The Mets could best stabilize their rotation for this season by signing Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or Jake Arrieta to a multiyear deal. However, having Lynn, Cobb or Arietta in the mix can help in other ways, as well...
Matt Harvey will be a free agent after this season and almost certainly will leave for a new team. The way it stands, J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Keuchel are the other top free-agent starting pitchers set to be available next winter.
It's a list that leaves a lot to be desired...
In a perfect world, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman all thrive in 2018 and the Mets never need to replace Harvey. The odds of that happening are low, though...
In signing Lynn, Cobb, or Arrieta to a longer-term deal now, though not the greatest pitchers on earth, it would at least give the Mets a durable, experienced, veteran starting pitcher under contract and mean they do not have to go through a weak free agent market in nine months.
In case you're curious, Jacob deGrom is a free agent after the 2020 season. Noah Syndergaard can be a free after 2021.
Scott Boras has been presenting Arrieta as the top free-agent pitcher on the market since October, according to MLB insiders. According to teams with interest, Boras has been trying to get his client more money than Darvish just got from the Cubs, which may be why he turned down a last ditch effort from the Cubs to bring him back. If that's true, I expect Lynn and Cobb to sign with someone sooner than later...
Last week, it was said that teams negotiating with Lynn and Cobb had been offering short-term deals with more money per season than they're probably worth paying.
For instance, whereas both had been asking for five-year deals worth around $15 million each season, teams are rumored to now be offering two- and three-year contracts worth around $18-to-20 million each season. The thing is, while I think the Mets might be willing to expand their 2018 budget to add pitching depth, they've done nothing over the last few years to suggest they're willing to expand it by $18-to-20 million.
As a result, I expect Sandy Alderson to skip the above, and probably also balk at Jason Vargas, Jaime Garcia, and Andrew Cashner, and instead hook someone like Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeremy Hellickson, or R.A. Dickey with a minor-league deal.
I'd feel better about this coming season if Alderson signed Lynn or Cobb or Arrieta, or even Vargas. However, from the perspective of 2018, I can live with gambling on only Jimenez or Hellickson because, as I outlined last week, all of above names only bump the team's projected win total to around 82 or 83 as opposed to the current 81...
On the other hand, by spending less and signing a low-risk, high-reward arm to just a one-year deal, it does nothing to stop the scramble for a pitcher or two next winter.
I've heard Lynn and Cobb are open to having an opt-out clause in their next deal, so long as the opt-in runs through two or three more seasons. This is widely viewed as fair and increasingly common in long-term deals, a current rival GM told me this past weekend. For instance, Yu Darvish has an opt-out after two seasons in the reported six-year deal he just inked with the Cubs.
"It's fine, because, let's say he opts out after two years, I assume he's doing it because he was successful on field those two years and now thinks he can and should get more money on the open market," the GM explained. "This is great, because it also means we got max value out of the money we paid him."
"The odds are low that a pitcher has four out of four max-value seasons," he continued. "So if he just had two, it probably means his next two won't be as great. If he wants to leave, I say, 'Thank you, and good luck,' because I'd rather he go a year early than a year late.'
Along this logic and market rate, I'd be fine seeing Alderson give Lynn or Cobb a four-year contract with an opt out after 2020. Because, if the pitcher opted out, it means he did well, the Mets did well, and they would at least be covered through next winter when Harvey likely leaves for a new team.
For what it's worth, I am focusing on Lynn and Cobb because Arrieta concerns me as a pitcher the next two seasons, let alone the next four, five, or seven. Also, his agent is delusional and contract negotiations will likely take forever and be impossible to complete. Also, Arrieta's delivery is weird, his stats are trending in the wrong way, and his velocity has been going down and down. On top of that, he has draft pick compensation attached to him. It's just not worth the work, I feel.
According to FanRag's Jon Heyman, the Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Twins, and Cardinals are the most logical destinations for Arrieta. The Yankees and Dodgers are also reportedly in the market for a starting pitcher.
This means there are roughly six or seven pitchers on the open market that have the talent to step in to any big-league rotation, at the same time there are roughly six or seven teams with interest.
The Mets can do the above. The supply and demand is right. They have the need, a great ballpark for pitching, and a manager and pitching coach that are respected around the league. I hope they take advantage of this opportunity. Because, if they don't, I think they'll regret it this summer... as well as next winter.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is the host of SNY's MetsBlog Q&ACast and the lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. 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!