The way I've heard it, the Mets hiring a new GM and front office personnel is not being done in preparation of the team ripping down the roster and going through another rebuild. Instead, the goal is to install people with experience winning so they can build on what exists and and get the Mets back to the World Series sooner than later.
If that's the case, the answer to the question in the headline is simple...
To best way for the team to gain trust and show full-force commitment to winning is to sign free-agent-to-be Manny Machado.
The big issue in inking Machado will be to convince him to join a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons. The Mets will also need to outbid their top rivals, specifically the Yankees and Phillies, both of whom appear willing and able to pay the needed $300 million to get a deal done.
According to people aware of their situation, Phillies principal owner John S. Middleton has been waiting years to open his wallet this specific winter. Last summer, several MLB executives predicted to me that Middleton not only wants his front office to sign Machado. He wants them to try and also sign Bryce Harper. And unfortunately for the NL East, because the Phillies have less than $70 million in salary commitments going in to next season, they have a legit chance of meeting their owner's goal.
To make the situation even more difficult for the Mets, Fancred.com's Jon Heyman recently reported that people close to Machado are suggesting his first choice this winter will be the Yankees, who will be more able than usual to spend after being under the luxury tax this season. And, if they sign Machado, the could further look to deal Didi Gregorius or Miguel Andujar for pitching.
The above is all the more reason why landing Machado would rival (and possibly top) how Mets fans and media responded to the team's acquisition of Mike Piazza in 1998. Machado would help the Mets regain the respect of their fans, it would make the seemingly impossible possible again, and most important it would put the Mets back on the national map.
I believe in this move so much that I wasted time creating the below graphic for Twitter and Instagram...
Shortly after the season ended, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said that Sandy Alderson and his staff chose to not go all-in on most top free agents, and that whether or not the Mets did so going forward would be a recommendation made by the new front office.
A big thing for Alderson, which was part of his day-one statement, was never giving out second-generation contracts to free agents who will be over 30 years old during the deal.
Recent free-agents that most fans begged the Mets to sign, such as Prince Fielder, Joe Mauer, Jason Heyward, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Shin-Soo Choo, were all in the above category, according to Alderson's standards.
It's also worth noting that, according to people not named Wilpon currently working for the team, ownership had to push Alderson to give a combined $248 million to David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes, both of whom were older than 30 when they signed second-generation deals.
The point is, if the team is more willing to spend than people think, and if the new front office is willing to risk giving out super long-term contracts, maybe there is a chance the Mets have a shot at Machado. I doubt it will happen, but I do think it has a better chance of happening this offseason than it would have had in previous winters.
In the end, though, the more likely outcome is Josh Donaldson and Machado will sign with either the Yankees, Phillies, or Dodgers, leaving you and I to debate whether Todd Frazier should again be the third baseman.
Overall, Frazier had a disappointing 2018, though Mets manager Mickey Callaway disagrees.
"He's exactly what we thought we were going to get," Callaway said of Frazier. "He's going to go out and play great defense, have some pop in his bat, drive in some runs and be a clubhouse leader."
Frazier, 32, is about to enter the second year of a two-year deal with the Mets that that will pay him $9 million next season, after which he will be a free agent.
He entered this past season having played at least 147 games with at least 27 home runs during each of the previous three years. However, after being on the disabled list two times this past summer, he ended up hitting just .213/.303/.390. His 18 home runs and 58 RBI were his lowest totals since his rookie season seven years ago.
The good news is that, after returning from his second trip to the DL, Frazier was able to generate power from his back leg again and it showed in his results. During his final 200 plate appearances, Frazier had a .702 OPS and produced at rate worthy of 25 HR and 30 doubles over the course of a full season.
Despite the late-year increase in production, the fact is that Frazier has played fewer and fewer games and hit fewer and fewer home runs each of the past three seasons. His slugging percentage and isolated power are also going in the wrong direction.
In other words, given his age and trending numbers, it's very likely Frazier again misses time in 2019, is able to hit roughly 20 home runs and 20 doubles, but produces only around 2.0 WAR. In my view, the above is a middle-of-the-pack third baseman that should only be counted on to be a contending team's fifth- or sixth-best hitter.
For what it's worth, at his request, Machado spent this past season playing shortstop, after having played third base during the first six years of his career.
By signing Machado, who would be the team's best hitter, the Mets could put him at third and push Frazier to first base, which Frazier could keep warm until being traded next summer to make room for 1B prospect Peter Alonso. Or, if Machado insists on playing shortstop, the Mets could do the same as above and either move Amed Rosario to third base or trade him for a productive catcher, starting pitcher or center fielder.
In either case, Machado or not, the Mets need younger, more consistent, everyday players in their lineup. Unfortunately, outside of Machado, this winter's free-agent third basemen are mostly all older than 30, including Donaldson, Mike Moustakas and Jed Lowrie.
The problem is that outside of Machado, it is difficult to be sure of how any of the above names (including Frazier) will perform next season, let alone over the next few years if signed to a multiyear deal.
Donaldson is likely to be the most productive of the non-Machado group, but I'm hearing he can expect to see multiple $130 million offers to join a new team. The thing is, despite his potential for power, he's also had injury issues each of the last three years -- missing more than 100 games this past year due to multiple injuries.
Similarly, the 30-year-old Moustakas, will also be seeking a long-term deal, but has only produced a WAR total similar to Frazier, who - on the other hand - has just one season left on his contract. And, though the 34-year-old Lowrie has also played second base and been terrific the past two years, they were preceded by three of the most injury-riddled and disappointing years of his career.
"I think I've played well," Frazier recently said of his work the final two months of the season.
He's right, he did play well, but it's not good enough if expected to be the team's third- or fourth-best hitter. And the only way Frazier can be the team's everyday third baseman is if the Mets acquire at least two highly-productive position players that can push him down in the order.
Or, the Mets can break the bank and sign Machado.
Otherwise, Frazier is again going to be asked to do more than he can.
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!