The Mets would be wise to sign at least one elite power hitter to play corner outfielder or third base, while also adding a top-tier relief pitcher to their bullpen. I talked with three insiders (currently working for teams that aren't the Mets) to better understand how this winter's top free agents at the above positions will be valued on the open market...
Manny Machado (Third base, shortstop)
As a third baseman and shortstop, Machado can expect to see offers worth as much $35 million per season, as opposed to $5 million less had be been marketing himself at only the hot corner. This is why he and his agent were so adamant about his playing shortstop this past season.
There will be other third basemen available on the open market this winter. However, as a right-handed power hitter, he has zero competition as a shortstop. That he's also been a consistent producer, while playing in at least 156 games each of the past four years (including 162 games twice), means desperate and/or aggressive teams will have no issue adding money and years to his deal. Oh, and if all of the above wasn't enough, Machado is just 26 years old.
In return for having a backloaded deal, Machado will almost certainly push for an opt-out that can be executed after 2021, at which point he will still be under 30 years old.
My read: Eight years, $290 million (opt-out clause after third season)
Bryce Harper (Outfield)
It had been a foregone conclusion after his amazing 2015 season that Harper was a lock to eventually sign a record-setting contract, possibly reaching as much as $400 million. However, his WAR total in 2015 was the same as the total from his last three seasons combined. Of course, while it's easy to label his recent production as "disappointing," they still net out to be worth around $100 million in production.
He's still just 25 years old with a big personality and the potential to be a 10.0 WAR player -- as we've seen -- so he'll clearly be in demand and asking for a ton of money. However, because he'll be a corner outfielder during most of his next contract, the trio I talked with expect he'll be paid less than Machado, who will be valued more because he plays shortstop.
My read: Seven years, $220 million
Josh Donaldson (Third base)
If Donaldson were in his mid-20s, he'd be looking at a contract similar to what will be given to Machado and Harper. Unfortunately for him and his agent, Donaldson will be 33 years old on Opening Day next season. And, in the new baseball economy, he'll be paid more for what he's expected to do than what he has done during his previous seven years in the league.
To make matters worse, he's been in steady decline since his peak in 2015. He also missed more than 100 games this past season due to multiple injuries.
The trio above see him (at most) as an 18.0 WAR player the next five years, which is more productive than Albert Pujols was at a similar age and stretch of time after leaving St. Louis for the Angels.
"He'll be hurt by Machado and Harper grabbing most of the money, which means at least two teams probably won't be in on him, which will reduce his options," one MLB insider also noted. "If he's smart, he'll bury his hopes and dreams and sign before those two guys are off the market."
My read: Four years, $110 million
Craig Kimbrel (High-leverage Reliever)
Kimbrel and his agent are going to hear a lot this winter about Wade Davis and Greg Holland, both of whom tossed a confusing monkey wrench last winter in to the risk and reward of signing closers. Similar to the position Kimbrel is in now, Holland went from elite status to needing a rebound, getting it and expecting to capitalize on his success. He then only got a one-year deal and was released midway through 2018. Meanwhile, Davis, who signed a three-year deal last winter, is averaging just 1.5 WAR the past three years.
Kimbrel's value has mostly diminished the past four seasons, though he was terrific in 2017. Overall, though, he went from producing 11.0 WAR during his first four seasons with the Braves to producing 8.0 WAR his most recent four seasons -- all of which came after 26 years old and leaving Atlanta.
The point is, as the trio I talked with pointed out, it's hard enough to predict what Kimbrel will be during the next few seasons let alone the next five. Nevertheless, Kenley Jansen's five-year, $80 million deal signed after 2017 will likely be talked about when referencing Kimbrel, who will be 30 years old next Opening Day. However, in the end, his sporadic decline, age and the overall market will hurt him more than he thinks.
My read: Four years, $70 million
Andrew Miller (High-leverage Reliever)
Miller will be an interesting case because he has literally become the term used to describe the role he has carved out for himself in Cleveland.
"The Mets need a Miller-like reliever," I often say, as do countless other fans, commentators and people in baseball. He is the model and now the model can be signed on the open market.
He also could not have timed his free agency any better because saves are being less and less valued. And, as unique and impressive as Miller has been, he has just 51 saves during the past four years.
That said, he'll be 33 years old next Opening Day and missed a lot of time this past season with a variety of hamstring and knee issues.
Miller was described to me as a guy that is never the most talented in his class, but it didn't matter because he managed to be versatile and highly effective. He may still be versatile, but -- at 33 years old -- he will never be as as effective as he was a few years ago. As a result, despite his impact as a name, he may struggle to find a deal covering more than three years.
My read: Four years, $60 million
By the way, Seth Lugo was dominant filling the Miller-type role for the Mets during the second half of last season. This is where Lugo belongs, i.e., pitching multiple innings in relief, making a handful of spot starts and getting through intense jams during important moments.
The point being, if I had to choose, I'd much rather pay roughly $10 million to the 28-year-old Lugo over the next four years than give $60 million to Miller during the same amount of time.
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!