Mets must focus on extensions, not signing top free agents
By Mason Smoller
The New York Mets finally made the big splash fans have been waiting for. By trading for Francisco Lindor, the team got their superstar in one of the league’s best players. Not to mention, they also acquired an excellent high-end starting pitcher in Carlos Carrasco.
Having solved two major needs, the Mets are able to readjust their plans. This offseason was built around making big moves thanks to new owner Steve Cohen. However, does it make sense to make another splash?
The team has a few more holes to fill before solidifying their spot amongst World Series hopefuls. A natural center fielder would help, as well as a starting pitcher, left-hand reliever, or even a defensive upgrade at third base. And there are still plenty of solid options out on the market that the Mets would not have to break the bank for.
Yet the premier free agent names continue to come up. George Springer and Trevor Bauer are all phenomenal players, but can only fill one of those holes the Mets still have. Plus, they would create problems long-term.
The Mets are going to have to begin thinking about how to win in the future, which Cohen previously emphasized on top of winning now. As the team has already made a big splash, it is time to shift focus away from paying big for premiere free agents. Rather, it is time for the Mets to pay big to extend their in-house players.
Exploring Mets Extension Candidates
Teams such as the Chicago White Sox have already worked to lock up their budding stars long term. It is a plan that works for both sides. It gives the player security long-term with a big deal, and also allows the club to adjust knowing that cap numbers will only continue to inflate in the future, despite the COVID-19 setbacks.
The Mets, who are finally living up to being a big market team, should attack extending their young core in a similar fashion. Right off the bat, the team must extend Francisco Lindor. No team trades for a 27-year-old shortstop who is amongst the best both at the plate and in the field and plans to keep him only one season.
Similarly, New York should pursue extending right fielder Michael Conforto. One of the lone pieces remaining from their 2015 National League pennant-winning team, Conforto is coming off of his best season since his all-star campaign in 2017.
Oh, and he will only be 28-years-old in 2021. In other words, three years younger than Springer, who if the Mets signed, would likely prevent Conforto from being extended.
Outside of the obvious options, the Mets need starting pitching apart from Jacob deGrom and Carlos in 2022. Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman are both set to hit the market after this season. Given both are expected to return to form after missing last season, the Amazins’ could look to extend either prior to before their price rises.
A core of Lindor and Conforto locked up long-term would show how the team is looking long-term, given extensions would kick in after this season. It also would allow the team to change course towards the next tier of free agents.
Reaping the Immediate Benefits
New York hopes to stay below the $210-million luxury tax threshold this season. Meaning that they would like to avoid spending more than the $30-million left in salary cap space.
Either one of the premier free agents would probably eat up at least $25-million per year. To which there would be little space remaining to fill the remaining holes on the roster.
By extending their own players long-term, the Mets get more security long-term. It also allows them to move onto the secondary free agent market.
At center field, they could sign Jackie Bradley Jr. or Enrique Hernandez to significantly less than Springer would cost. Deals that would be team-friendly, and not potentially hurt them long-term.
Brad Hand, one of the league’s best left-handed relievers can be a fantastic addition to the bullpen. Even if they want another starter, Jake Odorizzi and James Paxton make for excellent targets.
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Ultimately, it makes too much sense for the Mets to turn away from high-priced free agents now that they made their big splash. It is time to extend the young core and play the secondary market.