Thursday Thoughts on next year's free agent class and Billy Wagner's HOF chase

San Francisco Giants v New York Mets
San Francisco Giants v New York Mets / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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The New York Mets have had one of the craziest offseasons in recent memory. They extended Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Diaz, and Adam Ottavino, they replaced Jacob deGrom with Justin Verlander, and added Kodai Senga, David Robertson, Brooks Raley, Tommy Pham, and Omar Narvaez. Of course, there was also the Carlos Correa saga.

The Mets might have an equally-if-not-more crazy offseason next year with the way the 2023-2024 free agent class is shaping up.

The king of the free agents next winter is Shohei Ohtani. The Mets, Dodgers, and Padres are the early favorites to land the two-way star, but I’m sure other teams will enter the bidding as well. The Mets have a couple of advantages because A) Billy Eppler was the GM of the Angels who signed Shohei and B) Steven Cohen can shell out whatever Ohtani wants (it’s going to be at least $500 million) without issue.

Another big name next winter is Manny Machado. He has an opt-out in his contract with the Padres, and he is likely to exercise it. He was the runner-up in the National League MVP race, and this was his second top-three finish in the last three years. Since the Correa deal fell through, many believe that the Mets can sign both Ohtani and Machado, if they so choose.  

Baty will get a chance to prove himself this season, but if it doesn’t work out, look for the Mets to be in on Machado, or the other big third base free agent next winter, Matt Chapman. Chapman is a similarly-elite defender to Machado, but his offense isn’t as strong. He’s more of a boom-or-bust guy. He had a good season with the Blue Jays in 2022, but he did strike out a ton. 

The last big free agent I’ll touch on is Josh Hader. The Mets have struggled to find good lefties for a few seasons now, with the exception of one unlikely-yet-spectacular season from Aaron Loup. Hader had a rough stretch in the middle of the 2022 season where his mechanics were out of sync, but he fixed it after being traded to the Padres and was back to his usual self. Expect another elite season from Hader in 2023.

Speaking of elite lefty relievers, it looks like Billy Wagner will fall short of the Hall of Fame once again

This is really embarrassing for Major League Baseball,  a sport that places so much emphasis on relief pitchers, yet doesn’t enshrine the greats in The Hall. 

What possible argument could voters have against him? His career ERA is 2.31, and he had five seasons where his ERA was 1.78 or lower. He played 16 seasons, so that’s basically a third of his career, which is insane. Over the course of career, he posted a 187 ERA+, 11.9 K/9 and allowed just 6 H/9 and 3 BB/9. 

Wagner had more strikeouts (1,196) than Mariano Rivera (1,173) and Trevor Hoffman (1,133), more saves (422) than Dennis Eckersley (390) and Rich Gossage (310) , a lower ERA (2.31) than Hoyt Wilhelm (2.52) and Lee Smith (3.03). Wagner beats Bruce Sutter in every category I just mentioned (Sutter only struck out 861 batters, had 300 saves, and his ERA was 2.83). The only pitcher here with a higher ERA+ than Wagner is Rivera (205, the all-time record).

My point is that if you compare Billy Wagner to the best relievers in the history of baseball, he’s either similar to or better than most of them. He deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown, and it’s bizarre that voters who cover the game as a career don’t see that. He’ll get in eventually, but it should not take a player of this caliber at least seven ballots (this is his sixth, number seven is next year) to get his due. 

3 Mets who should already be in the Rookie of the Year conversation. dark. Next

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