The Mets, it turns out, will do anything.
Steve Cohen is richer than rich, like if Scrooge McDuck or Tony Stark owned a baseball team. And he’s not afraid to use those riches to bring baseball’s best – and most expensive – players to Queens.
Exhibit A: Carlos Correa is going to be a Met after Cohen pounced on the Giants botching their supposed 13-year deal with the superstar infielder, an apparent “difference of opinion” when it came to Correa’s physical evaluation bringing a shocking halt to one of the offseason’s biggest acquisitions.
And so Correa is a Met. Just like Justin Verlander. And Max Scherzer. And Francisco Lindor. And Edwin Diaz. And Brandon Nimmo. And Kodai Senga. And even former White Sox like David Robertson, José Quintana and Omar Narváez.
That’s a lot of Mets.
It says something that Cohen spending nearly half a billion dollars on his 2023 team – seriously, that’s what the payroll is projected to be after factoring in more than $110 million in luxury-tax payments – might not even win the division, what with the Phillies and Braves fielding two pretty damn good teams in the NL East. But I’m sure any suggestions of not being able to buy a World Series trophy will fall on deaf ears among White Sox fans.
This is all a circuitous way of getting things back to the South Side, and no, I’m not interested in rehashing Jerry Reinsdorf’s spending history for the thousandth time. This is about Liam Hendriks and why fans’ thirst for a deal does not necessarily mean the Mets actually make sense as a possible White Sox trade partner.
Hendriks’ name has seemingly stuck in the rumor mill, and the Mets — who already have an A-list closer in Diaz — are the team he’s been associated with. While Rick Hahn said at season’s end that the White Sox would be open-minded when it came to searching for improvements this winter, even if that meant considering a trade of a core player, Hendriks is the only South Sider who’s been even mentioned by any of the typical national voices as a possible trade piece.
There’s been hardly a whisper of “the White Sox are listening on Luis Robert” or “Team X is interested in Tim Anderson,” leaving the focus on the All-Star closer, admittedly one of the few White Sox whose trade value did not take a massive hit following the team-wide disappointment of 2022. Of course, it doesn’t mean the White Sox have any actual interest in trading Hendriks, who they signed to a big free-agent deal ahead of the 2021 campaign. As Hahn said at the Winter Meetings, listening to trade ideas from other teams is simply the White Sox’ front office doing its job.
I’ve said it before and will say it again, it seems quite ludicrous to trade one of the game’s most dominant ninth-inning men ahead of a season in which you hope to compete for a championship. But plenty of fans have talked themselves into the White Sox experimenting at closer with either Kendall Graveman (who has a half season of closing experience) or Reynaldo López (who has no closing experience) if it means plugging the White Sox’ hole at second base. I’d argue such a deal would create a bigger hole in the ninth, rendering the trade somewhat meaningless, but hey, I’m no GM.
With Hendriks supposedly catching the Mets’ eye, though, and the New Yorkers suddenly flush with All-Star infielders, it’s worth examining what all the hubbub would even be about.
An obsession in some parts of the fan base with reacquiring former White Sox has the names Eduardo Escobar and James McCann flying around social media. Escobar was an above-average hitter last season though is likely to only briefly be a Met after being bumped from a starting job on the infield by Correa’s arrival. McCann, meanwhile, has posted abysmal offensive numbers since signing a four-year deal with the Mets, with an OPS+ of just 70 in the first half of that contract, which amounted to only 182 games. The Mets are fine at catcher without him — the top rated prospect in baseball is a Mets catcher — and though the White Sox are potentially in need of a backup backstop, the idea that the Mets would eat much of the remaining $24.3 million McCann is owed is the only way bringing him back would make any sense.
Hendriks, though, should be worth a lot more than another team’s castoffs. Fans, of course, understand that, and that’s why they’re asking for Jeff McNeil in their imaginary trade talks, forcing the Mets to part with their All-Star second baseman in exchange for an All-Star relief arm. This is a made-up trade worth far more consideration, with the White Sox having a need not only at second base but for offensive improvement in general, as well. McNeil led the sport in hitting last season with a .326 batting average.
Does McNeil, though, make quite as much sense for the White Sox after the reported five-year deal for Andrew Benintendi? The obvious answer is yes, duh, because he’s good and much better than the current combination of Romy Gonzalez and Leury García. But the point is that McNeil only hit nine homers last season and would represent a second low-power addition in an offseason where improving the team’s power-hitting was thought to be a priority. Just saying.
Elsewhere, suggestions for a Hendriks-to-the-Mets trade have involved prospects. The White Sox are supposedly in the thick of a contention window, and dealing players who could help you win the World Series in 2023 for players who can’t seems … counterintuitive. Brett Baty (a top-20 prospect in baseball) and Mark Vientos perhaps shouldn’t be excluded from making big league impacts in 2023 after both reached the majors last season. But there’s a catch: Even though both are now blocked on the infield by a host of All Stars, neither has ever played a lick of second base as a professional. They’re third basemen by trade. “Trade Yoán Moncada then,” you’ll say. OK, to who? For what? And how much money would the White Sox have to eat? It’s a lot easier said than done.
That’s been a theme of crafting any potential trade for the White Sox this winter, regardless of the suggested partner, and though we’ve heard tell of a trade market that’s yet to fully bloom, perhaps that’s why the only acquisitions on the South Side to this point have come via free agency. The conjecture of Hendriks being sent to the Mets seems equally tough to make sense of for the White Sox, who would need a return of equal major league oomph to justify trading arguably the game’s best closer while simultaneously trying to win a World Series.
But hey, keep dreaming, I guess. Because one thing is for sure: The Mets will do anything.