At first, today’s story about the Mets was going to be very simple and sweet, as the club held its annual Christmas party yesterday for local schoolkids at Citi Field. Brandon Nimmo again played Santa Claus – or as he was introduced as “Met-A Claus,” with his wife, Chelsea, again playing the role of a demure Mrs. Claus, looking like she just came out of the bakery making cookies.
It’s the third time Nimmo was cast in the role – “We actually asked to do this. Chelsea did it last year and loved it.” Brandon also admitted it is his goal to best John Franco’s franchise record of playing Santa Claus something like 15 times.
J. D. Davis played the part of Elf-helper and gift-sorter, and afterward, he was asked about the team and if he had any involvement in the investigation regarding the Houston Astros and sign-stealing. He was there in 2017 when all of this garbage can banging supposedly took place.
“I really had no idea what was going on or what was happening,” David said in regards to anything shady occurring. “I was kind of the freshman among the seniors. I wasn’t aware of anything. And even if I was, I batted only like .180, .200 – something like that – (actually, .226 in 24 games at the tail end of the season, J.D.). That’s MLB’s investigation and I haven’t gotten any calls yet, so I really have no clue.”
It was a nice event, and always a great benefit to the couple of hundred children who go home with toys and games and are just as happy to slap hands with Mr. Met as they are to meet the blue-garbed Santa.
There was talk amongst the reporters on hand that they knew Zak Wheeler was likely headed elsewhere in a deal over $100 mil, but you could tell no one knew definitively his new destination.
And then not much longer after the event – boom! – here comes the news that Wheeler was headed to Joe Girardi’s Phillies in a five-year deal for $118 mil. There was never any indication the Mets were going to be anywhere in that neighborhood, despite the billions-bigger announcement that was mere hours away.
But thanks to offering Wheeler the qualifying offer of app. $18 mil, the Mets will now receive a compensatory pick between the second and third rounds of next year’s June Amateur Draft.
You could sarcastically say, “Big deal,” but it could be a big deal if they make the right selection.
However, more importantly, the Mets must now face Wheeler as much as four or five times every year for the next five years, which makes climbing through their division that much more difficult.
There was a report that Wheeler actually was offered more by at least one other team – possibly the White Sox – but from a personal standpoint, Wheeler is getting married this New Year’s Eve to a girl from New Jersey, so being near her family while pitching for the Fightin’ Phils made more sense over the long haul.
That puts Seth Lugo directly in line to rejoin the rotation, unless GM Brodie Van Wagenen has other plans, commencing with next week’s Winter Meetings in Miami.
If Lugo slots in with the other four remaining starters, Nimmo is confident that’s a good choice.
“We were very fortunate to have one through five to be very, very good last year,” Nimmo boasted, “and I think – there’s been some conversations to bring Seth Lugo out of the bullpen. I played with Seth through the minors as a starter, and he was just as effective as he was in the bullpen.”
So right away the Mets have major changes coming, but shortly after that nugget yesterday afternoon – Boom! Boom! – the biggest change of all. Word comes that the Wilpons are phasing themselves out of the ownership picture and are allowing hedge fund investor Steve Cohen to buy 80% of the team for something like 2 billion dollars!
Those B words are always tantalizing when money is involved.
Cohen, 63, a Great Neck native, a long-time Mets fan, and already an 8% owner of the team, a result of an infusion of capital when the Wilpons were suffering financially from the impact of the Madoff scandal, has been qualified by Forbes as the 30th richest man in America, number 101 in the world, and worth anywhere from about $9 to $13 billion, depending on who’s counting.
The transition will be gradual, as the deal infers that the Wilpons will remain in control for the next five years, and it is believed Cohen will assume full control after that time.
Cohen sent a letter to his shareholders of his Point 72 Asset Management Company on Wednesday afternoon acknowledging the deal.
“I’ve been going to Mets games since I was a kid, when they played in the Polo Grounds,” Cohen intoned in the letter. “It’s always been a dream of mine to be a majority owner of a Major League Baseball Franchise.”
Welcome to the big leagues, Steve.
It is ironic that on the day the Mets agree to bring $2 billion dollars into the organization, they’re also effectively stating they couldn’t afford to keep one of their best pitchers at a cost of $118 mil and allowed him to go to a neighboring rival, but more changes are likely in the works.