OPINION: Stern: Why Mets could be hesitant to pursue Juan Soto trade


Despite drooling over the possibility of seeing a 25-year-old Juan Soto wear a Mets uniform next season, team owner Steve Cohen should pump the brakes on going all-in for the superstar slugger, due to the impending call-ups of their several promising prospects.

New York's trade deadline fire sale, which saw the departures of veteran aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, yielded youngsters Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford from the Astros and Luisangel Acuna from the Rangers, and the three players should eventually have roles on the major league roster. Of the bunch, Gilbert has the best chance of matching Soto's value. The Astros' former No. 1 prospect -- who's played each outfield position -- hit .289 with 18 home runs, 26 doubles, and 59 RBI in 116 games across High-A and Double-A ranks.

Gilbert will likely start the 2024 campaign in Triple-A, and a ticket to The Show is possible if produces. Regardless, the Mets appear to have a player whose bat will translate to the big-league level, and glove will fill a legitimate need in the outfield for a long time. While adding Soto's power to a Mets lineup that's desperate for pop is intriguing, he’ll likely receive around $32 million per year, according to Spotrac projections.

Cohen can afford Soto, and the decade-long commitment he'll likely demand. But his money would be better spent bolstering a pitching staff that ranked in the bottom half of MLB in most statistical categories. If history has taught the Mets anything -- just look at the Padres, which signed big-ticket stars Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado in recent offseasons -- adding sheer firepower doesn't guarantee wins, or division titles, or even championships.

While replicating Soto's output is challenging -- he's ranked 18th in the majors in WAR this season (5.4) -- the Mets would better off betting on development of the aforementioned prospects, plus promising infielder Jett Williams, who won the team's Minor League Player of the Year award. Along with youngsters Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos, who've shown flashes in Queens, the Mets would be foolish to trade this crop of young talent for one player.

Soto does represent a quick-fix solution, and he could immediately become a franchise fixture and a stabilizing force in an underachieving lineup in Queens. Aggressively inquiring about and pursuing a superstar player is never a wrong move, but big picture ideas about where the Mets' up-and-comers fit should be factored into the equation. Yes, Cohen could work around the situation by making certain prospects off-limits or pegging talented catcher Kevin Parada as the centerpiece of a deal, considering Francisco Alvarez figures to be the starting backstop going forward.

Cohen and his front office staff could also move Gilbert or Williams to another position, so Soto wouldn't interfere. While these options are on the table, the Mets didn't just eat a bunch of huge contracts and stockpile the farm system for nothing. Some of their prospects will end up being trade pieces, but the top-end talent should be made a part of New York's future plans.

The formula for success in MLB revolves around building a roster with young talent, and with this seemingly being the blueprint moving forward, the Mets need seriously analyze their approach. On one hand, the failures of Scherzer and Verlander shouldn't discourage them from spending top dollar on players they believe can help the team compete for a title. However, on the flip side, the veteran aces do serve as a cautionary tale for what could happen. Cohen could be more inclined to build from within.

Not every prospect is going to blossom into a superstar, and counting on any of these Mets youngsters to reach Soto's elite level would be ill-advised. But with fellow slugger Pete Alonso eyeing a massive payday, a promising group of minor-league talent, and major pitching needs at hand, it’d behoove these Mets to do some extra thinking before making any large commitment to Soto.

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