While there haven’t been any big splashes yet in the new year, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has been busy finding roster depth for the 2019 squad.
In addition to some of the minor signings that have already happened, New York added outfielder Rymer Liriano and pitcher Hector Santiago just this past weekend, each getting an invite to big-league camp next month. The move that made most of the headlines and grabbed a lot of attention, though, was the acquisition of center fielder Keon Broxton from the Milwaukee Brewers.
Broxton brings solid defense to New York, but he also brings an uneven offensive reputation. On the surface, this move feels more like another depth move instead of a headlining kind of deal — one that could create some uncertainty for incumbent defensive whiz, Juan Lagares. However, a number of reports have already surfaced pouring cold water on the idea that the club will make another major move for an outfielder.
After all this talk of being in on every free agent and making win-now deals throughout the early part of the winter, could this possibly be it?
The offense still has plenty of question marks with Spring Training on the horizon, and while adding Broxton improves the up-the-middle defense, his offensive reputation isn’t solid enough to justify heading into the year with just him and Lagares. The same thought process goes with the recent acquisition of J.D. Davis — he has potential to be a big-league asset, but whether he actually will be or not is yet to be seen.
When it comes to using the free-agent market as their main resource, there are two main options the Mets can pursue as we continue creeping toward Opening Day.
Simply Wait Out The Market
There is no denying the Mets’ interest in free-agent centerfielder, A.J. Pollock — BVW mentioned it himself about a month ago. He likely said that already being fully aware of his age and recent injury history. Clearly, the biggest hurdle to genuinely pursuing a deal with the former Arizona Diamonback is his asking price.
Pollock is currently looking for a contract in the neighborhood of five years and $80 million, using the recent deals for Lorenzo Cain (five years, $80 million) and Dexter Fowler (five years, $82.5 million) as a point of reference. That’s fair enough, but it’s also quite steep to hand over to a 31-year-old, especially when considering his career trajectory to this point. And for what it’s worth, any other interested teams seem to be balking at this price, too.
If a front office felt comfortable handing over this kind of guarantee, he wouldn’t still be available and have a market that hasn’t fully crystallized yet (probably a little because of that Bryce Harper guy). Any dreams of landing Harper seem to be out of the question, but eventually landing Pollock, Marwin Gonzalez, or Nick Markakis shouldn’t definitely not be out of the realm of possibilities.
It’s not a secret that MLB teams have learned to wait out free agents to get a significant discount. Based off everything we’ve heard from BVW since he took over in New York, I’ll believe he’s out on any major outfield upgrades once they sign elsewhere. Portraying that they don’t “need” another outfielder may be him playing the game in order to get any asking prices down to where they’d feel comfortable pulling the trigger.
At least, that what I’m going to be telling myself for the time being.
Opt For An Infield Upgrade
Maybe the Mets are done adding to the outfield and feel confident with the level of depth they’ve accrued. Van Wagenen did mention that defense in the middle of the field is important to him. Bringing in Broxton and Wilson Ramos shows he meant what he said. If they are indeed done with outfield acquisitions, though, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re done completely.
Although there has seemed to be more action this winter than last year’s slow-moving market, there are still a ton of impact players in need of a home. Names like Jed Lowrie and Mike Moustakas could easily help raise the performance floor of New York’s offense, and at this point, it seems more likely that a short-term deal will be in the cards for both of them.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Gonzalez, who can provide more legitimate depth and an offensive boost to both the outfield and infield.
There Is Money To Spend (You’d Think)
It’s been hard to come by any concrete facts with regard to the Mets’ 2019 payroll this winter. Certain offseason moves — like acquiring what’s left of Robinson Cano‘s contract after considering the Seattle Mariners’ contribution — have shown us there’s a willingness to spend.
The rumors surrounding the offer (or non-offer) to free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal provides more of a picture, though. Since the Mets were comfortable with committing four years and $60 million to him ($15 million per season) before opting for Ramos at two years and $19 million, it’s not crazy to think there’s anywhere between $8-10 million more to spend this winter (at the very least).
While the widespread interest in him could drive up his eventual contract, MLB Trade Rumors pegged an initial prediction of four years and $36 million for Gonzalez. That’s very doable for the Mets, all things considered.
It may be a little tougher to get Pollock’s average annual value that low based off initial demands, but the greater concern in that situation might be the number of years he’s looking for. If Pollock could settle for a shorter deal, maybe something can happen there.
Any way you slice it, the Mets in their current form are far from a finished product. I’d like to think BVW also feels that way, regardless of what his unspecified limitations may be. We can hold onto the hope that despite the calendar flipping to January, there are still a lot of signings that need to happen, so the chances of seizing a perceived opportunity remains. For now.