In an article for the Daily News, columnist John Harper makes projections on where the top free agents will sign and how much they will be paid.
"The Mets do figure to be plenty active in this free-agent market, with holes to fill and more than $60 million in expiring contracts coming off last season's payroll," Harper notes. However, he continues, "indications are they won't be in on the big-ticket items," such as JD Martinez, Wade Davis and other elite free agents.
Instead, Harper projects that the Mets end up signing outfielder Jay Bruce, infielder Eduardo Nunez and relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler.
The Mets started this past season with a $155 million payroll. According to GM Sandy Alderson, he went over budget, which is partly why he felt obligated to trade several soon-to-be-free-agent, higher-priced veterans this past summer.
I've seen reports indicating they may cut payroll this coming season, and I've seen some that say they're going to go at it the same way they did in 2017. My hunch is that Alderson will be given a similar budget to last winter, but that may only allow him $20-30 million to spend on new acquisitions. Of course, that can be more or less depending on who he non-tenders and parts with in trade, as well as what it costs him in raises to current players, such as Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey.
According to Harper's projections, Bruce, Nunez and Kintzler will add $38 million to next year's payroll, which is significantly more than my $20-30 million range. Obviously, I hope I'm wrong and Harper is right. We won't know the truth until we see how Alderson handles his money this winter, but picking up $15 million in options to retain Asdrubal Cabrera and Jerry Blevins is a good start.
Aug 4, 2016; Bruce celebrates a three run home run with Granderson (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
By the way, I don't see Bruce reuniting with the Mets. I believe him when he says he enjoyed himself in New York, especially toward the end of 2016. But, from what I've heard, the Mets are hardly his first choice destination to land as a free agent. Based on what he was telling people last summer, I bet he's hoping to ink a deal with a team in Texas or California.
If he's getting no bites, obviously he'll consider New York, especially if the Mets are desperate and still searching for a bat during late winter. If that is what Harper envisions happening, then I understand why he thinks Alderson and Bruce may one day connect on a four-year, $60 million deal. That said, I expect both teams will pursue other options before seriously discussing a reunion, and a lot should and will happen in between.
I do, however, think Alderson will sign someone like Kintzler, who would be a terrific addition for the exact reasons made by Harper. The Mets would benefit from having a ground-ball machine with experience as a closer in their bullpen, especially when in contrast to the hard-throwing, strikeout pitchers on their staff. His command and ability to get quick outs would pair well with Jeurys Familia and A.J. Ramos.
Kintzler is helpful. I have no issue with Bruce. Nunez is fine. But, if that's it, if that's all Alderson acquires, in addition to less-impactful talent to round out the roster and create depth, he's going to again leave himself short.
The Mets need to add at least one established, consistent hitter to drive in runs, as well as an established, consistent pitcher to make 30 starts. Otherwise - like last year - they're going to live in fear knowing one major injury will case a total disaster.
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...