Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The length of Bryce Harper's new contract in Philadelphia will be subject to tons of scrutiny. Some chuckles, too -- what's he going to be like in far-off 2031?
That lustrous hair certainly won't be the same. Will that sweet swing? Ha, ha, 13 years is a long, long time.
Laugh it up if you like, Mets fans.
But here's the reality your favorite team might be facing: At least in the short term, the Phillies just took a Harper-model bat to the Mets' window to win the National League East in 2019 and beyond.
Quick refresher: Zack Wheeler is a free agent after this season, and Jacob deGrom is poised to hit the market after 2020. The Mets' new impact hitter, Robinson Cano, is signed through 2023, but he's already 36. Two other older infielders are already nursing Spring Training injuries. No one knows what Yoenis Cespedes will be once his heels are healed.
Signing Harper for a reported $330 million was only the latest stroke of a mega winter that might make the Phillies the real "come-get-us" team in the division. They also added one-time Met catching target J.T. Realmuto, reliever David Robertson, and more to compliment ascending studs such as Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola.
Prime Harper plus all that? Yikes. Harper is only 26 years old, remember, and brings a sizeable sizzle factor to Philly, as well as all that talent.
This all puts significant pressure on the Brodie Van Wagenen Mets. The Mets certainly seemed to have improved, but you can say the same about Philadelphia, a club that already made a 14-game jump to 80 wins last year, and the Nationals, who added Patrick Corbin to their rotation. Oh, and the Braves won the division by eight games last year.
In a sport where some believe there are scads of teams not actually trying to win, the NL East is a cage match.
In the wake of the Harper news, how crucial is it that the Mets retain deGrom and give him that contract extension we've heard so much about, a step toward staying relevant longer? Can they boost this year's squad via the big-name free agents still out there, such as Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel? What about a big splash at this summer's trade deadline to fill a Mets hole, assuming they're in the pennant chase in July?
Is there a free-agency rejoinder they can make next year? One Harper-esque star already bowed out of that market - Nolan Arenado. But the Mets might have to do some serious shopping from a list that could include Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Anthony Rendon and Paul Goldschmidt. Assuming, of course, that those players don't re-up with extensions with their current clubs.
A few words about Harper: He won the 2015 NL MVP and has a .900 career OPS. He might've won another NL MVP in 2017 if he had not gotten hurt. He has a career .930 OPS at Citizens Bank Park, and 14 homers over 50 career games. He'll likely have big power numbers there, at least, along with the patience that helped him lead the Majors in walks last year.
He's certainly not a perfect player. But he's very, very dangerous.
During the 19 times the Mets play the Phillies, they might want to consider using Jeurys Familia as an opener. Only half-kidding here - Harper is 1-for-11 with eight strikeouts against Familia lifetime. Harper has had past success against deGrom - a slash line of .323/.447/.581, and a 1.028 OPS in 31 at-bats - but has struggled against Wheeler (.574 OPS, .192 average in 26 at-bats).
It would've helped the Mets had Harper gone west, to either San Francisco or Los Angeles. He may not be in Washington anymore, but he's still a frequent problem for the Mets.
And that's all that matters if you're a Mets fan. Who cares what the average annual value of the deal is? Or which salary record was set and which wasn't.
Future you can gloat over the back end of Harper's contract at some later date, if it comes to that. Prime Harper is an issue for the win-now Mets. How will they handle him and his new team?