steven Matz will be arbitration-eligible for the third and final time this winter, coming off a year in which he made $5 million and posted a 9.68 ERA. Those numbers would hint at a non-tender possibility, but the Mets will likely consider Matz too talented to let go for nothing.

The deadline for the Mets to tender contracts to Gsellman, Matz and other arbitration-eligible players is Dec. 2.

Do the Mets have any extension candidates?
Certainly, although given the uncertainty of its ownership change, the team isn’t likely to pursue extensions until later in the offseason. Outfielder Michael Conforto is the most obvious candidate one year out from free agency, and the Mets have already casually approached him on the topic. Whether those talks intensify will be a storyline worth watching in January and February.

Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft?
The Mets don’t have much to worry about during the Rule 5 Draft this year. Their most prominent unprotected prospect, infielder Shervyen Newton (the club's No. 14 prospect per MLB Pipeline), struggled in 2019 and isn’t a serious candidate to spend a full year on a team's big league roster. New York doesn't have a 40-man roster crunch to open the offseason, so there’s room to add a prospect for protection purposes if it wants, but a major influx onto the 40-man is unlikely.

The deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft is Nov. 20.

What kind of help do the Mets need, and will they be active in free agency?
While it’s impossible to know how Cohen and Alderson will run their first offseason together, the new owner’s deep pockets -- combined with the Mets’ obvious areas of need -- make it likely that the club will be active in free agency. New York badly needs a starting catcher, with J.T. Realmuto easily the top option available on the open market. If that pursuit fails, the Mets’ next-best choice is probably James McCann, who is coming off consecutive strong seasons with the White Sox.

The Mets also need multiple starting pitchers to fill out their rotation. Trevor Bauer, Masahiro Tanaka, Stroman and plenty of others look like potential fits for New York, which could also try to fill these vacancies via trade. Right now, the Mets’ only surefire starting pitchers are Jacob deGrom and David Peterson.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.