The New York Mets can learn from last winter and failed offseasons in the past. The big takeaway: it’s time to make a deal.
Last winter, Major League Baseball experienced an unusual offseason. Many known free agents went months without signing a deal. The New York Mets were actually one of the more aggressive organizations, inking deals with Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier to help accelerate a slow market.
Things should move a little quicker this offseason. However, the Mets and everyone else should look at the previous offseason as a guide into what to expect during these Hot Stove months.
Nearly every free agent signing last winter was a bust. The Mets weren’t the only ones to add new players to brutal deals.
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Eric Hosmer signed the largest contract of anyone. What did the San Diego Padres get from him? A .253 hitter on a losing ball club with a 1.4 WAR.
Pitcher Yu Darvish had a crummy year with the Chicago Cubs and battled injuries. Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana both underperformed for the Philadelphia Phillies. Alex Cobb looked like a mess with the Baltimore Orioles and just about everyone else who signed a new deal had a less than stellar 2018 campaign.
Two highly-paid and highly-coveted free agents from last winter who did perform well were J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain. Each signed five-year deals, with Martinez taking home $110 million and Cain getting a still “your grandkids will never need to work again” type deal worth $80 million.
What Does This Mean for the Mets This Winter?
Free agency is not the way to build acquire a star. Sure, the Red Sox wouldn’t have won the World Series without Martinez. The Brewers wouldn’t have made it as far as they did minus Cain.
The other pieces around those two were far more important. Specifically, it came via trades.
The Mets didn’t make a major trade at all last winter. In fact, the last time they did make a trade for an everyday player, they sent pitcher Jon Niese to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Neil Walker. This was on December 9, 2015.
Nearly three years have passed since the last time the Mets made any big winter deal whether buying or selling. It hasn’t worked out in their favor either.
Prior to this, the last truly notable deal the Mets made in the winter was the R.A. Dickey deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Prior to 2015, they did acquire Jerry Blevins from the Washington Nationals. This was a vital deal, but not nearly as significant as the Dickey transaction which helped land them Noah Syndergaard and to a lesser extent, Travis d’Arnaud.
Winter trades are an opportunity to acquire players you wouldn’t normally have a shot at landing. Every championship team seems to acquire some important piece this way.
The 2018 Mets had 11 players participate in a game this past season who came to the team via trade. Yoenis Cespedes wasn’t one of them because his current stay with the Mets was due to a free agent signing.
This isn’t a bad total, but it’s the names they have added via trade that leaves me underwhelmed. Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler highlight the list. The rest is mostly an army of relief pitchers I’m prepared to give up on already.
A mix of free agent signings and trades are the way you finalize a winning ball club. Of course, it all begins with smart draft picks and good player development.
The Mets have ignored offseason trades. Instead, they’ve loaded up on this category with summer deadline deals mostly of the selling variety.
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What I would like to see from Brodie Van Wagenen is a bold trade. He doesn’t need to sell the farm or get rid of a beloved player. He does need to take this franchise in a different direction. A trade can make that happen.