Over the course of a few hours Friday night, the Mets nabbed free agents Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha and Starling Marte for a combined $124.5 million commitment, per multiple reports. The only NL East offense that was as impotent as the Marlins’ for long stretches of the 2021 season projects to be far superior next season.
Escobar has agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with a club option for 2024. Canha received an identical contract structure except with a $26.5 million guarantee. Marte, who had a wide variety of suitors, successfully sparked a bidding war among them, culminating in his four-year, $78 million contract.
The only one of the trio who the Marlins front office definitively showed interested in was Marte. Both MLB Network’s Jon Heyman and SportsGrid’s Craig Mish had heard that the initial offer they presented to his camp was far less lucrative than what he ultimately got. At some point on Friday, they actually revamped that in a genuine attempt to keep him away from their division rivals, but there was still a significant gap in guaranteed dollars, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Miguel Rojas went out of his way to endorse Escobar, his fellow Venezuelan countryman. Apparently, the Marlins’ decision-makers were less enamored with him. To be fair, Escobar’s fit would have been clunky on a club that already has Brian Anderson and Jazz Chisholm Jr. slated to be their main options at third base and second base, respectively.
Despite making so many fond memories, Marte totaled just 93 games (regular season and postseason combined) as a Marlin. There’s an outside shot he winds up playing more often as a Marlins opponent than he did as a member of the franchise itself. He enters 2022 with 35 career games against the Fish. Assuming no changes to MLB’s regular season scheduling format, his Mets will face them 19 times per year moving forward.
The Mets remain an incomplete team, lacking sufficient starting rotation depth. Likewise, if the Marlins splurged on Escobar, Canha and Marte, they would still need to shop for a catcher and high-leverage relief pitching. But it’s fair to feel uneasy by how little has been accomplished so far this offseason.
With only five days remaining until an expected MLB lockout, the Marlins have all of the same glaring flaws they had two months ago. They capitalized on the Rays’ roster crunch and acquired Louis Head, who’s a candidate to crack their Opening Day bullpen. Per Mish, they are on the verge of inking Sandy Alcantara to a five-year contract extension. And…that’s it.
Tuesday’s non-tender deadline will finally pressure the Marlins into opening a few 40-man spots. Jorge Alfaro is the safest bet to get cut, followed by Lewis Brinson. They’ll have an interesting call to make on Jesús Aguilar considering his projected pay raise and limited defensive pliability. However, these potential subtractions on their own do not merit celebrations.
Fish Stripes deputy editor Louis Addeo-Weiss and myself have been proponents of pursuing free agent Chris Taylor. I worry that Friday’s action strengthens his leverage. Nearly two years younger than Marte with comparable recent production at the plate, Taylor will aim to surpass his $78 million earnings. Practically every wannabe contender aside from the Mets should at least be kicking the tires on him. Assuming Taylor’s price proves to be exorbitant, the Marlins would have to pivot to the trade market for a quality center field solution.