It certainly appears as though the Mets do not plan to do anything significant if they fail to land free agent infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist, who is expected to sign with a team by the end of next week’s Winter Meetings.
According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the Mets don’t appear inclined to offer Zobrist the four-year deal he’s looking for despite their affection for Zobrist, who will turn 35 next May 26. Sherman is not alone on this as various Mets sources have told Adam Rubin, Mike Puma, Anthony DiComo and Andy Martino the same exact thing.
However, what is a little more concerning is this new narrative floating around that if the Mets fail to sign Zobrist, they are unlikely to pursue any other free agents of similar caliber and will instead look to bring back Kelly Johnson or Juan Uribe, and focus their effort on adding a left-handed hitter who can play center field and platoon with Juan Lagares.
Adam Rubin also ran with this “Zobrist or Bust” narrative on Monday when he wrote:
“If the Mets whiff in upgrading the middle infield with a bona fide starter, they alternatively would be more active in pursuing a lefty-hitting complement to Juan Lagares in center field. They then would sign a backup infielder — whether that’s Kelly Johnson or someone else of that stature.”
To put it more concisely, the Mets are looking to sign Ben Zobrist OR Gerardo Parra, not Ben Zobrist AND Gerardo Parra.
Now whether adding one or the other would be enough to offset the losses of both Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes is unknown. Maybe just adding a Kelly Johnson and Gerardo Parra is enough, nobody knows for sure.
But the bigger issue for me is that this certainly flies in the face of the rhetoric we’ve heard for years that the Mets would spend accordingly when the fans returned to Citi Field.
For a team that is going into next season with a big target on their back as the defending National League Champions, I expected them to attack the offseason with a little more oomph and gusto, especially given the losses of Murphy and Cespedes.
The company line that kept trumpeting payroll would go up once revenues increased seems more and more like poppycock as the offseason progresses, despite huge gains in profit margins across various streams including attendance, merchandising, advertising and cable and TV operations.
I’m not advocating a spend for spending sake approach, but I never expected such a frugally guided approach to defending their NL title this offseason after such a financial windfall as the 2015 season was for the organization.
It’s still early and things could change, but for weeks all we keep hearing about this offseason is not which players can be difference makers for the team, but instead incessant leaks of what the team can or cannot afford. It suggests that not much has changed within the financial realm of the Mets and that yesterday’s adversities are still today’s adversities.
As much as the Wilpons want you to think they are out of the woods, the tea leaves say otherwise, and Sandy Alderson will need to find a way to replace a ton of offense, build a bench, and bolster a weakened bullpen on the same exact dime he had last year.
Only this time it will be infinitely more challenging given the $20 million in raises coming to Cuddyer, Niese, Duda, Harvey and others. Sandy has his work cut out for him and only has about $10-12 million in wiggle room to get the Mets back into the postseason. I hope that’s enough. Shame on you Wilpons.