Steve Cohen Beginning to Follow Through on ‘East Coast Dodgers’ Promiseby Ben Fadden February 21, 2021 0 comments
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen made a statement during his introductory press conference on November 10, 2020, that is worth repeating. After the organization reached an agreement with Kevin Pillar on Monday night, Cohen said “I like what the Dodgers are doing.”, referring to how he wants to build his organization.
The Mets did not sign any of the four big-name free agents, but they have added multiple bench pieces who could have a greater impact than most realize. Similarly, over Andrew Friedman’s tenure with the Dodgers, he has never “won the offseason”–instead opting to make smaller moves each winter that end up paying dividends down the road.
Mets fans know all too well that the Dodgers took Justin Turner, (who struggled initially in the majors in New York), and turned him into an All-Star third baseman. Max Muncy hit .186 in his final season with the Oakland Athletics before Friedman picked him up and turned him into an All-Star infielder in 2019.
Chris Taylor was a no-name infielder who had a cup of coffee in the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners due to a Ketel Marte injury in 2016 when he was acquired by the Dodgers for Zach Lee. Taylor, who didn’t have a single major league home run at the time of the trade, would go on to sign a two-year, $13.4 million contract extension four years later with the Dodgers before being the team’s left fielder when Julio Urias struck out the final batter to win the World Series.
Friedman adding Turner, Muncy, and Taylor didn’t grab any headlines because they were not “big name” free agents. However, they held the World Series trophy at the end of October last season which is all that matters.
The Mets’ Version of Chris Taylor
Many fans were confused why the Mets signed outfielder Kevin Pillar on Monday night after bringing in Albert Almora Jr., who is another right-handed-hitting center fielder. Pillar is another major league-caliber outfielder who had the best offensive season of his career in 2020 and can play all three outfield positions.
Jonathan Villar–another depth signing–can play both the infield and outfield like the Dodgers’ Talyor. Villar hit 24 home runs and stole 40 bases in 2019, all while playing every single game of the Orioles’ season.
Almora (another low-risk addition) is not known for his offense but he is a valuable piece in the field with a lead and/or on the basepaths late in game when trailing. During Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, Almora famously pinch-ran for Kyle Schwarber at first base in the 10th inning. He tagged up on Kris Bryant‘s sac-fly, which put him in scoring position and allowed him to score the go ahead run on Ben Zobrist‘s double down the left-field line.
The teams that end up winning the World Series always have depth off the bench, which is an area that Sandy Alderson has improved leading up to Spring Training. The Nationals had Howie Kendrick and Gerardo Parra in 2019; the Red Sox had Brock Holt (who hit for the cycle in the ALDS) and Jackie Bradley Jr. coming in late in games for defense. The Astros had speedy outfielders, Cameron Maybin, and Derek Fisher.
Adding more depth to the 40-man roster can only benefit the Mets in the long run for a variety of reasons whether that is late-game defense substitutions or injuries that come up.
Can the Mets have sustained success?
The Dodgers haven’t stumbled upon their current run of eight-straight division titles based on luck. Los Angeles is one of the best drafting teams in the league. While many people immediately think the Dodgers buy their way to the top, their entire core (excluding Mookie Betts) are homegrown players.
2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager was selected in the first round of the 2012 MLB amateur draft. Clayton Kershaw was the seventh overall pick in 2006, Walker Buehler was picked out of Vanderbilt as the 24th overall pick in 2015. Cody Bellinger was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and Will Smith was a second-round selection in 2016.
Those are just a few examples of Dodgers draftees having an impact at the Major League level. It’s no secret that the Mets need to improve in the draft if they want to replicate the Dodgers’ long term success and have a consistent flow of young talent coming up from the minors. The Mets only have one prospect inside the top-50 list, according to MLB.com. Francisco Alvarez is 48th and is just 19 years of age.
The East Coast Dodgers
Cohen told the media in his introductory press conference that his organization is going to create a strong foundation:
“We’re going to build out our processes and whether it’s analytics, whether it’s scouting, whether it’s development of players, we want to be excellent in all areas of this game, I’m not in this to be mediocre, that’s just not my thing.”
In order for the Mets to be great, they need a complete team. The front office has turned the roster into a nearly complete team–from Francisco Lindor and Jacob deGrom all the way down to Pillar and Almora.
Subsequently, the question is if 2021 will be the first of many seasons that end in October.
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