The Mets made their first big appearance in the Billy Eppler era on Friday, signing Eduardo Escobar to a two-year, $ 20 million contract.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a bad deal. And it is not. But, as in years past, they cannot take this as their “big move” and call it a day, and they certainly need to use this acquisition as a building block rather than an answer. The good news is that there is still plenty of time.
Escobar is 32 and will be 33 this coming season. Signing older players is nothing new for the Mets, although that is reasonable enough for Escobar given that it is only for two years (with an option for a third year). As Thomas Hall noted in a item on Friday (before signing) Escobar is a short-term solution.
There is no doubt that in the short term, Escobar will be a solid addition. He’s posted at least 3.0 fWAR in each of the past three full seasons (-0.5 out of 54 games in 2020). He’s an above average regular.
As an everyday third baseman, he effectively forces Jonathan Villar off the roster. He also provides a fallback if Robinson Cano suffers another injury setback (or is suspended again for PED). With Cano approaching 40 and coming off a suspension, he certainly can’t be counted on to be a regular player no matter what.
Add all of that at a reasonable price and an option for a third year if things go well, and it’s hard to say much bad about this signing. The Mets got an above average regular for a reasonable price before December. And to follow up, they signed a few hours later his compatriot Mark Canha, 32 years old.
But they have to do more. As for the infield, Escobar’s acquisition means the Mets are probably on a top player like Kris Bryant or Carlos Correa. Which is good – if they are using the resources elsewhere.
Javier Baez is probably still a possibility, but with his recent talks with the Tigers he has no guarantees of returning. If the Mets lose it, that’s just one more reason for them to acquire a bigger name.
It’s still very early in the offseason, so the Mets front office certainly deserves a little patience from the fans. They haven’t exactly developed the best reputation when it comes to things like this, however, naturally some fans are probably going to get a little nervous. Even with a new GM, it can be difficult to give the Mets the benefit of the doubt when they’ve let their fans down so many times before.
In many ways, the rest of this offseason will be a test for Eppler. If the following months do not include any significant signature or transaction for the Mets, then it would be fair to say that they are “the same old Mets”. But he talked about a big game in his press conference, specifically saying he would be aggressive in the starting pitching market. Now is the time to see if he will actually confirm it.
Ultimately, Escobar’s signing is solid if they do more, like making a splash with one of the big starting pitchers. They can’t accept Escobar as their biggest move and expect to magically become a rival team.
The Mets have relied on so many assumptions over the past few seasons and it hasn’t worked. It’s a move they would have made under the Wilpons and called it an offseason.
They can’t do that anymore. At least not if they want to be seen as a serious competitor. With a new front office that has expressed its commitment to being aggressive and many players still available in the market, the Mets should build on that Escobar signing and go all out.
Otherwise, it should be seen as a disappointment.