Earlier this week Brodie Van Wagenen said he and his staff addressed all of their primary needs and now have roster capable of making a run at the National League East title.
The Mets are better than on the last day of last season, no doubt.
However, what happens -- if reports are accurate -- and the Phillies sign a combination of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel? If they choose Machado, what happens if the Nationals bring back Harper? And once Harper and Machado are off the board, what happens if the Braves finally make their long-rumored splash and sign A.J. Pollock, who reportedly once interested the Mets?
"I think that we're a good team," Van Wagenen added Wednesday. "Our goal is to win a championship and it starts with the division, so come get us."
I'm willing to bet the leadership in Washington, Philadelphia and Atlanta all looked at one another and rolled their eyes after reading Van Wagenen's statement.
I know the eyes were rolling by online Mets fans, most of whom hope their team is secretly lurking in the shadows readying a surprise move on any one of the above free agents. Van Wagenen, though, made it sound like that was not going to happen...
"We'll never rule out looking at great players, and if we can find a way to make deals happen, we'll be creative with it," he explained. "But, I think from a fit standpoint, both in the outfield and in the infield, we're at a pretty great position."
Frankly, despite his public statement, and despite what has been reported by local media by way of team sources, I still contend the Mets have meaningful interest in Harper, who they can absolutely fit in to their payroll in 2019 and still not exceed the luxury tax threshold.
"We've known what we've been working under and we built this roster with that in mind," Van Wagenen said Wednesday about his budget this winter. "I don't see anything that has come to light that has changed or forced me to look down or up in terms of our resources."
More importantly, Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon obviously know their payroll commitments plummet after 2020, which will free up spending money for future seasons that could be used to afford a player of Harper's caliber and star power.
"I've never operated this offseason to wait and see if a market dropped," Van Wagenen also declared. "In fact, all of our moves have not been market contingent, they've been roster contingent - how do these players fit?"
Don't get me wrong, Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Wilson Ramos all fit and are significant acquisitions making the Mets better than in 2018. However, Harper switching from the Nationals to New York -- and NOT joining the Phillies -- would very much shift the balance of power in the division.
Imagine a poster of Citi Field featuring Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Harper standing side by side by side (with Michael Conforto, Jed Lowrie, Cano and Ramos standing in back) and the words COME GET US now justifiably written below them. It would look right and intimidating. But this set up looks and feels a lot different when Cano or Lowrie or Ramos move forward to be in place of Harper, who, with Machado and Pollack and Kimbrel and Keuchel, are all on other teams in the NL East.
The way it stands, FanGraphs.com projects the current Mets to have the seventh-most productive set of bats in the National League. Overall, the team projects to be the NL's fifth-best overall squad, but that is largely due to the pitching staff, which projects to be No. 1.
Meanwhile, the Phillies are projected to have the fourth-best lineup in the division. By adding Harper or Machado, they slip just pass the Mets. The bulk of reporting indicates they will eventually sign one or the other and could possibly sign both, which, if that happens, puts their projection atop the entire division.
Similarly, if the Braves then add Pollock - and a mid-rotation starter, which they're in the market to acquire - they, too, move past the Mets, who drop from second to fourth.
These are, of course, projections. They don't factor in injuries. But, that's the other issue, which is that - despite adding a lot of depth - if Van Wagenen loses any of one Cano, Ramos or Conforto due to injury -- let alone two of them dropping at the same time -- the Mets will return to scrambling for a bat, which has seemingly become an annual mid-season tradition.
This is why, as the above projections point out, the best spot for Van Wagenen to upgrade his power and production would be in the outfield, i.e. which would simultaneously let him move Jeff McNeil to third base and either trade Todd Frazier (to free up some money) or transition Frazier to a backup at first, third and corner outfield.
The point is, by adding Harper (or at least Pollock), it adds production and more depth. But, more important, it doesn't just improve Van Wagenen's overall roster, it keeps the Phillies, Nationals and Braves from getting better, as well...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!