New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon shared some words with reporters last week on the state of the team and offered some insight into how he thinks.
On Friday, January 24th, 2019, New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, and several other members of the front office participated in a Q&A with a group of the team’s beat reporters. As a result of this meeting, several interesting statements were made about the current and future state of the franchise.
I’ve divided the key points into a few different sections and my own takeaways from these words from the owner’s mouth. All quotes are courtesy of Tim Britton of The Athletic.
1) Ownership will remain cheap
If you search any Mets related article or comment on social media, it will not take long for you to discover comments imploring the team to sign star free agent Bryce Harper. In an offseason defined by an aggressive attempt to improve the roster, most Mets fans agree that signing Harper or fellow standout Manny Machado would make the team one of the favorites to win a World Series.
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However, it appears this notion is nothing more than a dream. When asked about the possibility of signing a top free agent, Wilpon responded by stating “I don’t know how many teams have two $30 million players.”
This comment, referencing the 4-year $110 million deal the team signed with outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, is misleading. While a deal with Harper or Machado would leave them with two large contracts, Cespedes is currently injured an could miss the entire 2019 season. As a result, insurance will cover a large portion of his deal.
Considering the team’s current payroll is projected to be in the $150 million range (according to spotrac.com), a big-market team like the Mets could afford a star player.
This statement also shows the difference in mindset between the Mets and their division rivals. The Washington Nationals currently have two players, pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, making $30 million a season. Yet, they are still one of the favorites in the Harper sweepstakes.
2) There is an increasing likelihood both Harper and Machado will end up on division rivals
If the Mets are indeed out on Bryce Harper, it seems as though most of the teams in the free agent chase reside in the NL East. The Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies have reportedly been the most aggressive teams thus far.
The Nationals reportedly made a 10-year offer to Harper at the end of last season, while the Phillies have aggressively pursued both star players. Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have seeming eliminated themselves from contention by signing outfielder A.J. Pollock, few other suitors remain.
The White Sox have been the only other team with serious interest (specifically in Machado). If they fail to acquire the star infielder, a mystery team would have to emerge in order to keep the top two free agents out of the Mets division. If both players do sign with other teams in the NL East it would make an otherwise exciting Mets offseason feel like a total defeat.
3) Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom may be affected by this mindset
This goes back to the quote about not having multiple $300 million players. I seriously wonder how deGrom hears that comment. If the team is seriously planning to resign their ace, one would assume it would require a contract above that threshold.
At best, this is a poor message to send to the team’s most important player.
At worst, it may hint that ownership could be considering taking their penny-pinching to a whole new level.
4) The Mets aren’t finished yet
While there was a good deal of negative connotations in Wilpon’s comments, there was some exciting news. The Mets owner closed his series of statements by explaining that “Brodie knows exactly where the target is for the payroll. He still has some room in there to do some things. We’ll see where that brings us.”
While the team may not be serious destinations for the top two available players, it is encouraging to hear that the roster isn’t necessarily finished. The Mets have made several important transactions so far this offseason.
They do, however, remain thin at centerfield and left-handed relievers. Their chances at making an impact this season will only increase if they are able to add additional pieces to the puzzle.
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What do you think about these comments by ownership? Do you think the team is wise in avoiding a long-term deal with Harper? Feel free to comment below!