The dismantling of the 2023 New York Mets, the team with the highest wages of all time in baseball, began late Thursday when they traded closer to the Miami Marlins David Robertson for two rookie league teenagers, the team announced.
Robertson, 38, took over the ninth-inning role for the Mets after star Edwin Diaz injured his knee at a World Baseball Classic celebration. Robertson was a staunch player at the back end of a shaky bullpen, posting a 2.05 ERA through 44 innings, scoring 48 and making 14 saves.
He will join Jorge Lopez, whom the Marlins acquired from the Twins for backup Dylan Floro, in a newly assembled backup corps for a Marlins team that is 55-48 a half-game behind the final National League East wildcard spot .
“I thought I was moving, I just didn’t know where,” Robertson said Thursday night. “I just had no idea where, so it’s kind of a shock, but it’s part of this game.”
The Mets have a 48-54 record, the fifth worst record in the Netherlands, and are 6½ games behind the Marlins. After failing to make the playoffs in recent weeks, they began grappling with their underperforming roster with Robertson. How many players they’ll trade is unclear – outfielder Tommy Pham is likely to switch, while starters Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer will stay in the game far longer – but the team has a luxury tax payroll of more than $380 million and a Tax return More than another $100 million won’t look like this by the close of trading at 6 p.m. Aug. 1.
When asked if the Robertson transfer was the first of more deals for the Mets, general manager Billy Eppler said the team “listen to where the clubs are when they call us.”
“If this economic equation suggests we’re making the deal that’s best for the organization, then we really need to think about it,” Eppler said.
In exchange for Robertson, the Mets received 18-year-old midfielder Marco Vargas and 19-year-old switch-hitting catcher Ronald Hernandez, both of whom had outstanding performances in the Florida Complex League that year. The pair is highly regarded by reviewers — particularly Vargas, who multiple sources say could be a top contender — but are unlikely to help the Mets until 2026 at the earliest.
“It’s not a total surprise. They knew this was a possibility,” Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo said after Thursday’s 2-1 win over the Nationals. “But there are signs that this is the path we are taking. This is never an easy pill to swallow. You can’t sit here and say that you were totally surprised by this. They had to know this was a possibility.” They were just hoping that we could do enough in the last week and a half to maybe give it a try and see what we can do in the last two months. I think they kind of made it clear to us in which direction we want to go. We’re going in. The rest of us just have to make an effort, keep going out there and try to win games.”
As New York anticipates the disappointment of 2023, the hope is to build an elite farming system while keeping spending at the sport’s peak. The attempt to build a World Series-caliber team this season began with the signings of Diaz and Nimmo and continued with the arrival of Verlander to join Max Scherzer, a top team they signed a year earlier.
Success never came. The injury to Diaz, baseball’s top closer last season, altered the structure of her bullpen and attempts to repair it failed. Now, in addition to Pham and the starters, outfielder Mark Canha and backup Adam Ottavino could also be dealt in the coming days as the Mets shift their focus beyond 2023 to the future.