The New York Mets are a couple of months away from an intriguing dilemma. They will hit the offseason with a payroll about $60-70 million less than the start of the 2017 season, but will likely face some hurdles to spend it wisely. It’s clear the Mets are intent on competing in 2018, so how will they address their roster holes?
Let’s start with trades. The Mets could try to maneuver through the trade market, but while the Mets farm system is solid, it might take all the minor league depth they have to pull off a trade for an impact player. So what about free agency? There’s plenty of money to spend, but the team will be approaching a free agency class that is among the worst in recent memory. Further complicating things, is that the 2018-19 free agent class is perhaps the best of all time.
Given these factors, the best route for the Mets might be to follow a similar path to the one they used to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes after the 2015 season. With the uncertainty of the market and the amount of talent hitting free agency a year later, the Mets should use one-year deals and opt-outs to use their money in this free agency class while still leaving things flexible for future years.
This won’t work for players like Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez who should find no trouble getting multi-year contracts at high annual salaries. But there are players that could help the Mets that might be willing to accept a one-year deal with a high dollar amount or a front-loaded contract that allows them to get paid while boosting their value for a long-term deal.
On the pitching side, both Jake Arrieta and Masahiro Tanaka are two pending free agents who could be willing to take such a deal. A Cy Young winner in 2015, Arrieta has seen his ERA hover around 4.00 for most of 2017. Meanwhile, if Tanaka is healthy, he could be a bargain given his track record entering 2017.
If the Mets are looking for a catcher, a guy like Jonathan Lucroy, who has had an awful 2017, could take a one-year deal to allow himself the chance to enter another free agent class coming off a much better season. Matt Wieters would give them another option here.
If a corner infielder or outfielder is more the Mets’ style in free agency, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Melky Cabrera could all be attainable on a one-year deal. Given how horrible the trade market has been, it would be a shock if the free agent market was any kinder to aging veterans like these.
The Mets have a lot of money to spend after this season. It just comes at a bad time. However, some creative contracts and buy-low type free agents could be the way to make sure the Mets improve in 2018 yet still have plenty of money and roster flexibility beyond that.