Passing on Harper and Machado is the right play

Based on comments from Jeff Wilpon yesterday, it would seem that any far flung notion of the Mets making a play for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado is dead. “Well, I don’t know how many teams have two $30 million players,” he told reporters, alluding to the albatross salary of injured star Yoenis Cespedes.

Last season there were six Major Leaguers earning $30 million or more (or seven if you round up Cespedes’ $29 million as Wilpon did) and no two were on the same team, but that will change in 2019. Even before Harper or Machado inevitably join Jake Arrieta in Philadelphia, the Nationals will boast two members of the $30 million plus club in 2019 as both Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer are scheduled for monster balloon payments that total $72.5 million. You could make the argument that insurance will cover a substantial amount of Cespedes’ contract, but the details are kept under Flushing lock and key. Besides, Cespedes will be paid in full come 2020, as will Robinson Cano ($24 million, adjusted to $20.25 million) and Jacob deGrom, who, whether through arbitration or as part of a new contract, will certainly be earning well over $20 million.

The Wilpons are constantly referred to as cheapskates by critics and many Mets fans. This one agrees that they should be a little looser with the purse strings, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to going after the biggest fish every off-season. For one thing, you could make the case that Harper and Machado are overrated and not worth the $300 million contracts they are seeking. While both All-Stars, neither is the best player in the game and a strong case could be made that neither is even in the top 10.

What really makes the Wilpons leery of reeling in a big fish though is the franchise track record with big contracts.The Mets have rarely gotten their money’s worth on big, long-term contracts and it seems like nearly every year their highest paid player is languishing on the DL eating up payroll while the manager constantly laments, “just wait until <player> comes back.” Now it’s Cespedes, but it’s also been David Wright, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez and many others. Big pay days don’t guarantee big seasons or playoff runs or attendance boosts. The only thing big signings guarantee are back page headlines, and that shouldn’t be the biggest motivating factor for ownership to spend money.

There’s a different crop of free agents next year and maybe it will make more sense to open the check book, but for this year, the only monster check Mets owners should be signing is the one to lock up Jacob deGrom.

30 comments for “Passing on Harper and Machado is the right play

  1. Chris F
    January 25, 2019 at 7:00 am

    While Im not crazy hot on either, I understand the general fan desire as well as all the reporting on the Mets lack of interest. One thing worth pointing out is that 29M$ is factually not 30M$. Furthermore, they will be recovering some significant part of that, and already have recovered a significant part of Ces’ salary. This is part of the Mets “fake news” typical strategy so perfectly deployed by Alderson who regularly used every metric under the sun to deny what the Mets actual record was at the time. Its worth noting, they don’t use fun hyperbole to make a point, but these are real beliefs. Although there are certainly examples of Mets making the failed big payout, almost always its selecting players past their prime, whether that be Pedro or Glavine and even to some degree Johan, who could have been much better were it not for his anterior capsule tear; same with Ces. But I disagree with Beltran as being somehow failing the Mets on his contract with a handful of AS appearances, multiple gold gloves, multiple silver slugger awards, and solid MVP placings. He was the best centerfielder this team has had, and were he to get elected to the hall, his main body of high achievement would come as a Met.

    I mention that because he was a Met in the “sweet spot” of age: 28-32. In the case of Machado or Harper you get a solid 8 of 10 years within the sweet spot, including all of what would likely be the very best years in their careers.

    Mets fans suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. We regularly defend terrible players and even fall in love with them, like my unhealthy and unwarranted support for Lagares. In the world of big time baseball, he just is not more than a quad A or bench piece. The same for Flores. The Mets have the money to add, being nowhere near the lux tax soft cap.

  2. January 25, 2019 at 7:20 am

    Matt how can you justify your point of view when this team just traded for Cano’s albatross contract. I don’t see the logic here from the Wilpons.. 24 million dead salary for how many years? Wouldn’t you prefer to have either Harper or Machado in their prime and worry about dead salary in 2025?

    • MattyMets
      January 25, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Pete – Cano’s contract is offset by money Seattle included in the deal. It’s really 20mm. Nothing to sneeze at but a far cry from the 35mm plus these guys are asking for.

      Even if you’re of the belief that Machado and Harper are generational talents, this isn’t the NBA where one star player can change a franchise. Put Trout in Baltimore and they still come in last place.

      • January 25, 2019 at 9:33 am

        Put Trout in CF in Citifield and the Mets are a totally different ball club. Front load it the contract with an opt out after 4 or 5 years. I’d rather have Trout’s back end years than Cano’s

      • January 25, 2019 at 11:14 am

        But the Mets aren’t Baltimore.

  3. January 25, 2019 at 7:34 am

    The Mets payroll for 2020 sits at 97 million dollars! And that’s before Arb hearings for JDG, Thor, Diaz and 8 more players. So that argument doesn’t hold water. Sorry. You could easily add another 40 – 50 million in payroll from these 11 players. My source is Cot’s

  4. Artie
    January 25, 2019 at 7:45 am

    And they passed on Pollack and Donaldson…

  5. Eraff
    January 25, 2019 at 7:46 am

    The Mets History with big contracts isn’t unique. There reaction to these contracts and their overall spending level as a “Big Market Team” Is!!!!

    Headliner Players should be judged on two things…Marketing and “Championships”…. a top tier salary player should be Transformative on one or both of those areas.

    As for the specific Guys….. I hate anyone on a 10 year contract. I’d prefer to overpay the overpay by 15-25% annual value to keep myself in a manageable 4-6 year window. For the younger player, this is also a bet on themselves and their future markets as 29/30/31/32 year olds. Otherwise, I’m a hard to convince Hard pass on 7-10 year deals.

    Quick on Degrom—- Mets have 2 years on a Vet Pitcher….He should want Lots of money….. both sides should be reasonable and nice. The Mets should save a year or two and 5 million a year on the Values, and Jake should get security and great wealth. The Musings that he should get Top Value now are insanity.

  6. January 25, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Harper and Machado are generational players and Mets have little payroll on the books by 2021 can’t wait for the ridiculous rationale for not trying to sign Trout by ownership and some fans.

    • Name
      January 25, 2019 at 9:53 am

      I disagree that they are once in a generation players. Talent-wise, there are numerous other players that are comparable or even better. A few years they’ve been in the top 5, other years you could argue they are not even top 10.

      The once in generation part applies to their free agency status – as you don’t often see good players becoming true FAs at age 26. There was A-rod, then Jason Heyward, and then that’s it. Other players who could have been eligible for age 26 FA, like Trout, Miggy, Ken Griffey, ended up caving and signing deals that bought out the first few years of FA. If you’re willing to be flexible and instead that list to age 27 FA, you can even add guys like Wright to that list – who in my opinion was significantly better in his first 6 years than Machado.

      Long story short is that they are not that truly special talent wise. There are other players who are just as good or better who will be hitting the open market, they are just not as young. It’s not like if we pass on Harper/Machado now that there won’t be another high level caliber player in the future.

  7. January 25, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Mets are wild card contenders right now with Harper or Machado they’d be World Series contenders.

  8. January 25, 2019 at 9:43 am

    Don’t forget the Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla disasters either. I am OK with them passing on Harper. They could have pursued Machado, but chose to get Cano as part of getting Diaz (which is the most overlooked move so far this winter IMO).
    What has been their downfall in recent years (decades) is the willingness to go cheap on depth. These AAAA types always end up getting much more playing time than ever anticipated.

    Happens every year.

    • MattyMets
      January 25, 2019 at 10:54 am

      Dan , agree completely. Upgrading our B team will result in at least +5 in the win column. Some of the players we’ve trotted out the past few years don’t belong in the Majors.

  9. TexasGusCC
    January 25, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Have mixed feeling about this topic. Would be excited to have either player, but where can you fit them in at this point? While I would not want to offer a ten year deal, Captain Spotlight isn’t going to budge with his smug daddy Boras by his side, and Machado would necessitate a trade of Alonso to get rid of Frazier’s contract. Too, ten years is an awfully long time. If they want a ten year contract, then why the opt-outs? Can the team opt-out? I don’t like these deals. If you want to be a free agent in three years, sign a three year deal.

    Harper strikes me as the next Derrick Rose, meaning, he will sign a ten year deal and the. Put it on cruise control not wanting to hurt himself for the rest of his life, or every time he chips a nail, goes on the DL. That’s what divas do.

    • TexasGusCC
      January 25, 2019 at 9:58 am

      To expand a bit on my last thought, Machado works on his defense and has maintained a high level of play. Harper has regressed steadily (especially defense) since blessing us with his presence and especially lately. Furthermore, his agent speaks as if his inclusion will make a franchise relevant, where, it’s the franchise making him relevant. If this can be a wake-up call for Harper, he could be that great player he wants to be perceived as. However, I don’t see that happening.

      And, Conforto has one big year, do you shop him to see his value and to avoid his obtuse agent and the demands?

      • January 25, 2019 at 10:25 am

        Harper was coming off a serious knee injury and disagree that he’s a diva he wants to be an all time great. Conforto has three years of control keep him.

        • TexasGusCC
          January 25, 2019 at 12:37 pm

          All times greats work their butts off in every sport. Their work regimen is well known and admired and it shows. Period.

          Rice. Payton. Jordan. Gwynn. Even Brady. These guys work very, very hard. Scottie Pippen became an all time great because he learned how to work hard and was pushed by Jordan. The right kind of hard and smart work still works.

          To quote my favorite coach of all time, the great Pat Riley “Success comes before work only in the dictionary”.

          If Harper worked that hard, why has his defense gone down every year since he came into the league? Diva; a very talented diva, but still a diva. And you know what David, I bet he has no problem with that.

  10. MattyMets
    January 25, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, either would be the best every day player on our team. Either would lengthen our lineup, boost our run production, sell more tickets and merch, and create a surplus of trade chips. That’s a compelling return and worth say, 6/180 but these guys are asking for 10/350.

    For that kind of franchise altering contract, I want a perennial MVP candidate, clubhouse leader and a guy who will someday sell out the stadium chasing records and reaching milestones like ARod, Pujols, Cabrera, Trout.

  11. Rob
    January 25, 2019 at 11:21 am

    Not sure why a lot of people are treating these guys Asif it were Williams and DiMaggio are free agents. They are good ballplayers but I don’t see generational. Use the money for Thor and degrom. Machado is no wright and hi harper is no where near beltran so the article should not be comparing the players.

    • TexasGusCC
      January 25, 2019 at 12:31 pm

      +1

  12. TJ
    January 25, 2019 at 11:50 am

    There is a reasonable debate as to whether the Mets should be “in” on these two guys. Being a bias member of the “don’t like the Wilpons” group, it is still objectively reasonable for them to decide against a major investment in either player. That said, there is really no excuse for them to have had zero interest. Who knows where these will play out, and perhaps they could jump in at the last minute, but complete avoidance and disinterest from a major market team, going for it in 2019, with payroll room, that is concerning.

    The bigger disappointment is that it seems, given all the body language and comments, that they are content with where they stand. This, despite all objective projections of the team showing they are multiple games away from the top of the division, and far behind the most powerful non-divisional NL opponents. There are still areas that can be strengthened and do not require an outlandish financial commitment, and the back end of the rotation along with another quality bullpen arm are glaring. But, as usual, it looks like they will spend in the 12th – 15th team range, in line with a mid-market team. All while the GM is essentially spinning the improvements. Yes, he has addresses several issues, and that is good. But, once again, they are coming up short as of late January. Hopefully they have a couple of pitching additions before camp, but I’ll need to see it to believe it.

    • Chris F
      January 25, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      you got that right.

  13. Eric Bloom
    January 25, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Couldn’t agree more

  14. Steve S.
    January 25, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    Signing Justin Wilson today is just the right move. Sign another reliever and I’ll stop calling the Wilpons the “Couponzis” for now!

  15. BK
    January 26, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    I agree. The starting point for Harper is the 10-year, $300M that’s been offered by Washington. That’s a contract worth considering if a team is one player away and I’m not convinced that’s the Mets. And Machado seems like the type of player that teammates hate playing with. Not exactly what the Mets need.

  16. Aging Bull
    January 27, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Both players are bad characters. One had his teammate choke him in the dugout and the other showcased his lack of sportsmanship on the national stage over and over. Neither has the stats to warrant the diva treatment. One can argue if the $/WAR makes sense but for me, the detriment to team chemistry and complete lack of leadership make them completely unappealing.

    To be fair, if I were not a Met fan or if Ces played for another team, I’d probably put him in the same category. I personally have zero appetite for another. I’m sure someone will say Cano fits that bill too, in which case I would say, “Do the Mets want three?”

  17. January 27, 2019 at 12:25 am

    Aging Bull if the Mets win a WS you would say how about 4? Winning washes away a lot of the sins from these two spoiled brats

    • Aging Bull
      January 27, 2019 at 3:39 am

      I would never say never but it would depend. I live in Central Texas and the SA Spurs are the gold standard of a sports franchise for me in just about every way. Many years ago when they signed Dennis Rodman, i was incredulous but he became a solid citizen and strong teammate. If either of these punks became a Met and shaped up, I’d be fine with that. I don’t see it happening though. If one came and they won, I’d be happy of course, but aside from the chemistry, or lack thereof, I just don’t see either of them as top drawer as the general public. The stats don’t back it up if you look at the last couple years. Harper since his mvp season is a bit above average. Machado has been more consistent but neither are generational players. Potentially, yes. But in jy judgment neither have the attitude or drive to fulfill that, esp after a big payday. They are both entitled and I hate that.

  18. January 27, 2019 at 3:54 am

    I ‘d take neither too. Especially at 300 million+. As for a quality classy character player I’ll wait for Trout. Solves so many problems in CF and the line up

    • Aging Bull
      January 27, 2019 at 1:47 pm

      On that, we agree!

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