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.

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.

6 comments on “Casey Stengel and trying to thread the needle with free agents

  • John Fox

    Not a very flattering picture of ole Casey, it looks like a bizarro Stengel at some kind of demonic seance.

    • Brian Joura

      I like to think of it as a picture taken right after the Yankees fired him, as he looks into the crystal ball and sees the team he’d be managing next.

  • Chris F

    The Mets fans that scream for sign the biggest baddest FAs for whatever the cost, are the same that say, what a disaster it is for the 3 years “we” have to pay 27M/yr for and then find the team saddled with bad contracts.

    George Spinger isnt Willy Mays. Trevor Bauer isnt Max Scherzer.

    Building a team that aligns all the goals in the selected time frame is essential. I’d hate to get people “just because” and fail to see the bigger *other* things that the crack staff of Porter/Alderson/Cohen and company have cooking up.

    The most important things is not throwing huge money just because it is possible…its spending the right money.

    I think it is a huge mistake to just believe Cohen will just throw top dollars at every free agent because he is rich. that is not how rich people generally become rich.

  • Metsense

    Springer wants $150m/6 and the Blue Jays said no. The crowdsourcing bid seems to be fair and probably what the Mets and Blue Jays are comfortable with. Alderson is wise for not bidding against himself. Springer is an upgrade for the defense at 3 positions without diminishing the offense but the Mets don’t really need him. They still have a top 5 offense without him. The Mets need 2 more starting pitchers.
    Springer 5/125, Odorizzi 3/39 and Tanaka 3/39 still fits the budget for the 2021 luxury tax.
    In 2022, they will have to chose between Syndergaard and Stroham (approximately $20m) leaving $14m for RF. If they want Conforto then they will exceed the luxury tax. Any dollar saved in in Springer negotiations will reduce the 2022 luxury tax penalty. That amount is minimal in the scope of things.

  • TJ

    Every minute that clicks off the clock works in favor of the Mets.

    Cohen/Alderson overpaid for a solid C in order eliminate the risk of chasing Realmuto and to better position themselves for a slow/late market. McCann was the benefactor, but it lines up as a classic win win.

    Adding pitching is a necessity, but the market is saturated with both starters and relievers. There should be every opportunity to add a collective upgrades of anywhere from 2 to 4 players at prices that do not compromise the future.

    Springer is a luxury item. Wise folks spend on luxury items once the necessities are paid for.

  • TexasGusCC

    It comes down to this: Who is better, Springer or Conforto? Conforto is 27 and Springer is 31. Both good players, Springer maybe a little better right now, but how much? If you want to sign Springer at $25MM per year for 5-6 years, you won’t be resigning Conforto. If you sign Bradley at $10-$12 for two or three years, you can sign Conforto.

    Then there is the fact that Brian touched on and left quickly: the Mets don’t have room in the lineup for another hitter. That would be a bad use of resources. I said it in November, sign Pillar to platoon with Nimmo and come in for defense. Don’t blow it up to please the fans.

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