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.