After a vastly disappointing 2017 campaign, the New York Mets are entering a crucial offseason for their franchise. Their 70-92 record this season was the team’s worst since 2009, they endured 25 disabled list stints, underperformance from those who remained healthy and traded away many of the veterans that made up their roster. Yet with so many holes to fill this winter, why is there a sense that the Mets aren’t going to do much of anything at all?
Spoiler alert: It’s because they’re probably not.
As it always seems to with this organization, it comes down to the dollar and cents. Following a year where their Opening Day payroll hit the $154 million mark, GM Sandy Alderson publicly vowed that this number would decrease moving forward. According to multiple reports, that likely leaves the Mets with an estimated $25-to-30 million this offseason to fill starting infield and outfield spots, another arm for the starting rotation and at least two new relievers.
As a point of reference, David Wright — who hasn’t played in a major league game since May 1, 2016 — will make $20 million this upcoming season, which makes up just over 13 percent of the team’s expected payroll in 2018.
In 2016, the Mets suffered a plethora of injuries to key players on their roster, but were able to fight through it and reach the postseason for a second consecutive season. Their approach the following offseason left much to be desired, however, as they didn’t sign a single free agent from another team and brought back the exact same roster as the year prior, effectively banking that the team would stay healthy and make yet another run at a championship.
It was the wrong decision for the Mets to make at the time, but if they were to repeat it this offseason it would be an even greater mistake.
It’s easy to make the argument that this team has been unlucky, and you wouldn’t even necessarily be wrong in doing so — the Mets paid $57.6 million to players on the disabled list during the 2017 season — but that should not be used as a crutch by ownership or the front office to defend a lack of spending this winter.
If the Mets want to seriously be considered as contenders again, they have to adequately fill the multitude of holes on their roster this offseason rather than searching through the free agency bargain bin for reclamation projects and hoping that the once-vaunted starting rotation will finally be healthy.
That’s not the mentality of a winning organization. If the Mets truly want to win, they need to back that up with action, not hope.
Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, for example, are two players that perfectly fit what this team needs right now. And yet the Mets already appear unlikely to be serious suitors for either of them, presumably due to monetary restrictions.
Over the past few seasons, the Mets have tried to sell this fanbase on their desire to win. Based on the reports to start this offseason, however, there is zero indication that this franchise intends to fully commit to 2018, simply based on their budget with respect to the expected market conditions in free agency.
Going forward, this franchise has an important decision to make. The first and more preferable choice is that the Mets fully commit to winning by not letting payroll restrictions control who they can or cannot acquire in a legitimate effort to make themselves better. Unfortunately, though, this does not appear as if it’s a likely outcome at this time.
Therefore, if New York does not intend to go all-in on this upcoming season than they should avoid the Band-Aid-type contracts in a halfhearted effort to improve and rather go the completely opposite direction. Sell. Trade Jacob deGrom for a legitimate haul while you can and see what kind of returns you can get for some of the other players on this roster.
While waving the white flag and essentially starting from scratch is not something any fan of this team wants to see, it is far more preferable than going through another meandering season of mediocrity based on buying low and hoping for the best on the free agent market. That does nothing but waste time.
Either way, the New York Mets need to ultimately decide who they want to be and where they’re going, and fully commit to that route. No more empty gestures. No more reclamation projects. No more half measures.
In other words, it’s now or never.
Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas – USA Today Sports