While the Philadelphia Phillies will need to be pretty aggressive whenever the owner-imposed lockout concludes to address various needs on their roster, the division-rival New York Mets already have made a slew of major moves this offseason.
Before the lockout was put in place on Dec. 1, the Mets had already signed outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha — two potential Phillies targets — and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
And by all accounts, owner Steve Cohen isn’t going to stand pat once the freeze on transactions is lifted.
Even with an outfield that already includes Marte, Canha and Brandon Nimmo, new manager Buck Showalter acknowledged that the team has considered making another addition to the outfield.
In an appearance on The Michael Kay Show Thursday, ESPN‘s Buster Olney delivered perhaps an even more concerning development for the Phillies:
“This was the most interesting thing that I heard. There’s a perception in the industry that Freddie Freeman is not going back to the Braves,” Olney said. “Last summer, that was assumed, like ‘Yeah, eventually he’ll go back there.’ Now, they don’t believe that, and here’s an interesting thing. One of the teams that checked in on the Freddie Freeman availability before December 2 were the Mets.”
Freeman has spent his entire 12-year career with the Atlanta Braves to this point, making five All-Star teams, winning the 2020 NL MVP and helping the franchise to capture the 2021 World Series title.
It would also create a domino effect that would make it even harder for the Phillies to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
The first piece is obvious: Freeman would join a Mets lineup that already includes Marte, Canha, Nimmo, Eduardo Escobar, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Robinson Canó, who is set to return from a performance-enhancing drug suspension that lasted the entire 2021 season. Dom Smith and J.D. Davis would both become overqualified bench pieces (or trade candidates) after an offseason spending spree. And the Mets rotation would be led by two of the best pitchers of the last 25 years; Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.
Meanwhile, for as shocking as it would be for the Braves to let a franchise icon in Freeman walk, it’s doubtful they would rest on their laurels. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that prior to the lockout, the Braves had discussed a trade for Matt Olson with the Oakland Athletics. While Freeman’s 16.9 fWAR since the start of 2018 is the top mark among all first basemen, Olson is fourth at 13.2. Olson will turn 28 next month, as opposed to Freeman, who is 32.
Even if the Mets don’t ultimately sign Freeman, Cohen has spent in a way that would make the late George Steinbrenner proud. While the Phillies — and most teams — have shied away from surpassing the luxury tax threshold (which was $210 million in 2022), the Mets have scoffed at it this winter. Spotrac projects that with their current commitments, the Mets will have a payroll that comes in just shy of $236 million in 2022. And from the sound of things, Cohen — who has an estimated net worth of $16 billion — has no intention of pinching pennies anytime soon.
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