Not that they will. But here’s why they should:
It’s free agent season, and it looks like Mets fans will be royally disappointed yet again. While other teams vie to acquire the likes of J.D. Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton, the Mets are vying to cut payroll. This is as unsurprising as it is disappointing.
But if the Mets want to gift their fans with a pleasant surprise — one that could bring the team to contention in 2018 — the top-tier free agent best suited for them is Lorenzo Cain. The former Royals outfielder is as perfect a fit for the Mets as Taco Bell is a perfect fit for a drunken Saturday night.
The Mets need a true center fielder, a hitter (or two, or three) with an offensive game not entirely dependent on the home run ball, and a hitter that can steal the occasional base. Cain checks off all three boxes.
He’s an above-average defender, one that has saved 77 runs above average in 634 games in center, and he’s batted .300/.352/.437 since 2014. Better yet, he stole 26 bases last season — and was caught just twice. Cain is a five-tool player who has been pivotal to the Royals’ recent success.
And the Mets know all too well about the Royals’ recent success.
Cain also posts some pretty impressive advanced stats. He’s posted an fWAR of at least 4.0 in three of the last four seasons — he missed 59 games with injuries the only year he failed to do so. He’s also had wRC+ marks of 109, 128, 99 and 115 respectively over the last four seasons, and he has substantially improved his strikeout rates over recent seasons. His 15.5 percent strikeout rate last year was the best mark of his career.
Over the last four seasons, Cain has accumulated a 17.9 WAR, a mark bested only by Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, and Giancarlo Stanton. Defensively, he’s accumulated 79 Defensive Runs Saved over his last five seasons.
It comes as no surprise that Cain will be one of the most sought-after free agents of this offseason — especially in a relatively thin class. However, several experts project his contract to be comparable to the one that Curtis Granderson signed with the Mets before the 2014 season.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts Cain will receive a four-year, $70 million contract, while Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman projects a five-year, $80 million deal for him. This means he should be getting somewhere — according to these predictions — between $15 and $18 million per season. That is hardly an unreasonable price for a .300 hitter who plays above-average defense. He’s a much bigger improvement over Granderson for a comparable price.
Unfortunately, the Mets are said to have only about $30 million to spend this offseason. And with several holes to plug, it’s unlikely one player will eat up a big share of that “payroll flexibility.”
But if the Mets actually want to try and win in 2018 — that is, if their ownership allows them to try to win in 2018 — they should look no further then making Lorenzo Cain their everyday center fielder for years to come. He’s everything they should be looking for in that outfield.