Right now it is 10:40 pm EST on January 12th and a lot free agents remain unsigned in MLB in what has to be the slowest moving market in this generation at least. Many major names are still available, including but not limited to, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Jonathan LuCroy, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrietta, etc. There really hasn’t been much noise all winter concerning Moustakas, Cain, LuCroy, and Arrietta. According to recent reports, Martinez is at a contract stalemate with Boston, Hosmer has received seven year offers worth $140+ million from San Diego and Kansas City, and the Darvish derby is down to six teams (Rangers, Astros, Yankees, Twins, Cubs, and a mystery sixth team, according to Darvish himself). The reliever market has seen its fair share of deals this winter but no other positions are getting much love. And by the way, the trend has continued, relievers continue to get paid big bucks.
This offseason the Mets have so far signed reliever Anthony Swarzak (2 years, $14 million) and just last night brought back right fielder Jay Bruce (3 years, $39 million). Coming into this offseason, the Mets did say that payroll would be cut from the $155 million point they opened the 2017 season at but never gave an actual number with most reports saying it’d be around $135-140 million. The fact that a team in the biggest market in the world can’t maintain a top 10 payroll and has to slash payroll two seasons removed from a World Series appearance while still fielding a playoff/championship caliber core is an ABSOLUTE JOKE and has angered fans this offseason. This team still has lots of promise left in it and with the right moves can be right back in the World Series. Yes, the Wilpon’s took a big hit in the infamous Bernie Madoff scheme but that is well in the past at this point and with the team performance the last few seasons and two straight playoff appearances, the Wilpon’s have been making more money as of late.
There is no excuses at all as to why the New York Mets have to or should slash payroll this offseason or any offseason really for that matter when they’re located in the New York market and you got the Yankees playing crosstown. Now I’m not saying that the Mets should spend like the Yankees and go over or hover around the luxury tax threshold, but to potentially be cutting payroll by $20 million and not supporting even a top 10 payroll is ridiculous. Let’s say the Mets payroll lands at $140 million to open this upcoming season, judging by last years opening day payrolls, that would lower them from 12th last year to 16th this year in payroll. Is that a serious possibility for, again, a team in the NYC market that is playoff caliber and is two seasons removed from being in the World Series?! It seems ludicrous and it is, but it’s also what I and all other Mets fans have had to unfortunately get used to under this current Mets ownership. Operating in a big market under mid tier market budgets and disrespecting the fans by not even being aggressive on the market is such a slap in the face and practically irresponsible. Although, there is one way the Wilpon’s can somewhat save face and at the same time make GM Sandy Alderson look better as well is to make a surprise splash in the market and see if you can get someone like a Hosmer or Moustakas at an even cheaper yearly rate and/or not as many years. I’m not saying that the Mets will or should, but you can definitely bet that with it being mid-January now that the big names free agents left standing are going to be taking less than what they originally envisioned and it might even be significantly less.
The Mets have had a very quiet offseason up until the re-signing of Jay Bruce last night. The additions of Swarzak and Bruce should definitely help solidify an improving bullpen and bring back an important power bat to the offense who can also fill in at first base sometimes, respectively. Are they solid additions? Absolutely. Is it enough to dethrone the Nats as the class of the NL East? Not even close. The Mets still need another bullpen arm, a middle of the rotation starter, and two complimentary starting bats or one major offensive piece. The Mets recently spoke to the Pirates about Andrew McCutchen but those talks are done and over with, now that Bruce is coming back to Queens. The Mets look like they’re going to go with a defensive setup of Yoenis Cespedes in left field, Michael Conforto in center field, and Bruce in right field, while also playing first base, which in turn would slide Conforto over to right field on those days and allow the Mets to start the more defensively sound Juan Lagares or even youngster Brandon Nimmo in centerfield. Bruce will split time with youngster Dominic Smith at first base, which is where I was a bit puzzled when I found out Bruce was coming back and that he would play some first base. While I do like the idea of the Bruce/Smith platoon at 1B and agree with the Mets’ assessment that Smith may not be ready for the everyday starting job at first base, I thought they’d bring in a righty platoon partner for Smith and not another lefty, like Bruce is. I thought righty Wilmer Flores would see most of the platoon work at 1B but that may not be as much of a case as originally thought. Flores could also ultimately be the starting second baseman come April but I believe the Mets like him in a super utility role, as do I honestly, although I wouldn’t mind even more starts for Flores considering how well he’s grasped right handed pitching the last two seasons. I guess time will tell how things go with Flores and the Bruce/Smith platoon.
Now how can the Mets inject some life into the fan base in a pinch? Sign Hosmer or Moustakas. Yes, I know, it’s easier said than done. There’s no doubt in my mind though that both of their price tags are dropping and both guys won’t come close to garnering the type of deals they thought they would coming into this winter. Could either one of these guys possibly take a one year deal to reestablish value and become a free agent again next winter in what’s being described as the best free agent market in a very long time? Hosmer is still only 28 years old, in the middle of his prime, and possesses one of the best all around games in baseball. That kind of player is going to strike it rich but with this market, could Hosmer take a one year deal and be a free agent again next year at the age of 29 (still a great age in free agency)? The worth of that kind of one year deal would need to be very high, probably between $20-25 million at least. Could or would the Mets swallow that, even for one year? I doubt it, which leads me to believe that acquiring Hosmer is exactly what it is, a pipe dream. Move the conversation over to Moustakas and it’s a different story.
You can ask anyone, I’ve never been a big fan of Moustakas and thought he’d be a free agent who gets massively overpaid after breaking the Royals’ franchise record for home runs in a single season (38) in his walk year. Now while his powerful run producing bat is a dangerous weapon, he doesn’t do much of anything else all that well. He doesn’t draw walks, doesn’t hit for a high average, and his defense is adequate at best. The fact that he’s probably received the least amount of buzz amongst the major free agents remaining is going to bring his price down, especially when San Francisco decided to trade for Evan Longoria instead and St.Louis is more interested in trading for Josh Donaldson. Here’s the difference between Moose and Hosmer though, while Hosmer is 28 years old, Moose has him by three years at 31. Definitely a tougher situation for Moose when contemplating shorter terms deals, if those are to be received. Again, would or could Moustakas take a one year, let’s say $15-20 million deal? What about maybe something along the lines of three years, $45-55 million? Very doubtful but the longer these guys continue to wait to sign deals, the uglier their contracts will be.
Now like I said, I’m not a big fan of Moustakas and would rather not allocate major dollars to him over the course of a multi year contract but you can’t tell me that if the Mets signed Moustakas out of the blue that it wouldn’t energize this fan base and even put a little bit of a scare into the Nationals. In this “dream” scenario though, I’d much rather sign Hosmer and if it somehow wound up being a multi year deal, I’d flip Dominic Smith as part of a package for a legit cost controlled third baseman or catcher, while letting Bruce handle right field all the time and cementing Conforto as the everyday starting center fielder. Again, like I’ve been saying, this is all a pipe dream but it’s also something that should at the very least be considered by management/ownership. And as fellow Mets fans can attest, all we can do is dream, right?