The New York Mets face many looming questions this offseason, both on and off the field. One of the most pressing on-field questions is who will be their everyday third baseman come 2022.
The team isn’t short on options, both externally and within the organization. Externally, one of the biggest free agents on the market this winter will be third baseman Kris Bryant.
With the Mets potentially having a need at third base, Bryant is someone the Mets could sign, but shouldn’t. There is no denying that Bryant is a great player who could help the Mets, however considering the likely cost for him, the Mets should look elsewhere.
While still a great player, Bryant’s play has dipped slightly since winning the 2016 National League MVP. That season, Bryant posted a .292 BA, .385 OBP and a .554 SLG.
Discounting the 2020 shortened seasons, in the last three full MLB seasons, Bryant has posted a .273BA, .37O OBP, with a .487 SLG. These numbers are only a slight drop off from Bryant’s MVP season, but are more of an indication of the player they’d be paying.
With the struggling of Francisco Lindor in his first season in New York, the Mets might be cautious of handing out another big contract to an infielder who hasn’t played on the team, especially considering his market value to be around $23.5 million according to spotrac.
What should the Mets do instead?
This isn’t an indictment on Bryant who is a great MLB player, but rather the Mets could take that money and use it elsewhere. Instead of spending the money on Bryant, that money should be spent on another infielder, Javy Baez.
Baez is likely to command a deal similar to Bryant, somewhere in the low to mid $20 million range. Having Baez at second base, helps the team more than having Bryant at third, especially with the relationship between Baez and Lindor.
Baez in his short time with the Mets, reduced his strikeout rate, while increasing his batting average, compared to his time with the Chicago Cubs in 2021. With Baez at second, the Mets would likely have Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis or a cheaper off-season acquisition play third.
In the new collective bargaining agreement, MLB is reportedly considering lowering the luxury tax level from $210 million this past season, to $180 million for the 2022 season. This would put the luxury tax level similar to what it was in the 2012/13 seasons, when it was $178 million.
The Mets are projected to have around $155 million in salaries on their payroll, before any offseason signings. Signing Bryant and Baez would put the Mets over $200 million on their payroll, potentially limiting other additions in the outfield and their starting rotation.
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Instead of adding Bryant, it would be wiser to use that money on Baez, while adding to the starting pitching and outfield. If Steve Cohen doesn’t care about how much he pays in luxury tax and money is no issue, then by all means sign Bryant, Baez and whoever else money can buy.