New GM Brodie Van Wagenen expects the Mets to win now, he said Tuesday. He doubled down on this statement when later talking to WFAN's Mike Francesa, saying, "I think we've got a lot of talent," and, "We're in a position right now to go run to the front (of the NL East)."
The Internet was riddled Tuesday with fans, reporters and radio hosts picking apart Van Wagenen's words hoping to determine how he plans to make his goal a reality.
I did not take part in this pointless exercise. Because, the fact is, we've heard it all before... The day he was introduced in October of 2010, Sandy Alderson said a lot of the same things as Van Wagenen, as did Omar Minaya when hired to be GM six years earlier.
The two previous GMs both said they wanted to quickly establish a consistent team philosophy and intended to build a perennial playoff team, which is nearly identical to Van Wagenen's statements Tuesday. In the case of Alderson, he added the goal of returning the Mets to being an 'iconic franchise' -- one that should be mentioned in the same breath as the Yankees and Red Sox.
In the end, though, while Alderson did get the Mets to back-to-back playoff appearances, six of his eight seasons ended with a losing record, including his final two. Similarly, while Minaya's team won an NL East title, his time at the helm also produced two epic collapses, a landslide of controversial moments and a 92-loss season before his dismissal in late 2010.
The point is, words are words. Like Alderson and Minaya, Van Wagenen said all of the right things on his first day in the job. For me, though, I'm tired of being teased with intention and occasional success. I'm pumped to have Van Wagenen in charge because I do believe he has the necessary skills to do much of what he hopes to accomplish. However, I pledge to judge him entirely on what he does and not what he says.
Along those lines, here is one of the first things I want to see Van Wagenen do -- not just talk about. Combined with the rest of what I'd like to see Van Wagenen do (check back on MetsBlog on Friday for that article), it would only raise the payroll from $140 million to around $165 million...
Do whatever it takes to sign Manny Machado
I know, I know, he says he isn't Johnny Hustle and played a bit dirty during the World Series. So what? The reason he's played at least 156 games each of the past four seasons is because, like most veteran players with a similar track record, he knows how to pace himself and protect his body.
For what it's worth, Carlos Beltran and David Wright were often criticized for this during their most healthy and productive seasons as well. And given Machado's immense production at the plate, would you rather he bust it every at-bat and risk missing 30-40 games because of an injury? Or would you take the occasional lolly-gagging so he can play a full season's worth of games?
I'll gladly take the latter...
Also, in regards to his aggressive style of play, as I argued here a few weeks ago, I like it.
Machado would bring a type of cockiness and swagger that hasn't been part of the Mets for a long, long time. It's something that can be divisive in down times, especially if the player is struggling. However, when it emanates from an MVP candidate on a winning team, it can absolutely help bond a clubhouse and fanbase, as well as provide a helluva fun show to watch from the stands.
"If it's dirty, it's dirty," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal during the Fall Classic. "I try to go out there and win for my team. I can't do nothing about (what people say about me)."
Drama and tension in sports is part of what makes it fun. Machado is not a choir boy, which he owns up to. But I've always enjoyed Mets baseball the most when the team is either an obvious underdog (see 1973, 2000, 2015) or an unabashed favorite, dominating their opponents and and getting in to a few scuffles (see 1986, 1988, 1999, 2006).
As the best hitter on the team (and best hitter in New York, by the way), Machado's wild, cocky, lightning-rod style of play would also draw attention away from the team's still-developing youngsters such as Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario and eventually Peter Alonso and Andres Gimenez. This is an added bonus.
The rival executives I talked with this week all believe Machado will ink a deal less than $400 million, but more than Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million. He is represented by Dan Lozano, who in the last five years negotiated $200 million contracts for Albert Pujols and Joey Votto.
The Mets will either collect insurance or defer David Wright's $15 million due to him in 2019. It is likely they will also save paying a portion of the $29 million due to Yoenis Cespedes since -- thanks to his comments last summer -- it's possible his ankle situation could be viewed as a pre-existing condition.
By the way, the Mets should ask Machado to return to playing third base for one year, which I don't expect to be an issue. He played shortstop this past season so he could market himself as a two-position infielder this winter.
To get Machado in a Mets uniform, it's expected to run at least $350 million over 10 seasons. It's a lot, but 26-year-old, MVP-caliber infielders -- with consistent power from the right side of the plate -- hardly ever reach free agency. To lock one up for the next decade, the bulk of which will be spent in his prime, during which he'll be a reliable cornerstone of the franchise, is an opportunity the Mets can't afford to miss -- especially considering the lack of impact position prospects on the immediate horizon.
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!