PHILADELPHIA — The Mets, who already boast the most expensive player payroll in Major League history, are now using the financial might of Steve Cohen to add talent to the organization in more creative ways.
The Mets opened the trade 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. Double-A pitchers, who both ranked in the Top 20 on MLB Pipeline’s Angels prospect list, are helping fortify a weak farm system in upper-tier talent.
The dishes get: RHP Coleman Crow (#19 Angels prospect), RHP Landon Marceaux (#20)
Angels get: INF Eduardo Escobar, Cash
The Mets essentially bought those pitchers from the Angels by agreeing to pay all of Escobar’s salary except for the Major League minimum, which (by league rule) must be on the Los Angeles books. Escobar makes $9.5 million this season with a $9 million option in 2024 that includes a $500,000 buyout. (The Mets won’t be hooked on the option if the Angels choose to exercise it.)
“Steve does things like this because he’s willing to spend money to attract other prospects,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a phone interview. “I think it just shows there’s a commitment to our long-term build.”
Why did the Mets choose to trade Escobar now?
Although Escobar was an important part of the Mets’ 101-game winning roster last year, he lost the majority of his playing time to rookie Brett Baty. That made him unnecessary for a team that also has third basemen Luis Guillorme and Mark Vientos in the organization.
Rather than continuing to use Escobar in a part-time platoon role, the Mets swung into action when the Angels called to inquire about corner players. The teams hammered out concepts over the weekend before agreeing on a structure Friday that would see the Mets win Crow and Marceaux in exchange for Escobar, who was batting .236 with four homers in 40 games.
The deal is an example of the type of structure the Mets could use in future deals, using Cohen’s money to pay off contracts and receive better prospects in return. The idea is to accelerate their reconstruction of an agricultural system that is already much stronger than it was two or three years ago.
How good are the prospects the Mets have received?
Crow, 22, is a 2019 28th-round draft pick who broke out this season with a 1.88 ERA in 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 2021 third-round pick. He boasts a 4.88 ERA in 12 starts this season, but produced a 2.98 mark last year, with most of that production coming from High-A Tri-City. He becomes the 18th ranked prospect in the New York system.
Those two join Mike Vasil, Dominic Hamel and Jose Butto as the starting pitchers most likely to help the Mets next season. Although the Mets have several high-cap pitchers in their farm system, most of them are still at the lowest levels of the minor leagues. Crow and Marceaux help fill that hole.
What is the downside of trading Escobar and who could replace him?
There is an emotional component to the loss of Escobar, a popular teammate who hopes to become a US citizen later this month. But the Mets were willing to pay that price to improve their agricultural system.
“It’s tough,” said manager Buck Showalter, who alerted Escobar to the trade in Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Phillies. “It’s a difficult conversation. … Everyone has a lot of respect for him. I think what makes him a little more palatable is that it’s a good place for him, a good place for him to reestablish himself as a player that we know he can be.
Although fourth-row prospect Ronny Mauricio is capable of playing third base, the Mets have no plans to call him until they’re ready to start him every day. On Friday night, Mets officials were debating two main options to replace Escobar: Vientos and Danny Mendick. The first has just been optioned for minors, but can be recalled due to the exchange. The latter is an offseason signing who was successful Friday at Triple-A Syracuse and is riding a six-game hitting streak.
Does that mean the Mets are selling at the trade deadline?
This deal does not indicate an imminent sale for the fourth-place Mets. Although the team may distribute additional parts before the August 1 trade deadline, it is not a decision that Eppler intends to make for several weeks. A scenario still exists in which the Mets start to play better and seek additions at the deadline, just as there is one in which the Mets buy or sell little.
Either way, the Mets understand their game will dictate Eppler’s strategy.
“Usually that’s what happens: we don’t play well, people lose their jobs,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “But I don’t see us as a team that will sell out. I see us as a team that will fight, that will be there. We are made to be pretenders.
More than anything, the Mets intend to continue taking actions that improve the overall health of their organization in 2024 and beyond.