Casey Stengel was a baseball lifer but because of his theatrics and quotability, he doesn’t seem to get credit for his baseball smarts. There’s hardly a situation in baseball where you can’t find a Stengel quote that fits or explains the issue, even if it’s not remotely what Stengel had in mind when he initially said the words. Thinking about the dance that free agents and clubs are going through – George Springer wants more than $150 million?!? – brought to mind this Stengel classic:
Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.
Maybe it’s not clear who’s the ballplayer and who’s the woman in the comparison to the current free agent dance. But it doesn’t take long for January to turn into February, which has got to be the equivalent of staying up all night. The Mets went home early with Trevor May and James McCann, although neither would be considered the best-looking woman at Club Relief Pitcher or The Catcher’s Lounge.
A Twitter user asked Steve Cohen if McCann would be the biggest catch this offseason for the Mets. Cohen reminded the user that he wasn’t out there trying to get by with smooth pick-up lines.
Let me put it differently . Don’t you think someone will take our money. It just has to make sense
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) January 4, 2021
May and McCann took Cohen’s money, for sure. FanGraphs had its annual crowdsourcing column on free agents and the median contract estimate for May was 2/$10 and for McCann it was 2/$12. May ended up getting 2/$15.5 while McCann pulled in 4/$40.6. With that as our backdrop, is it really surprising that Springer is asking for more than $30 million per year?
Springer would be a good fit but the Mets don’t truly need him, especially if there’s no DH in the NL in 2021. Their real need is SP but with so many candidates available, they can wait until closing time if need be. It’s interesting – at least to me – that none of the second-tier starters have inked a contract yet. Perhaps they’re all waiting for Tomoyuki Sugano to make his deal. Sugano has until January 7 to sign with a U.S. team, so he has more urgency than his American counterparts. Perhaps soon we’ll see couples leaving Studio Starting Pitcher.
If that does indeed happen, that in the next 10 days or so we see six or eight starting pitchers sign, where does that leave things with Springer?
The Mets and Blue Jays have been the teams most linked to Springer. But they’ve been linked to a lot of players, including starting pitchers. If either New York or Toronto goes in big for starters – does Springer lose all of his leverage? It’s one thing to ask for the moon when there are multiple teams that can pay the freight. But if, say, the Mets sign Jake Odorizzi and James Paxton, can they also spend $30 million per on Springer?
There haven’t been many reports on what clubs are offering Springer right now. There’s been no reporting on firm offers from the Mets and Jim Duquette claimed the Blue Jays’ offer was worth “well under” the $150 million Springer is expecting. The FG crowdsourcing had Springer valued at 5/$110 – which is also far shy of a $30 million AAV.
If the expectation is an AAV of $22 million, you ask for $30 million and “settle” for $25 – well things worked out pretty good for you. But if you ask for $30, scare everyone off so they spend their money elsewhere and have to settle for $20 then you’re left wondering why it went so wrong.
And it’s not just the player who has to worry. The Mets are trying to thread the needle, getting the top combination of SP, CF and possibly RP that they can. Maybe they can play their cards right and end up with Springer, Odorizzi and Brad Hand. Or maybe by trying to get all three they end up with only one, or even none, of their preferred targets.
So, as the Mets and the top free agents are still circling one another at the club, let’s recall another Stengel quote:
Don’t cut my throat, I may want to do that later myself.