Hey, Jed, it’s the Mets on Line 2.
Maybe it doesn’t go exactly like that. Maybe it’s more like, “Hey, it’s Jed Hoyer again; don’t forget to have your general manager call me back as soon as you hire one.”
Either way, the Mets might just have become the Cubs’ best bet for phone-tag pals the next few weeks with the news Wednesday of Mets second baseman Robinson Cano’s 162-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs for the second time in his career.
As esteemed New York baseball scribe and multimedia personality Andy Martino tweeted Wednesday: “The wealthiest owner in baseball now has an extra $20 mil to put toward next year’s payroll.”
Talk about a top line on the call list for incoming Cubs president Hoyer — whose first order of business in a daunting offseason involves significantly downsizing a hefty payroll during an industry financial crisis.
This brink of massive transition for the roster and organization overall is one of the reasons Hoyer even is taking over this week instead of next year, with this week’s resignation of Theo Epstein a year before his contract was to expire.
“It became really clear that we’d be facing some significant long-term decisions this winter, decisions with long-term impacts,” Epstein said in describing the reasons he moved up his intended timeline. “Those types of decisions are really best made by somebody who’s going to be here for a long time and not just for one more year, somebody who’s invested in the organization for the long haul. And Jed clearly is that person.”
And this, said Epstein, who walked away from the final $10 million on his contract: “It became clear the extent to which COVID was going to stress our business and our people. … We were going to be facing a challenge of having to allocate some temporarily reduced resources in a way that would allow us to move forward and be successful. And had I decided to come back in 2021, what would have made that challenge even more difficult.”
In other words, Martino might as well have added the hashtags #Cubs and #KrisBryant to his tweet.
The Mets already looked like the straw that might stir the free agent and trade markets when the franchise sale to billionaire Steve Cohen became final this month.
“I can promise you we’re going to act like a major-market team,” Cohen said in his first media conference after the sale.
He also added the Mets won’t spend “like drunken sailors.”
That’s where the Cubs and Kris Bryant come in — the Cubs and any of their valuable trade pieces, really.
But Bryant might represent the biggest dilemma on the roster at a time of urgent cost-cutting: a 28-year-old All-Star caliber player coming off a tough season with one year of club control left, a roughly $20 million price tag for 2021 and little apparent chance of making a contract extension work.
How many teams might be willing to take on that cost in these uncertain economic times, even for a former MVP? Would the Cubs really consider non-tendering Bryant at the tender deadline next month, if they can’t find a taker?
Wait, did somebody say $20 million?
Because of the steroid suspension, Cano won’t get paid his $24 million salary in 2021 — $20.25 million of which was the Mets’ responsibility (per terms of the 2018 trade with Seattle).
With few teams expected to be significant buyers during a winter that might include league-wide cost-cutting, the Mets and their competitive new owner might step into the market void and steal some of the best available players — along with the back pages of the New York tabloids.
The Mets already have possible starting third basemen in Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis, but McNeil — a 2019 All-Star — in particular has played as much second and outfield for the Mets and should see a lot of time at second in Cano’s absence.
Bryant is better defensively at third, can play the outfield and was an All-Star with a .903 OPS the last time the league played a normal season (2019).
And with $20 million falling into the Mets’ laps, can a call from the Cubs be far behind? Can they make a Bryant trade work in New York?
If they can’t make it there, can they make it anywhere?