No longer content to sit out baseball’s early offseason proceedings, the Mets struck three times in emphatic fashion on Friday evening, agreeing to terms with outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha as well as infielder Eduardo Escobar, according to sources.
A source confirmed that the Mets agreed to a four-year, $78 million contract with Marte late in the night, tacking him onto a banner evening that already included two-year handshakes with Canha for $26.5 million (with a third-year option), and Escobar for $20 million. All three deals are pending physicals. The team has not acknowledged them because they are not yet official.
Combined, the agreements promise to overhaul New York’s offense — and particularly its outfield.
Marte, 33, has been a Mets target dating back to his Pittsburgh days, but the club was never able to pry him away from his former teams via trade. They didn’t need when he hit free agency this offseason, coming off one of his best years as a big leaguer. Marte hit .310/.383/.458 with 12 home runs and 47 stolen bases for the Marlins and A’s, doing significant damage in pitcher’s ballparks.
Just as importantly, Marte is a strong defender who gives the Mets a true, everyday center fielder for the first time since Juan Lagares. He figures to push Brandon Nimmo to left field, with Canha slotting in right. That alignment likely marks the end of Michael Conforto’s time in Flushing, while probably also taking the Mets out of contention for Seiya Suzuki and other prominent outfield free agents.
That’s because Canha, 32, is also a capable everyday outfielder. Last year with Oakland, Canha clubbed 17 home runs in 141 games to go along with a .746 OPS. A career .244 hitter with a .344 on-base percentage, Canha has averaged 20 homers per season over his last three full campaigns. His seven-year career with the A’s included three postseason appearances.
Escobar, meanwhile, made his first All-Star team last summer en route to a .253/.314/.472 slash line with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs for the D-backs and Brewers. In his previous full season in 2019, the 32-year-old Escobar clubbed a career-high 35 homers while tying for the Major League lead with 10 triples.
Overall, Escobar owns a career .256/.309/.436 slash line with 138 homers over 11 seasons for four different teams. More than half of that service time came with the Twins from 2012-18.
“I couldn’t be more excited to have my boy Escobar with us,” tweeted Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker, who played alongside Escobar in 2019 in Arizona. “Hands down one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Mets fans are going to love him!”
Escobar can start for the Mets either at second or third base, giving them options as they continue trying to improve their roster. Marte and Canha are also right-handed while Escobar is a switch-hitter, offering the Mets the type of lineup balance they largely lacked last season. In addition, Canha and Escobar could potentially start at designated hitter if the DH returns to the National League, or they could free up Robinson Canó and others to do that job. Essentially, Escobar is a replacement for Jonathan Villar, who appeared in 142 games last season as the Mets’ play-everywhere infielder.
His addition won’t stop the Mets from pursuing Javier Báez, who would push Escobar to third if they manage to re-acquire him. It simply gives the Mets options: acquire Báez or don’t, trade Jeff McNeil or don’t, keep J.D. Davis around or don’t … and so on and so forth.
If Friday night’s triplet of deals proved anything, it’s that Mets owner Steve Cohen was serious when he said that he intends to spend in significant ways this winter. In guaranteeing $124.5 million to three players, the Mets set themselves up to blow past Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold with additional spending almost certainly on the horizon.
There is still much to do for the Mets, whose new general manager, Billy Eppler, recently identified pitching as his top priority. Eppler may have lost out on his bid to sign free agent Steven Matz, but plenty of other starters remain. Expect the Mets to engage with Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray and other top unsigned starters, as well as lesser depth pieces.
Friday marked a splashy beginning to the Mets’ roster overhaul, but there should be plenty more to come.
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