Mets: Is there a reason behind the lack of extensions lately?
By Edward Lennon
As the rest of MLB is extending their best players, the New York Mets have yet to do so. Unfortunate luck with deciding who gets a contract extension may have something to do with it.
This offseason, the New York Mets were fairly busy. Either through signing free agents or the blockbuster deal with the Seattle Mariners, they improved at multiple positions and gained a lot more depth.
One thing they have yet to do is extend any of their current players to new multi-year deals, instead of waiting until their free agency. A lot of other clubs have utilized free agency as a time to negotiate new contracts for some of their better players. The Colorado Rockies extended All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado to a huge deal. Miles Mikolas, Aaron Nola and Luis Severino all signed new multi-year deals with their respective teams.
In their past, the Mets have extended younger players before they hit free agency. They extended Jose Reyes and David Wright in 2006, and Wright again in 2012. Maybe the Mets are learning from their past mistakes. The last player New York has signed to an extension prior to their free agency was Juan Lagares.
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Yes, the current bench player, possible platoon, Juan Lagares. Five days before the 2015 season started, the Mets signed the centerfielder, who was coming off a Gold Glove campaign in 2014, to a four-year, $23 million extension. As of right now, Lagares is going to serve as the team’s fourth outfielder with a bigger role until a few players get healthy. He is no longer a part of the club’s long-term plan. With Brandon Nimmo spending more time in center field, New York will most likely decline the 30-year old’s $9.5 million club option for the 2020 season and let him walk next free agency.
Looking back, the Mets did not need to sign Lagares to an extension. He could have kept playing on one-year deals. It seemed like a great idea at first. He was only 26, won a Gold Glove the year before, and ranked seventh in WAR in the National League. He played 143 games for the 2015 Mets, switching between center and right.
However, he has had an uphill battle with injuries. Since 2016, Lagares has only played in 203 games, had 496 plate appearances, and a batting average of .258. He first tore ligaments and injured his left thumb in 2016, broke the same thumb in 2017, and tore the plantar plate in his toe in 2018.
Not his fault, but the Dominican Republic native has been prone to injury over the past three seasons. Lagares will always play high-caliber defense in the outfield but lacks powers and has a career average of .260.
Lagares is not the only recent extension for the Mets that developed poorly. Prior to former left-hander Jon Niese’s free agency, the Mets signed him to a five-year, $25.5 million deal.
Huge mistake. Jon Niese?
Out of all the young pitchers that have debuted for the Mets in the past decade, and they choose to extend Niese?
Before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for second baseman Neil Walker in December 2015, Niese only won 36 games in a four-year span. He is not necessarily a bust, but not the type of player that a team would prefer to lock up long term. Eventually, the Mets traded back for Niese during 2016, appearing in six games, and then declined his club option for the 2017 season.
The Amazin’s have yet to follow in the footsteps of other teams and extend, at least one, of their younger players. They have plenty of candidates. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is still in contract extension talks with the Mets, but deGrom has made it clear that talks will end when the season starts. Even though deGrom’s deal has been prioritized, Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Noah Syndergaard are also all viable candidates for an extension. Signing either one of these players to an extension makes sense. They all had a strong 2018, are 26 or young, and are entering arbitration.
Let’s hope that deGrom and his former agent and new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen can agree on a contract before he takes the mound on Thursday, March 28th against the Washington Nationals.
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Fans are patiently waiting for the Mets to extend deGrom, and maybe another player after that. The Mets need to get over their mistake in their latest extension with Lagares and get back into the culture of extending young players. Keep your better players happy and have them under contracts that make them content. It is time to start locking up some of our younger players for the future and hope that 2019 is the beginning of a new era for the Amazins.