The offseason has barely started. Despite that, it already feels like the New York Mets are running low on options to upgrade an offense that ranked among the bottom half of baseball based off their team wRC+ of 95. While it’s not secret as to which current free agents could potentially give the club a big boost, it also appears that Brodie Van Wagenen and his front office is headed in the opposite direction.
Despite what BVW says publicly, the Mets’ current catching tandem of Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud needs some attention. New York has checked out the top of the market, reaching out to Yasmani Grandal, along with showing interest in Wilson Ramos.
Is it shocking that BVW and company are looking at a cheaper option? Not one bit, and it also backs up Van Wagenen’s stated desire to be strong up the middle from a defensive standpoint. If this is the route New York goes to address catcher, though, it’s one less spot in the lineup that can help the offense.
But Manny Machado could fix that, right? Of course he could. So that’s why Jon Heyman of FanCred appropriately threw water on that potential idea for Mets fans.
mets are not seen as a player for machado. of course $ are always a consideration, but the sense is that they don't see him as the right player to spend big on. that doesn't mean they won't make a splash. they are looking at catcher, bullpen and infield.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 9, 2018
It’ll be cool to see New York make some kind of big splash, but if the goal is to start 2019 with a similar payroll level as 2018, Van Wagenen may only have $20-$30 million to spend this winter. Going after Machado would eat up most — if not all — of that hypothetical budget (since we have no clue what the spending will look like). Either way, this looks like another promising way to upgrade the offense that will essentially be wasted.
As BVW continues getting settled in his new role, let’s not forget that the GM meetings are more about connecting with other executives and starting conversations, not actually making deals. There’s still plenty of time for the Mets to seemingly make a 180-degree turn and surprise us. Even if they make a big splash and score one or more of the top available bullpen arms, it’s not going to help the offense. This is an area that needs to be addressed with the win-now desire we’ve heard about since basically standing pat at the non-waiver trade deadline.
As currently constructed, the Mets offense includes a lot of variables. Jeff McNeil had a terrific debut but needs to carry that out over a full season. Michael Conforto bounced back in a big way after the All-Star break, but he now must avoid another slow start. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier are the veteran anchors at the moment, which isn’t too comforting after taking a peek at their respective 2018 performances. Peter Alonso may finally get a chance, but who knows what the adjustment could be like for him.
When looking at the free agent market, most potential offensive upgrades would come from the outfield, including guys like A.J. Pollock, Michael Brantley, and Andrew McCutchen, along with infielders Josh Donaldson and utility man Marwin Gonzalez. There haven’t been many solid rumors connecting the Mets with any of them yet, though.
There’s always the trade market, but that also comes at a cost, especially for teams looking for players to help them win right now. While the idea of acquiring J.T. Realmuto would be incredible, the Miami Marlins would obviously rather deal their catcher outside of the NL East, along with wanting a huge prospect haul in return. The price New York may have to pay in prospects for any impact bat that could carry an offense — you know, like a healthy Yoenis Cespedes — won’t be cheap, which is a potential barrier to making something happen.
One would imagine that the “easiest” way to upgrade a team with aspirations of contending next year is spending some money via free agency.
Judgment can’t be passed on what Van Wagenen and the Mets are doing this winter until we start seeing what the actual plan is. That’s still a mystery at the moment. When it comes to an offense that struggled mightily for prolonged periods of time in 2018, though, it’s hard to believe help is coming from a top-of-the-market kind of player based off what we’ve seen transpire thus far.