The Mets dodged a bullet with George Springer

Noah Syndergaard and Michael ConfortoGeorge Springer is a terrific player and as a playoff-tested, right-handed slugger who plays a solid centerfield, he seemed to be the most coveted free agent for Mets fans. Alas, it was not meant to be, as the Blue Jays swooped in and snagged the former Astro All-Star for six years and $150 million.

The $25 million AAV is not far off what Springer was projected to get, but that extra year is tough to swallow. As this blogger has pointed out many times, centerfielders don’t age well. Sure, he’ll probably be good for another three years, but the back end of that contract could be ugly. At best, he’ll transition to a corner outfield position and still be able to slug 30 home runs per year. At worst? Well, remember Jacoby Ellsbury? How about Dexter Fowler? AJ Pollock? Lorenzo Cain? The list is long.

Back when the Mets signed Carlos Beltran to a then whopping seven-year, $119 million contract, he was just 27 years old. Springer turned 31 in September. There’s little question he will boost the Blue Jays offense for the next few years, but after that, his contract could be a problem. However, with most of their key players still in pre-arbitration years, the Blue Jays can afford to take on this gamble. The Mets cannot.

As Sandy Alderson and Steve Cohen have made clear, they want to build a sustainable winner. You simply don’t accomplish that by stockpiling expensive free agents.

The Mets have a nice core of young talent and some, like Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith, and Jeff McNeil, are still earning well below their market value as pre-arbitration players. However, many of our other key players, like Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, and Seth Lugo, are seeing steady pay increases through arbitration. The biggest concern of course is that four of the main cogs on this team will hit free agency when this coming season ends – Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. That list also includes Steven Matz, Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances, but these guys are obviously less of a concern.

Now, if we were still owned by the Wilpons, we’d be bracing ourselves to lose three out of four of those players. But those cheapskates who let us wave good-bye to homegrown favorites like Jose Reyes and Zack Wheeler are thankfully out of the picture. A certain avuncular billionaire owner wants his fans to be happy. Now, realistically, we won’t be able to keep Lindor, Conforto, Syndergaard and Stroman. But in order to have a chance to bring back two or hopefully three of them and keep the band together for sustained winning, we’re going to have to keep our 2021 spending in check.

The trade for Lindor and Carlos Carrasco was our big move and it was enormous. That move alone puts us firmly in the playoff discussion. Bringing back Stroman and signing Brian McCann, Trevor May and Jose Martinez, plus trading for Joey Lucchesi, helps solidify the roster for the coming season. By most accounts, the Mets are still nearly $30 million below the soft salary cap. And, by most accounts, the Mets still have a few remaining roster holes that need plugging.

Without Springer, and hopefully not Trevor Bauer, the Mets don’t need to eat up that remaining space with one contract. Although Brad Hand is currently being courted by multiple teams, a lefty reliever who can close would give us the best bullpen we’ve had in many years. A gold glove centerfielder like Jackie Bradley Jr. would give us a really strong up-the-middle defense. And a gold glove second baseman like Kolton Wong would give us a fantastic infield with McNeil moving over to third. These three combined might make less than what Bauer is seeking.

A cheaper version of this – Justin Wilson, Kevin Pillar, and Jonathan Villar – would still round out the roster and leave wiggle room for a mid-season acquisition, not to mention the possibility of extending one or more of the walk year players. Flexibility is key, as keeping a good team intact.

Look at the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals as cautionary tales. Yes, they won World Series, but these teams were talked about as a sustained winners, if not potential dynasties. Fans in Boston and San Francisco can more easily swallow the downturn as they have three rings to show for it.

These days, the top players are seeking $30 million AAV contracts. Even if you can support a $200 million payroll, you really can’t have more than two or three of those guys on your team and hope to fill out a roster. This isn’t the NBA where two superstars can win you a title. You could literally have the three best players in baseball on your team – say Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jacob deGrom – and still finish in last place if the rest of your team stinks. The Nationals have $100 million spoken for by the front of their rotation and had to bid adieu to Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in successive off-seasons. Now their team consists of the three pitchers, a few young stars, and a whole lot of marginal players.

Of course MattyMets wants to see his team win it all for the first time since he was 14, but what he really wants is for the Mets to be like the Cardinals or Dodgers, who seem to be in the playoffs every year. Locking up guys like Conforto and Syndergaard is the best way to make that happen.

Steve Cohen could top the 2008 Yankees spending spree

raining cashThe 2008 New York Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. They were about to move into their newly renovated ballpark with more luxury suites. The Steinbrenners had money to spend and Yankee fans were eager to get right back into contention. Luckily for them, the stars aligned as the free agent class that winter was topped by three star players who could put the Yankees right back into October baseball.

While the rest of baseball was utterly shocked, Yankee fans celebrated Christmas all winter long as the Yankees committed a whopping $424 million in contracts to snatch up all three of the big off-season prizes. If that seems like a lot of money now, remember that this was 12 years ago.

In desperate need of pitching, the Yankees roped in likely future Hall of Famer CC Sabathia with a 7-year/$161 million deal. At the time, that was a monster contract. To further shore up their rotation, the Yankees also grabbed A.J. Burnett for 5-years/$83 million. However, the biggest contract that off-season went to the switch-hitting, gold-glove first baseman, Mark Teixeira. He signed for a then staggering 8-years/$180 million.

In case anyone reading this doesn’t recall how that investment turned out, the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. Meanwhile, Mets fans were less celebratory upon hearing the Braves outbid us for Derek Lowe and we settled for resigning Oliver Perez to a three-year/$36 million contract. We also signed Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year/$37 million deal.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, or, rather the coin purse is in another borough. Now, at long freakin’ last, the stars have aligned for us. All of our dreams came true as billionaire and lifelong Mets fan Steve Cohen bought the team away from the penny pinching Wilpon family. On top of Cohen’s riches, the Mets also have plenty of wiggle room with contracts coming off the books, including a surprise $20.25 million courtesy of the Robinson Cano PED suspension. And, as luck would have it, many of the top available free agents play our biggest positions of need – starting pitcher, catcher, and center field.

As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, most teams will be hesitant to spend this off-season, as they lost millions in revenue in 2020 with Covid-19 robbing them of earnings from ticket sales, concessions, parking, merchandise, etc. Cohen lost no money last year because he didn’t own a baseball team until right now. Not only is he the richest owner in Major League Baseball, but he may also be the luckiest.

Maybe it’s so ingrained in us from the lean Wilpon years to think, oh, maybe now we can get one of the big free agents – which one should we get? Hence, there have been endless debates on this blog, and anywhere else intelligent Mets fans gather, about whether we should go after the ace pitcher, the All-Star catcher, or the playoff tested centerfielder. Why can we only have one?

We all dream of winning the lottery. If you win the small state jackpot, maybe you pay off your bills and go on an exotic vacation. But, if you win the Powerball jackpot, you take care of everyone you know, buy a giant house and a fancy car, season tickets to the Mets, and still have more left than you know what to do with. Hmm, maybe I should be shopping for a yacht or a private jet or an island! You get the point?

At the top tier of this year’s free agent class are Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, and George Springer, referenced above, as well as two-time batting champ DJ LeMahieu and slugger Marcell Ozuna. These are very good players who would look great in blue and orange, but none of them are generational talents like Mike Trout or Mookie Betts. No one above is going to command a 10-year/$300 million+ contract. Factor in the shortage of competition from so many teams in the red, and the Mets are in the catbird seat to corral three of these guys.

How much would that take? Well, the wildcard is Bauer, who has previously been committed to playing on one-year contracts. Coming off a Cy Young season, might he be convinced to finally commit to one team?  If yes, it could set off a bidding war with all of the California teams seeking starting pitching. If that is the case, Bauer could push toward something in the neighborhood of 7-years/$210 million. Is this mercurial and only recently dominant pitcher really worth that much? MattyMets doesn’t think so, but perhaps some of you do.

As for the other four players, Realmuto and Springer could command something like 5-years/$125 while Lemahieu and Ozuna a bit less at 4-years/$92 million. So, if Cohen, Alderson and our as-yet-to-be-named General Manager want to add arguably the three best available free agents to our roster, it might cost $460 million. That would indeed top the 2008-9 Yankees haul, but then, it’s 12 years later.

Cohen likely doesn’t care nearly as much about sticking it to the Yankees as he does fielding a winner in Queens, but if that is a goal of his, a cheaper way to accomplish that would be to simply outbid the Bronx Bombers for LeMahieu.

It’s hard to fathom, like with the Powerball, but we actually won. Yeah, Mets fans really won!  Let that sink in because now, it’s time to spend, baby. #LFGM

Who will Mets take in 2011 MLB Draft?

The Mets have homegrown players Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee playing key roles on the 2011 team but you constantly hear about their need to build a stronger farm system.

Sandy Alderson gets to oversee his first draft for the club when the 2011 MLB Draft begins on June 6th. The Mets have seven picks in the top 200, a normal amount, including the 13th overall pick. New York picked up one extra pick this year, a supplemental pick for the loss of free agent Pedro Feliciano, which is the 44th overall selection.

Omar Minaya is unfairly criticized for the drafts on his watch, but one thing no one should complain about is how he did the times he had a first-round pick. Minaya oversaw six drafts and in the three years that the Mets picked in the first round, they came away with Mike Pelfrey (2005), Ike Davis (2008) and Matt Harvey (2010). The Mets also grabbed Reese Havens and Brad Holt in the first round of 2008.

Will Alderson experience the same success that Minaya did? We can only hope. One thing that is clear is that there is no consensus among the experts who the Mets are going to take at 13. There have been at least 11 names attached to the Mets and four of the leading draft experts each have a different take on who the club will take. Let’s take a look at these four:

Jim Callis (Baseball America) – In his second mock, dated May 27th, Callis has the Mets taking Louisiana State outfielder Mikie Mahtook. Currently a center fielder, there are concerns he may wind up in left field. But Mahtook is much more interesting due to his bat. He finished the regular season with 14 HR in 196 ABs and had a .383/.496/.709 slash line. Mahtook is one of 30 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the nation’s top amateur baseball player.

Keith Law (ESPN) – In his second mock, dated May 30th, Law has the Mets taking North Carolina shortstop Levi Michael. There are some concerns that Michael may not stick at shortstop (he also played 2B and 3B at UNC) due to questionable range. But scouts like his arm and think his bat will play. Michael has a .313/.459/.476 slash line and has 14 SB in 15 attempts.

Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com) – In his first mock, dated May 20th, Mayo has the Mets taking Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer. The first thing that stands out about Meyer is his height, as he’s 6-foot-9. In 14 games this year, Meyer was 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA. He struck out 110 batters in 101 innings and walked 46. Meyer throws in the mid-90s and also has a slider and changeup. He was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox, but turned down a $2 million offer to go to college.

John Sickels (Minor League Ball) – In his second mock, dated May 30th, Sickels has the Mets taking Connecticut outfielder George Springer. The number-two prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer, Springer is always mentioned whenever scouts talk about players with the best tools. A center fielder, he has a .361/.462/.644 slash line, with 12 HR and 31 SB. Like Mahtook, he is a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

Other players linked to the Mets include pitchers Danny Hultzen (UVA), Taylor Jungmann (Texas), Taylor Guerrieri (HS/South Carolina), Jed Bradley (Ga. Tech) and Josh Stilson (Texas A&M). Other hitters mentioned in conjunction with the Mets are Javier Baez (HS/Florida) and Brandon Nimmo (HS/Wyoming).