PHILADELPHIA -- The Mets, already featuring the most expensive player payroll in Major League history, are now using Steve Cohen’s financial muscle to add talent to the organization in more creative ways.
The Mets opened trading season with a deal to add pitching on Friday, sending veteran infielder Eduardo Escobar to the Angels for right-handed prospects Coleman Crow and Landon Marceaux. The Double-A pitchers, who both ranked in the Top 20 on MLB Pipeline’s Angels prospect list, help fortify a farm system weak in upper-level talent.
Mets get: RHP Coleman Crow (Angels' No. 19 prospect), RHP Landon Marceaux (No. 20)
Angels get: INF Eduardo Escobar, cash
The Mets essentially purchased those pitchers from the Angels by agreeing to pay all of Escobar’s salary except for the Major League minimum, which (per league rule) must be on Los Angeles’ books. Escobar is making $9.5 million this season with a $9 million 2024 option that includes a $500,000 buyout. (The Mets will not be on the hook for the option if the Angels choose to exercise it.)
“Steve makes stuff like this happen because he’s willing to spend the money to get other prospects in the door,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a telephone interview. “I think this just shows there’s commitment to our long-term build.”
Why did the Mets choose to trade Escobar now?
Although Escobar was an important piece of last year’s 101-win Mets roster, he had lost the majority of his playing time to rookie Brett Baty. That made him expendable for a team that also has third basemen Luis Guillorme and Mark Vientos in the organization.
Rather than continue to use Escobar in a part-time platoon role, the Mets sprung into action when the Angels called to inquire about corner infielders. The sides worked out concepts late this week before agreeing Friday to a structure that would net the Mets both Crow and Marceaux in exchange for Escobar, who was batting .236 with four home runs in 40 games.
The deal is an example of the type of structure the Mets could use in future trades, using Cohen’s money to pay down contracts and receive better prospects in return. The idea is to accelerate their rebuild of a farm system that is already much stronger than it was two-three years ago.
How good are the prospects the Mets received?
Crow, 22, is a 2019 28th-round Draft pick who has broken out this season with a 1.88 ERA over four starts at Double-A Rocket City. Those numbers include 31 strikeouts and six walks in 24 innings. He becomes the 11th-ranked prospect in the Mets’ system, per MLB Pipeline.
Marceaux, 23, was a third-round Draft pick in 2021. He owns a 4.88 ERA in 12 starts this season but produced a 2.98 mark last year, with the bulk of that production coming at High-A Tri-City. He becomes the 18th-ranked prospect in New York’s system.
Those two join Mike Vasil, Dominic Hamel and José Butto as the starting pitching prospects most likely to help the Mets next season. Although the Mets have several high-ceiling pitchers in their farm system, the bulk of them are still at the lowest levels of the Minor Leagues. Crow and Marceaux help address that hole.
What’s the downside of trading Escobar, and who might replace him?
There is an emotional component to losing Escobar, a popular teammate who hopes to become an American citizen later this month. But the Mets were willing to pay that price to improve their farm system.
“It’s tough,” said manager Buck Showalter, who alerted Escobar of the trade during Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Phillies. “It’s a tough conversation. … Everybody has a lot of respect for him. I think the thing that makes it a little more palatable is it’s a good spot for him, a good place for him to reestablish himself as the player that we know he can be.”
Although fourth-ranked prospect Ronny Mauricio is capable of playing third base, the Mets have no plans to call him up until they are ready to start him every day. As of Friday evening, Mets officials were debating two primary options to replace Escobar: Vientos and Danny Mendick. The former was just optioned to the Minors, but is eligible to be recalled because of the trade. The latter is an offseason signing who homered Friday at Triple-A Syracuse and is riding a six-game hitting streak.
Does this mean the Mets are selling at the Trade Deadline?
This deal does not indicate an impending selloff for the fourth-place Mets. While the team could deal away additional roster pieces prior to the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, that is not a decision Eppler intends to make for several weeks. A scenario still exists in which the Mets begin playing better and seek additions at the Deadline, just as one exists in which the Mets do little buying or selling.
In either event, the Mets understand that their play will dictate Eppler’s strategy.
“Usually that’s what happens: we don’t play well, people lose jobs,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “But I don’t see us as a team that’s going to sell out. I see us as a team that’s going to contend, that’s going to be there. We’re built to be contenders.”
More than anything, the Mets intend to continue making moves that improve the overall health of their organization in 2024 and beyond.