Sandy Alderson intends to acquire at least one more position player, but can add only an additional $10 million in salary this winter, according to sources.
By the way, as it pertains to payroll, MLB agents expect nearly every team will end up cutting payroll by at least 10 percent, which is about where the Mets will end up as well.
I keep hearing that the Mets are still open to doing something meaningful, be it trading Juan Lagares, acquiring an everyday center fielder, or freeing up money to bring in a bonafide third baseman or second baseman. However, with so few impact prospects to deal, just $10 million left to spend, only 33 days until pitchers and catchers, and still so much gridlock in the market place (see below), it's growing increasingly difficult for Alderson to knock down dominoes and make an ideal surgical strike.
This is why I think the Mets will soon end up signing a less-than $10 million per year infielder, like Howie Kendrick, declare themselves essentially done, and then shift to luring in position and pitching depth using minor-league deals.
Where is the gridlock?
The Pirates will trade Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, both of whom the Mets (and several other teams) have been interested in acquiring. However, I hear they don't want to move McCutchen or Harrison until they know the return in trade for Gerrit Cole.
Unfortunately for them, nearly every team interested in Cole is still exploring whether to keep their prospects and instead sign Yu Darvish, Jake Arietta, Alex Cobb, or Lance Lynn.
Sep 5, 2016; Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) circles the bases on a two run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning at PNC Park. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Meanwhile, a team in need of a center fielder may not spend on Lorenzo Cain if it can get McCutchen for less money. Similarly, why give Todd Frazier a one-year deal if a trade can be made for Harrison?
Why don't the Mets trade Lagares for McCutchen and Harrison?
For starters, McCutchen and Harrison minus Lagares will add $18 million in salary. So, money is a factor. However, even if ownership OK'd the bump in spending, the Pirates are said to have zero interest in Alderson's prospects, which may be more of a sticking point than dollars.
The Mets may be willing to deal Dominic Smith, but the Pirates have 25-year-old 1B Josh Bell, who hit 26 home runs last season and is under team control through 2022. The Pirates would certainly love to pair Amed Rosario with infield prospect Kevin Newman, but there is no way Alderson is trading Rosario in a deal for McCutchen and Harrison.
In dealing Cole and McCutchen, Pittsburgh's goal will be to acquire as many young players as possible. It is not necessarily to save money.
The new baseline and Jay Bruce...
"I don't negotiate with humans anymore. I negotiate with computers and robots," a current player agent told me about how statistical analysis is influencing contract talks.
The three-year deal is the new baseline, he said.
Basically, every front office is looking at guys through the same prism. They are confident in how much value a player is likely to provide each of the next few seasons, at which point they'll determine whether the player is worth committing to for slightly more or slightly less than three years based on probabilities, projected future budgets and roster need.
"We used to to talk a lot about age and what a player had done leading up to free agency and how many years that was likely to continue, most of which was based on opinion," the agent explained. "It was more emotional then, especially for the owners. Now, when we walk in the door, the analytics guy is standing there with hard numbers, predictions, and a value set that isn't moving."
In other words, Jay Bruce may have wanted five years and $65 million, but if no front office had information saying he will produce more than 1.2 WAR each of the next five seasons, he was never going to get a five-year deal. Instead, from what I've been told by teams that expressed interest and didn't sign him, most projections show have him capable of producing 2-3 WAR during next three seasons, after which (at 33 years old) he'll be a fourth outfielder.
So, in a world where 1.0 WAR is worth around $10 million, it makes sense that he ended up getting a reported three-year, $39 million deal from the Mets.
I've heard the Jays liked him at $10-12 million, but for just two years. And, while the Giants offered him three years, they planned to give him less money because of how hitting and fielding in the NL West and AT&T Park would negatively impact his production.
Why are the Mets paying him more than anyone else? I don't know exactly, but it may be an indication of how they value his ability to play in New York, popularity in the clubhouse, relationship with media, and other subjective qualities.
By the way, while New York was never Bruce's first choice, I've heard he was very happy to learn Mickey Callaway would be replacing Terry Collins. Of course, the fact that New York offered him the most money likely helped changed his mind too...
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...