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.

38 comments on “The Mets dodged a bullet with George Springer

  • Pete

    If the Mets were kicking the tires on Kris Bryant then I don’t see
    why they can’t try for Nolan Arenado. Perennial GG and if its true
    the Rockies are trying to dump salary for Story next year then you go for it. Whatever the amount is owed to Arenado you need the foundation of a trade to be reciprocal exchange with trading a group of affordable young players as well. Betances, Familia and Matz to go along with J.D. this year. Cano the next two seasons plus 3 or 4 high minor league players. Puts the team payroll at about 190.

    • Rich

      Arenado is one player at altitude and another at sea level. OPS .985 home .793 road. Unless rhe Mets play home games at Coors you will be disappointed.

    • Woodrow

      Pete, Arenado is getting 30 million + a year for the next nine years. Most of those years will be past his prime. Stanton,Wright, even Reyes come to mind. Pujols, a great player, Hamilton, Ellsbury…

    • MattyMets

      Arenado is a superstar but that contract has Pujols/Cabrera written all over it.

  • Pete

    What about his defense? How many GG does he have? I believe he’s won it every year he’s been with the Rockies. Defense wins you a WS . Heckuva D with Lindor on his left. He wants to win. He’s a quiet classy player. Not a hot dog

  • TexasGusCC

    Great article Matt, a grand slam!

    I don’t get the Bauer whispers the last two days… they don’t add up. But, say Bauer really wants to play for the Mets, his bubble has burst and he sees reality, would you sign him at $22MM per year? Can you say “no” to that? Should you say “yes” to that? Say he says just give me 3/$67 and let me build my brand… that’s pretty tempting… I can put Peterson at AAA for one year.

    • Woodrow

      Why would Peterson go to AAA for one year? Didn’t what he did last year at the very least give him the shot inST to prove that he deserved to continue to be a starter?

      • TexasGusCC

        If you sign Bauer…
        Stroman, Bauer, DeGrom, Carrasco, Syndergaard… where do you put Peterson?

        • BoomBoom

          Syndergaard isn’t back until June and he’s coming off TJ surgery. He probably won’t be effective until the 22 season.

    • MattyMets

      Thanks Gus. I dont see this scenario no matter how hard I squint. Being the best available pitcher in free agency and the best pitcher in baseball are two very different things. He will have to come down in price some, but he wont come that far. I have a sleeper prediction – the SF Giants. They have a ton of money coming off the books after this season and need a new ace.

  • Wobbit

    Time will probably confirm your suggestion that Springer may prove too costly for the three good years he gives the Blue Jays. And even what those three years will actually provide… if he underperforms, egad. I would have loved seeing him play for the Mets this year, but Robinson Cano is the example of how those final years can devastate a roster. Now I would much rather have Almora or some other right-hand option, as the LH Bradley just compounds the imbalance already a problem. As it now stands, the Mets would need outstanding seasons from too many players to beat the Braves, who just keep getting better… very tough lineup and on the mound.

  • royhobbs7

    “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.”

    Great, great article. Finally, someone who has common sense and an understanding of how salary structure works and how the Mets intend to move forward.

    Great job, Matt. You have your thinking cap on!

  • royhobbs7

    Let’s say Mike Trout wants $1 million to play for the Mets and rips up his contract with the Angels to come back East where he grew up.

    C’mon guy, let’s be real!!!

    Bauer isn’t giving anyone a discount. Especially when teams like the Dodgers and Blue Jays are waiting in the weeds to give him at least 5 @ $28 each and more like 6 @ $30+.

    • royhobbs7

      I know it’s great to dream!!!!!

    • TexasGusCC

      You sure that’s what he’s getting? You realize his lifetime ERA is 3.90 and his previous real good year was two years ago and the previous to that was four years earlier, right? So, that’s two great years out of the last six.

  • Metsense

    Signing Springer would not have sense without the DH. Likewise signing Bradley and Wong. Pillar and Villar would be good bench signings but both of them were starters and would seek other opportunities. Maybe if they’re desperate. Hand would be good addition and Wilson could be the fall back. Another route would be signing Tanaka.

  • Wobbit

    The very first thing the mets should do is sign Kike Hernandez. I’ll go out on a limb and say why…
    Not only will he provide better than adequate relief at every possible position, including a RH hitting, good defensive CF, but he will provide a spark that might otherwise be missing in the lineup, in the dugout, and in the locker room. It’s just my intuition, but Kike would help blend the Mets’ chemistry, from the vague, default leadership of Pete and Dom, to the burden of Lindor to lead the team as the new arrival. It would be leadership by committee and Kike is the perfect stir stick. We need his spirit, his defense, his speed, his tenacious fight and the problems he causes the opposition… all for a relatively low price. These types of players are even more rare than the big HR guy or the 15-game winner. He’s the perfect fit. I will be greatly disappointed if the Mets don’t go get him RIGHT NOW.

    • MattyMets

      Wabbit, I’m sold. Mets need to beef up the bench and versatility is a always welcome.

      RoyHobbs7, thanks for the hat tip. It’s what makes Mets360 so great. Fans on here have knowledge, unlike the yokels on WFAN and Metsblog who are screaming for the Mets to sign everyone in sight with no regard for the bigger picture.

  • Wobbit

    Anyone dismissing Peterson obviously did not watch him pitch very closely (I did). He’s more proven to me than Stroman, much less the other back-end starters. He’s the real deal. An accomplished starting pitcher with refined skills and great command. He’s the gem we don’t even have to guess about. He’s a lock for a dozen wins.

    • Bob P

      Wobbit, I can’t agree at all that Peterson is more proven than Stroman. Not even close. With less than 50 innings in MLB (and some so-so peripherals) I don’t know how you can even compare them. I hope Peterson turns out to be a quality big league arm for many years, but to say that he is more proven than Stroman at this point is crazy.

      • BoomBoom

        Not to mention that if DeGrom isn’t a lock for 12 wins (and how can you say he is based on history), then no one is a lock for 12 wins.

  • Wobbit

    Syndergaard will be lucky to show up before the All Star break. Stroman is a huge question mark for me…
    Best case (very slim chance):
    180 IP, 200 H, 160 Ks, 40 BBs, 3.80 ERA, 12-9.
    More likely:
    130 IP (injuries), 160 hits, 35BB, 90Ks, 4.75 ERA, 7-11.
    As I said before, in my opinion, Peterson will be better. Mets let Stroman walk away.
    (Hope I’m wrong about Stroman).

  • HOF19

    Should I believe this keeps the door open ? >>>>> Guys on SNY Network just said something about Mets wanting a interview with Trevor Bauer .

  • Wobbit

    Getting Bauer would means the NL East is a two-team race. Mets would have superior SP and a more rested BP when they need it. Kind of hard to pass up if it’s available. Guess I don’t believe he really is available… expect him to sign with Angels any minute now.
    BTW: Busty Olney has lost all credibility.

  • HOF19

    And now this on MLB Trade Rumors >>>>>”JAN. 22: The Mets’ interest in Bauer “has become more focused” since the Blue Jays agreed to sign Springer, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.”

  • Pete

    Woodrow. Arenando is signed thru 2026. that’s 6 more years at 32.5 million. So if the Mets can get rid of Cano why not? Arenado plays a premium spot and eliminates a question mark for the next 5 years. Yes I agree that maybe the last 2 years are dead but maybe by then the NL has the DH. Arenado is 29. That’s why I’m trying to dump Cano who will truly be an albatross now that he has to stop taking PED. Maybe Coors rarefied air will help Cano

  • Pete

    Matty. Arenado will be 35 in the last year of his contract. There maybe similarities but look at Pujous and Cabrera and what are the similarities between those two players? Both are big bodied men weighing at 240 lbs (or more). Arenado is slim built and has the skills to play third base at GG level for what? 8 consecutive years? 35 is not 40

  • Joe F

    You breathe a sign of relief for not having the back end of this contract on the books, but also criticize the “cheapskate” Wilpons for not re-signing Reyes or Wheeler. It is for sure that the Reyes contract is exactly what the author wants to avoid and a good chance Wheeler’s will look ugly on the backend. Almost all big contracts are dead wood at the end

    • MattyMets

      Joe F – the contracts Wheeler and Reyes got were nowhere near what Arenado and some of the other players mentioned got. Also they were homegrown so it stung. Even if you’re just comparing to Springer, neither of those guys got six years or plays CF. Not a comp.

      Agree that Arenado is a diffferent body type and could age better than Pujols or Cabrera, but start third baseman who age well is a short list. For every Adrian Beltre there’s Wright, Longoria, Zimmerman…

  • NYM6986

    No issue with Mets missing out on Springer. With the offense they have they can substitute the bats of their DP combo for a slugger in CF. So put a great fielder in CF and bat him 8th or 9th if we have the DH. Or better yet, why can’t they make Nimmo a better fielder and ditto for Dom Smith in LF, probably the easiest position to play? And Bauer does not have a long history so how in the world does he command a $30 million per year salary?
    Would take a two flyer on Bryant at 3B and like Arenado but not the salary albatross he creates with or without the DH.

  • Joe Vasile

    I agree to a certain extent, but at the end of the day, the Springer contract with Toronto is similar to many long-term deals in baseball — the team is really paying for production in years 1-3. In a hypothetical world if the Mets signed Springer to that same contract and won a World Series in the next three seasons, I’d think many fans (myself included) would be happy to be on the hook for his contract in its last three years when he’d merely be a productive player and not a star.

    I agree in not wanting them to sign Bauer, but at the end of the day Steve Cohen is the richest owner in baseball by something like $9 or $10 billion. He can afford to run a $200+ million payroll, especially when the entire Competitive Balance Tax system is likely to be overhauled after the expiration of the current CBA later this year. If one more big bat and an upgrade in centerfield is what is keeping you from being a legit contender in 2021, to heck with the cost, just go get it.

  • Pete

    Arenado is only 29. It’s not like he’ll be 40 at the end of his contract.
    He has 6 more years which makes him 35 in the final year of his contract. He turns 30 in September.

  • Crane Pool

    This whole Springer analysis is placed in the context of the Lindor acquisition, which was hugely expensive and wasn’t entirely necessary IMO. The Mets had great infield depth with Rosario and Jimenez who were both still cheap. If they had just kept them and not traded for Lindor, they would have had enough money for both Springer (without worrying about the back end of the contract) and Trevor Bauer. Now, they have little depth in their infield, and only two-thirds of an outfield, which also cuts into their infield depth because they’ll probably play McNeil there. The Lindor trade was not smart, and not signing Springer even dumber.

    • MattyMets

      Crane Pool (great name) – Lindor is a top 5 superstar just entering his prime. He was the best available player this off-season. When you have a shot to get a guy like that, you get him.

  • José

    A simple minded scenario: Only one more move, Bauer 2 yrs, $55M option on year 3

    Nimmo CF
    McNeil 2B
    Lindor SS
    Alonso 1B
    Conforto RF
    JDD 3B
    Dom LF
    McCann C

    deGrom SP1
    Bauer SP2
    Carrasco SP3
    Stroman SP4
    Peterson/Thor SP5

    BP: Diaz, Castro, May, Betances, Lugo + whatever else

    Defense would not inspire someone to write an epic poem, but I like their overall chances.
    Most noteworthy facts are that this represents just one more step and the person who posted this, that is, the person who rarely makes predictions or posts anything which has a non-trivial chance of being shown incorrect

    • MattyMets

      Jose, that defense is a problem.

  • Wobbit

    Jose has it right. I would add that Guillorme deserves at least a steady platoon at 3B with JD. Giving each the majority of their ABs against the opposite (L-R) pitcher ensures that we get the most out of their potentially very good bats. Luis will hit near .300, almost assuredly. The guy is comfortable at the plate and uses the whole field. JD also hits lefties well and would produce really well in the second half of the batting order. Both Nimmo and McNeil would be given their full-blown chance to show what they are. Pete would be allowed to relax in the 4-5 spot, Dom would get a full season too, which he really hasn’t had. Bauer? It would be awesome. Let’s hope his enormous ego likes what NYC has to offer his “brand”… I’d love giving him the ball every five games… still don’t believe it though… landing him would surely mean to me that Steve Cohen is a new breed of Mets ownership. Very sorry to see Kike H. get away.

  • Wobbit

    I’ve come around to being perfectly fine without Springer and not wanting Bauer, whom I feel would be a disruption. A staff with Noah and Stroman (a weak link?) returning and Carrsco added to DeGrom and Peterson will be adequate to keep pace with the Braves.
    If the bullpen is better than average, the offense should be able to outscore the opposition 90-95 times. That the opposition will be the Braves 18 times and the Phillies 18 times, the challenge is daunting. Frankly, a lot comes down to Luis Rojas. Not only instilling the team to play good baseball (defense, aggressive, smart base-runnng, RISP), but managing the bullpen and winning close games. In the end, it almost always comes down to injuries to the roster. Mets will know a lot more next year, when they lose a lot of salaries…

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