There are roughly three weeks until pitchers and catchers are required to report to Spring Training and snine of the winter's top 10 free agents are still available.
In an interview this past weekend, free-agent infielder Mark Reynolds told the Denver Post that he has yet to be offered a major-league contract. Reynolds is 34 years old, hit 30 home runs, and made the All Star team last season and can play first base, third base and corner outfield. And yet, in this market, no one wants him. It's crazy...
I understand Sandy Alderson's reluctance (or inability to) offer long-term deals to free agents in their prime. But, the way the market is behaving, he has to be considering whether to offer multiple one-year deals to more than a single player in hopes of acquiring at least one useful, impact player, like Mike Moustakas, Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn, or Lorenzo Cain.
There are lots of reasons why the market is the way that it is, be it due to a statistical analysis, player age, or big-spending teams cutting payroll to get under the luxury tax (likely in advance of next year's free agent market). In either case, it has created a beautiful opportunity for Mets ownership and Alderson to go all-in on their pitching staff by adding one or two prominent players at significantly less risk than they would have been in previous seasons.
I still don't know the actual number Alderson has to spend, but I've heard he's only interested in adding one more position player who costs roughly $10 million. This is not enough to scoop up one elite player, let alone two. But, as I said above, he and his bosses should be at least discussing what it would look like to increase spending.
In the case of Moustakas, who is coming off a career year, I think it's possible he can be had for one year and $20 million. However, if he comes down off his five-year request to take a pillow contract, insiders believe he's more likely to return to Kansas City.
The thing is, be it Moustakas or Cain or Morrison or Alex Cobb or someone else, expanding the budget to to ink two or three players, while pumping up payroll, can be justified knowing -- if the Mets are playing poorly -- they all can be marketed as rental players and almost certainly be dealt at the trade deadline (which would go a long way in helping restock their reportedly depleted farm system).
The Mets believe in their pitching staff, as they should. It is guaranteed to be at least very good thanks to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Jeurys Familia. However, it has the potential to be amazing if just one or two other starting pitchers step up and if Mickey Callaway uses the back end of his bullpen in an effective and efficient way.
Unfortunately, you and I know -- and I'm sure the pitchers know - that even if the rotation and bullpen are amazing, the season will be a struggle given the team's current lineup and roster of position players. There's talent and potential, no question. However, even if they add Eduardo Nunez or Todd Frazier, they'll still end up playing most of the season just one Yoenis Cespedes injury away from struggling to score enough runs each night...
I still prefer Alderson trade for Pirates 2B-3B Josh Harrison and figure out how to move Travis d'Arnaud and his $3.5 million salary and sign Jonathan Lucroy.
D'Arnaud is capable of a better offensive season than Lucroy. But, as I've said before, I prefer a more stable, experienced presence behind the plate, especially knowing Callaway will be asking the pitching staff to throw more breaking balls.
I love the wisdom that Lucroy would bring to this specific staff, which will be getting an earful from Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland. It's going to be super important that the pitchers have a trusting presence by their side between innings and behind the plate during the game. D'Arnaud may be capable of this, but I just can't trust that he'll remain healthy enough to be out there more games than he's not.
That said, imagine the above acquisitions plus reliever Anthony Swarzak (who was signed earlier this winter) and, say, Cain or Moustakas, or beefing up the rotation with Lynn? It's tempting. Or, at least it should be tempting. But, will the Mets bite?
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...