The Mets aren’t messing around. With a work stoppage looming, owner Steve Cohen got his holiday shopping done early, bolstering the Mets’ roster with a flurry of free-agent signings, none bigger than Friday night’s acquisition of Starling Marte, a former All-Star and two-time Gold Glove recipient. Marte, who also drew interest from division rivals Philadelphia and Miami (his former club), enjoyed arguably his best season in 2021, slashing .310/.383/.458 with 12 homers, 55 RBI and a league-high 47 steals over 120 games for the Marlins and A’s. His deal is for four years and $78 million.
The 33-year-old Dominican Republic native fills an obvious need for the Mets, whose outfielders hit a combined .240/.317/.383 with 66 homers (seventh-fewest) and 556 strikeouts last season. With Marte in tow, New York seems unlikely to bring back Michael Conforto, who declined the Mets’ one-year, $18.4-million qualifying offer earlier this month. Marte makes up for the Mets striking out in their pursuit of former Astros World Series MVP George Springer (now of the Blue Jays) last offseason.
New York’s early free-agent haul includes Marte, All-Star third baseman Eduardo Escobar and former A’s outfielder Mark Canha. The Mets, coming off a disappointing third-place finish in the National League East (won by the eventual World Series Champion Atlanta Braves), still need to address their starting rotation with Kevin Gausman and Jon Gray reportedly among their top targets. They also made a strong push to bring back Steven Matz, a Long Island native who spent his first six seasons in New York before defecting to Toronto last winter, but were foiled by the Cardinals, who swooped in and signed the left-hander for $44 million over four seasons. That didn’t sit well with Cohen, who lashed out at Matz’s agent for being “unprofessional.” The Mets are seeking to replace starters Marcus Stroman (who feels the organization no longer wants him) and Noah Syndergaard, with the latter recently joining Anaheim on a one-year deal.
It was reported earlier this week the Mets, who hold two top-15 picks in the upcoming MLB Draft, plan to avoid free agents who received qualifying offers, suggesting they won’t be in the mix for Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Robbie Ray, Nick Castellanos or Trevor Story.
Marte, who should slot in as New York’s leadoff man and primary center-fielder, holds a .244/.322/.346 batting line with one homer, six RBI and three doubles over 88 lifetime plate appearances at Citi Field.