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Steve Cohen Should Bail Out The Padres

The New York Mets must use money as the primary capital to improve the team this winter. The farm system is not ready to consistently support the major league squad. So, having the league’s richest owner allows the team to fill holes with financial capital. While that typically plays out in free agency, Steve Cohen would be wise to take on contracts from teams with limited financial flexibility. Specifically, Steve Cohen should bail out the San Diego Padres to build the 2024 Mets.

In early November, The Athletic reported that San Diego took out a $50 million loan in September. Per Evan Drellich, the loan is meant to aid “short-term cash flow issues and meet [the team’s] obligations, including player payroll.”

The Padres reportedly want to shed at least $50 million this winter. Over half of that (around $33 million) will likely come from a Juan Soto trade. However, the Padres might look to move other high-priced yet productive veterans. Steve Cohen should absolutely use his financial fortune to bail out the Padres and collect quality players.

Steve Cohen Should Bail Out The Padres

Many expect a competitive trade market for Soto, with big-market clubs like the Yankees and Cubs reportedly interested. With this type of market, some team will likely be willing to give up a legitimate prospect haul and pay Soto. If a trade comes down to the best player package and not finances, many teams are better suited than the Mets to pull the trigger.

However, the Friars will still need to cut around $15-20 million after clearing Soto’s salary. This is where Cohen can bail out the Padres, fill holes on the 2024 roster, and better position the 2025-26 Mets teams.

Swing Big: Joe Musgrove

Elite production from 2021-22 set Joe Musgrove up for a five-year, $100 million extension before the conclusion of 2022. Musgrove pitched great in 2023 (3.05 ERA, 134 ERA+), but injuries limited him to 17 starts and 97 1/3 innings. The San Diego native was red hot in August when right shoulder capsule inflammation sidelined him. At the time, he was riding a 12-game stretch where he posted a 1.84 ERA.

Turning 31 in early December, Musgrove will earn $20 million annually for the next four seasons. The Padres must currently replace three members of the pitching staff who threw over 110 innings and another 180 from the reigning National League Cy Young winner.

Despite the pitching holes, there’s logic in clearing the required $50 million through two players (Musgrove and Soto) rather than four or more. Plus, the Padres would likely receive multiple young and cheap pitchers capable of covering at least 100 innings each.

Cohen can bail out the Padres and absorb Musgrove’s entire deal. While it’s unclear how desperate the Padres would be to clear this contract, the Mets would likely have to send a top prospect even if they eat a lot of money. But, multiple contending teams with financial constraints would likely offer the Padres multiple top prospects.

Trading for the fair-priced Musgrove is a win-now and win-later move where Cohen’s financial strength creates more value. A Musgrove trade framework where the Mets acquire his contract and give up just one top prospect, say Kevin Parada (Mets No. 5 prospect per MLB), and a mid-rotation ceiling pitcher close to being MLB-ready (Mike Vasil, Justin Jarvis, Dominic Hamel, Tyler Stuart) is an opportunity the Mets must jump on.

Bullpen Arm 1: Robert Suarez

The Mets can absorb $10 million in 2024 (and $36 million over four years) by acquiring Robert Suarez. 33 on Opening Day, Suarez is a high-upside bullpen arm under team control. He makes $10 million each of the next two years and then $8 million in each of the final two. Relievers are expensive, but these are fair salaries if Suarez delivers production close to his 2022 levels.

In 47 2/3 innings, Suarez broke out by utilizing a hard fastball and great sinker. He struck out an elite 31.9 percent of the hitters he faced. The rookie pitched his way into high-leverage situations and became a key reliever in the postseason.

After signing a 5-year extension, Suarez produced a slightly below-average season (98 ERA+) while dealing with injuries. In 27 2/3 innings, he produced an ERA of 4.23 with a strikeout percentage (22.2 percent) close to the league average. However, metrics indicate that he still limited hard contact, threw hard, and produced good ground ball rates.

With a dearth of organization pitching, the Mets will likely acquire multiple bullpen and rotation arms this winter. The Mets should not solely rely on free agency to fill all the holes and should absolutely look into Suarez. Like with Musgrove, Suarez makes the Mets better both now and in a couple of years when they are better suited to contend.

Salary Dump Option: Matt Carpenter

Again, it’s unclear just how desperate the Padres will act this winter in clearing money. Will they emphasize getting players to help contend in 2024? Or will they solely focus on clearing money? If shedding salary becomes the biggest motivator, then the team will likely look to attach Matt Carpenter to potential Soto, Musgrove, and Suarez deals.

This should not impact the Mets, and Cohen is the one owner who can bail out the Padres this way. Carpenter is only a one-year commitment for just $5.5 million. Taking on this salary, even if Carpenter doesn’t produce, allows the Mets to spend Cohen’s money now while holding on to prospect capital. The organization must jump on these opportunities this winter.

Carpenter resurrected his career in the Bronx in 2022. In just 47 games, he produced a surprising 2.3 WAR season while exhibiting power (15 homers, .727 SLG) and high on-base skills (.412 OBP and a 12.3 walk percentage).

The almost 38-year-old regressed in 2023 in basically every offensive category. Playing mostly first base and DH, Carpenter battled injuries most of the year. He hit under .200 with no power while striking out too much.

If the Mets acquire Carpenter, it doesn’t matter what they do with him. New York does not have to think twice about releasing him almost immediately after the deal, similar to what they did last summer in a deal with the Mariners.

However, the team can look to be opportunistic and keep him on the roster for a little bit. If the Mets eat his salary, perhaps they can flip him to the Yankees, a team looking for left-handed power, and get an intriguing lottery-pick type of return. Good organizations jump on these chances.

Additionally, maybe the Mets would want Carpenter to work with Brett Baty in spring training. Baty needs to hit more line drives to tap into his power, and Carpenter is experienced in making these adjustments. Since the Mets are not going all in on 2024, it could make sense to have them work together through April or May. Then, they could release Carpenter if he is not producing.


Photo Credit: © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


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