New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon’s comments last offseason about multiple $30 million players on one roster came back to haunt him this October.
In January of 2019, New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon made a statement that has stuck with me since. When asked if the team would pursue free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Wilpon said, “I don’t know how many teams have two $30 million players.”
This was a passive-aggressive way to suggest the Mets were already paying Yoenis Cespedes a large sum of money—a few million less than $30 million—so why would they go after another when no other team does?
Maybe Wilpon’s “I don’t know” was literal. Based on his track record as an owner, it’s plausible he lacks information. In which case, it’s still the wrong thing to say to a fanbase starved for a championship.
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On October 30, the Washington Nationals made Wilpon eat those words. They won the championship with a pair of $30 million players. In fact, Max Scherzer’s number exceeded $40 million and Stephen Strasburg was at $38.3 million.
Of course, the Nationals aren’t paying all of that money to their star pitchers right now. Plenty of it is deferred. Unlike the Bobby Bonilla deal, it’s not a symbol of inept management. The Mets pay Bonilla his million-plus every July because the Wilpons trusted the wrong people. Ted Lerner and his people are paying a multi-Cy Young winner and the World Series MVP for centuries after because they knew it was the quickest way to a championship.
What’s more, did offer Harper a deal and have already done so with star third baseman Anthony Rendon. They went out and signed Patrick Corbin this past offseason to a back-loaded contract all while having Ryan Zimmerman on the roster under a deal paying him for what he did a decade ago.
There’s a lot to admire about the Nationals, but plenty also went their way. They’ve had enough young stars come up in recent years to replenish the roster. The Mets may have finally gotten this right, but the issue is they don’t seem willing to pay the extra dollars to complete the team. By the time Amed Rosario may fully develop, Michael Conforto could already be ready to test the free agent market.
The Mets are not a small market team and shouldn’t behave as one. Quotes like this from the owners make it seem as if they play on an island and the only way to get fans to show up is if they cross the River Styx.
For an added bonus, it’s also worth looking at what the Houston Astros pay their players. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are both over $30 million. Next year, Jose Altuve’s contract will come up just short (pun originally not intended) at $29 million. The team has also locked up Alex Bregman for the next several seasons with his later salaries reaching a territory the Wilpons refuse to go into.
You don’t win championships by simply paying players an exurbanite amount. But geez, it sure seems to help.
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To answer Wilpon’s question, the two teams in the World Series have ’em.