George Springer should be at center of Steve Cohen’s Mets overhaul

Maybe this won’t matter. Maybe Steve Cohen really is planning on looking at the offseason the way you or I would stepping up to a breakfast buffet (at least back in the halcyon days when a “breakfast buffet” didn’t conjure the same image as a friendly round of Russian roulette, anyway).

(“Do I want the eggs or the French toast? I want the eggs AND the French toast!”

“Toast, English muffin or bagel? Why, all of the above!”

“More of anything? More of EVERYTHING!”)

Maybe Steve Cohen will show up for work this week with his checkbook already open, and when he and Sandy Alderson sit down and begin to talk about the 2021 Mets and which prime free agent they’d like to pursue, the conversation will go this way:

Sandy: “J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer or George Springer?”

Steve: “Yes.”

Sandy: “Yes to which of them?”

Steve: “Yes to all of them.”

More of anything? More of everything!

More likely, even Cohen’s deep pockets will only shake enough free to acquire one. There are other things to consider: strengthening analytics, strengthening infrastructure, beefing up international scouting, figuring out what to do with current Mets. (Do you buy out Pete Alonso’s arbitration years? Do you extend Michael Conforto? Where does Noah Syndergaard and his surgically repaired elbow fit into the Mets’ future?)

Maybe Cohen tells Alderson he can have one of the fancy toys.

Which fancy toy do you want?

The object of the Mets’ affection for years has been Realmuto, probably the best all-around catcher in the game. The Mets thought long and hard about swapping a cache of their own bright young players for Realmuto two years ago, and he will be a free agent for real this week. Also, the Mets, at present, have Tomas Nido as their first-string catcher.

But catchers are heavy risks when you lay out the kind of scratch Realmuto will command. And he has expressed an early interest in staying where he is.

Bauer would be an immediate reinforcement of Alderson’s commitment to building a strong starting rotation. The first time around, Sandy dreamed of a Harvey-deGrom-Syndergaard-Wheeler-Matz five-headed weapon that would wreak havoc with the National League. The fact it never happened is beside the point. It was a fine dream. Teaming Bauer with deGrom (and, eventually, Syndergaard) is a nice starting block back.

But if the choice is mine, the choice is Springer.

Now, Springer has had himself a year. He was, of course, an Astro the past 6 ½ years, and as such he was right in the middle of the sign-stealing controversy that was all anyone in baseball talked about until COVID-19 declared: “Hold my beer.” He also had a relatively down year, his .265/.359/.540 slash line a significant drop-off from 2018 (.292/.383/.591) in which he finished seventh in the American League MVP vote.

(Cue the chorus: Baseball’s a lot harder when you don’t know what’s coming, ain’t it?)

But Springer is exactly what the Mets have been craving for years: a terrific center fielder who would be a plus leadoff hitter. He is, by every tangible measurement, an upgrade over Brandon Nimmo. And he would allow the Mets to shop Nimmo as part of a package in which they could upgrade elsewhere.

Now, there are a couple of things you need to be comfortable with if you sign Springer. First and foremost: You must believe he is not a complete creation of the Astros Way. And look, even the harshest data-driven analyses of the scandal concede the results of the scam were relatively modest. A bad player didn’t become good because of it, but good players got a little bit better.

And if you saw Springer this postseason when, presumably, the Astros were playing cleaner than Felix Unger, he had four homers and nine RBIs (giving him 19 postseason homers overall for his career). There is little to question about his ability.

What about the fact if there is a reasonably normal 2021 season, the Astros players will finally be forced to answer for their past sins, whether they are playing in Houston or elsewhere? Will that be an added distraction for Springer, and for the Mets? But Springer, as much as any of the Astros, owned his part in it and expressed regret.

“I wish I had done more,” he said last spring. “Every member of that team has to take responsibility.”

Maybe he can be part of an ensemble of imports. Steve Cohen is enough of a wild card that we can honestly say: Who knows? But if it’s to be just one, Springer — of UConn and New Britain High — should be that one. That would be an excellent place to start.

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