Stearns, who will lead a baseball department that includes GM Billy Eppler, will officially take over after the regular season ends on Oct. 2.
And when Stearns grabs the wheel, he will immediately be faced with some huge decisions.
Here are the five biggest…
What does the future hold for Pete Alonso?
Alonso is set to hit free agency after the 2024 season. And while the Mets discussed the possibility of trading him before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the expectation is that he will be a Met when the bell rings on the 2024 season — as Martino recently reported.
That doesn’t mean Alonso is a lock for a contract extension, though. Should he be?
It always depends on the price (duh), but Alonso is the type of player and person the organization should want to be a career Met. He also fits their new timeline, since Alonso will be entering his age-30 season in 2025 — when any new deal would begin.
Some selling points: Alonso has the most home runs in baseball (189) since debuting in 2019. He is the only player in Mets history to hit 40 homers in a season more than once (he’s done it three times). He is beloved by the fans. He is well-liked in the clubhouse. He is charitable. Alonso’s career triple slash is .253/.345/.533, meaning he is much more than a home-run-or-nothing-guy.
Stearns’ decision on Alonso might not be the first one he makes, but it could be the one that causes the most reverberations — regardless of which direction it goes. If the Mets try to extend Alonso, a six-year deal for around $160 million seems fair.
Showalter is under contract for 2024, which is set to be the final year of the three-year deal he signed before the 2022 season.
His tenure has included one fantastic season and one that was perhaps the most disappointing in the history of the franchise.
It’s impossible to measure the true impact of a manager, but it’s fair to say that there wasn’t much Showalter could’ve done to screw up the 2022 Mets and not much he could’ve done to save the 2023 Mets — with the latter besieged by injuries, underperformance, and a midseason sell-off.
Showalter has his strengths (media savvy, clubhouse presence) and his weaknesses (a seeming unwillingness at times to use young players over veterans, managing for tomorrow too often when there’s a game to be had today).
Regardless of Showalter’s pluses and minuses, it could simply come down to Stearns wanting his own guy as the manager. And it will be a bit surprising if Stearns bringing someone else in isn’t the outcome.
How will the starting rotation be bolstered?
The Mets have just two starting pitchers on the roster who are likely to be serious factors on their staff in 2024.
One is Kodai Senga, who has pitched like an ace over the last few months as he’s had a tremendous first season in the bigs.
The other is Jose Quintana, who has been fantastic since returning from injury, and who should fit snugly in the No. 3 or No. 4 spot next season.
While the Mets won’t be all-in for 2024, Cohen and Eppler have said numerous times that the team will aim to be highly competitive, with Eppler saying they will have to dip into the free agent market for starting pitchers.
The most obvious target is Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is entering his age-25 season and has already been scouted extensively by Eppler and the Mets.
The free agent market for starting pitchers beyond Yamamoto leaves a lot to be desired, so perhaps the Mets will turn to the trade market as well (Corbin Burnes, anyone?)
How fast will the top prospects move?
The saving grace for the Mets in an otherwise lost season? When they determined they weren’t going to make the playoffs, they acted decisively at the trade deadline, adding some serious juice to the farm system while taking a very minimal hit beyond 2023 (of the players the Mets dealt, only Justin Verlander would’ve been guaranteed to be back in 2024).
While trading Verlander, Max Scherzer, and others, the Mets added (among others) infielder Luisangel Acuna and outfielders Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford — three highly thought of prospects who have a chance to be impact players in the majors.
The Mets’ farm system also features players like fast-rising outfielder Jett Williams (recently promoted to Double-A), catcher Kevin Parada, and right-handed pitcher Mike Vasil.
In recent seasons, the Mets have been a bit deliberate when it came to promoting their prospects. That included their initial reluctance to turn to Francisco Alvarez and waiting until this September to promote Ronny Mauricio.
It will be interesting to see how the Mets handle their most precious prospects under Stearns, especially since Acuna, Gilbert, and perhaps Williams all have a chance to make their big league debut in 2024.
What is the overall free agency plan?
What some bellowed after the Mets sold at the deadline was hysterical, with some pushing an insane narrative that the team wouldn’t be good until 2026.
While the Mets don’t expect to be all-in for 2024, that doesn’t mean they don’t plan to — at the least — compete for a playoff spot while continuing to have one of the highest payrolls in the sport as they wait for more of their prospects to arrive.
In order to contend next season, the Mets will have to seriously address the starting rotation (as is noted above), rebuild the bullpen around a returning Edwin Diaz, and add more offensive punch.
The biggest name on the market will be Shohei Ohtani, though his situation is clouded by his torn UCL and questions about whether he’s willing to leave the West Coast.