Back before the New York Mets fell into the abyss and sold off as many assets as possible to buy an entirely new farm system (Steven Cohen playing billionaire chess), it was believed they were going to be the Los Angeles Dodgers' biggest competitor for Shohei Ohtani in free agency.
It made sense. Cohen had made countless splashes over the last few seasons, the Mets won 101 games in 2022, and the richest owner in baseball wasn't going to halt his aggression when it came to the greatest free agent of all time. With endless financial resources, the Mets had no reason not to jump into the bidding to add an elite pitcher and hitter to their stacked roster.
But 2023 was dreadful for the Mets. They spiraled, lost all hope, and traded Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, David Robertson and Tommy Pham before the deadline.
Of course, Scherzer came out and spilled the beans because that's just what he does, and revealed the Mets told him their plan was to contend by 2025, with 2024 seemingly being a transition period. If that was true, Ohtani was certainly off the Mets' radar, right? That doesn't seem to fit either party's plans.
But then ... we wondered if the Mets lied to Scherzer just to get the pitcher to waive his no-trade clause and get him out of town because of how bad he'd been for New York. And then ... Ohtani underwent elbow surgery that directly impacts his 2024 season. So are the Mets now back in the mix?
Dodgers Rumors: MLB insider's Shohei Ohtani update suggests Mets may have tricked everyone
MLB insider Ken Rosenthal believes the Ohtani free agency sweepstakes will come down to the Dodgers and Mets, and we can't rule out anything he says. His finger is right on the pulse of all things MLB.
That leaves us wondering if the Mets had tricked everyone all along. Did they just sell off their most expensive pieces to get top young talent (with favorable MLB timelines) in return so they could re-position themselves for Ohtani?
Too much of a conspiracy theory for you? OK, let's say that's completely false and the Mets were really dedicated to fixing this mess. Let's say all along, they were viewing 2024 as a bridge year. Even so, the Mets were always considered to be an Ohtani suitor, but their plans didn't seem to align with his, which would've obviously tuned him away regardless of the money.
But could Ohtani's surgery and timeline for recovery make this pairing more of a fit? The Mets don't plan to contend until 2025. Ohtani won't be fully healthy until 2025. Cohen theoretically has the most money to offer.
Again, it all comes down to Ohtani's willingness to sign across the country and be that much farther away from his native Japan. Back in 2018, he eliminated the presumptive favorites, the New York Yankees, first in his search. The suitors gradually dwindled down to all west coast teams.
Rosenthal suspects the Giants, Mariners and Rangers will be possibilities, but how much more convincing would their arguments be over the Dodgers' and Mets'? And most concerning of all is Ohtani's rumored penchant for defying convention, and choosing the Mets over the Dodgers would be doing exactly that.