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The Mets have quite the offseason ahead of them this winter and general manager Sandy Alderson has his work cut out for him to say the least. There are a ton of moving parts on the field this winter and Sandy and his team are going to have to make some serious decisions. Let’s break things down position by position to make things easier.
We’ll start with the outfield. The Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes to a 3-year deal last offseason which included an opt-out clause after the first year which means Cespedes can choose to become a free agent again this winter. With the free agent market scarce of talent, Cespedes could be the biggest name out there this offseason which is a huge incentive for him to test the waters. If Cespedes opts-in to the remaining two years of his deal, he would make $23,750,000 per year. While the annual salary is significant, the length of the contract may not be to Cespdes’ liking. Cespedes will be 31 years old at the beginning of next season and like most professional athletes, he would probably prefer long term stability rather than a slightly higher salary over the next two years. Once players get into their mid 30’s the production level usually decreases to some degree. Cespedes’ current contract would expire when he’s 33 years old. It would probably be quite difficult to command the type of salary that he’s looking for if he enters free agency at the age of 33 rather than 31. I would imagine Cespedes would be willing to take slightly less in terms of annual salary to receive a longer contract. After Cespedes, the Mets have a choice to make when it comes to their newly acquired outfielder, Jay Bruce. The Mets traded for Bruce at the deadline partially to help their starving offense and also as an insurance policy if they lose Cespedes to his opt-out clause. The Mets have a club-option for next season on Bruce that will pay him $13 million in 2017. If Cespedes leaves, Bruce would likely be his replacement in the middle of the lineup for nearly half the cost. It seems like a no brainer to pick up Bruce’s contract. However, if Cespedes chooses to stay, we know how frugal the Mets have been in terms of their spending and it seems unlikely that they would be willing to pay Cespedes’ nearly $24 million contract and then Bruce’s $13 million as well. On top of all of these factors, the Mets have another problem. They’re trying to develop and bring along former number 10 overall pick, Michael Conforto. If Cespedes, Bruce and Granderson all return, that would give the Mets three outfielders earning $13 million or more next season. It would be difficult to bench one of those players in favor of Conforto. Teams don’t like to pay players a ton of money if they’re not going to play everyday. That’s part of the reason that the Mets kept running Jason Bay out there everyday despite the fact that his production was borderline non existent. This could hinder Conforto’s growth for at least another year. With all of that being said, at the end of the day, just about everything in the outfield hinges on the decision Yoenis Cespedes makes.
Now, if you’re still with me, we move on to the infield where things are just as dicey. Going into next season, the Mets have only three infielders under contract. Asdrubal Cabrera, David Wright and Lucas Duda; whom the Mets still have under team control for one more season. The issue is this, Jose Reyes sparked the Mets offense as soon as he came on board and earned himself a spot on this team. Neil Walker, whom the Mets traded for last offseason, was the offensive MVP in the second half last year and carried the Mets at times offensively. The Mets agreed to a 1-year deal last offseason with Walker to avoid arbitration. Walker became a very important part of this offense and is the only legitimate second baseman in the organization. The Mets tried to get an extension done with Walker during the season so it seems likely that he will be their main focus in the offseason. That leaves the Mets with 5 infielders for 4 positions. It would be hard to imagine any of those players returning in a reserve role but it could happen and any one of those players would be a great insurance policy if one of the starters were to get injured. David Wright hasn’t played in more than 40 games since 2014 so there are huge question marks there. Not only has he not been able to stay healthy, his level of play in the field seems to have deteriorated due to his spinal condition. This might force the Mets to urge Wright to make a position change maybe to 1st base like his childhood friend Ryan Zimmerman has done for the Nationals. Where does that leave Lucas Duda though? Duda missed most of the 2016 season due a back injury but played well when he returned. Having Reyes as the reserve out of those 5 players seems like the most logical choice. Not only because the Mets have a lot invested in the other 4 players (if Walker gets re-signed, his contract would probably be pretty big), but also due to the fact that David Wright could very well end up getting hurt again given his recent track record and Reyes has had the most experience playing 3rd base among those players.
Then we get to the pitchers. The pitching situation should be much easier to resolve than the issues previously mentioned. All of the Mets young aces are still under club control next season. However, the time to start extending these young pitchers is upon us. Nobody expects Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler to all receive a contract extension at the same time, but, this might be the winter to start checking them off the list one by one. DeGrom seems like the most obvious candidate given the fact that he’s the oldest one in the group and that he has the longest and most recent track record of success. The other candidate would be Matt Harvey but given his struggles on the mound last year and the injury that ended his season, now is not a good time for Harvey to try and get a significant contract extension. Also, Matt Harvey has one of the most shrewd agents in the business in Scott Boras who knows that his client won’t receive the contract he’s looking for after a disastrous season in 2016. DeGrom’s season was cut short by injury as well but not before having a solid 2016 campaign. It would behoove the Mets to extend deGrom this winter rather than waiting for him to elevate his stock by having a full, healthy, successful season. The Mets have all the leverage in this situation with deGrom coming off of an injury and having a year that was slightly sub par compared to what he’s capable of. Closer Jeurys Familia may also be looking for an extension coming off a season in which he lead the league in saves and broke a Mets franchise record for consecutive saves. Familia was looking for an extension during spring training this past year but given the lack of a lengthy track record, it would have been hard for Familia to convince the Mets to give him one.
A lot of things need to be figured out with this roster. A lot of moving parts, a lot of intricate and delicate contract situations for a team that is expecting to win now and in the future. This is going to make Sandy Alderson’s job very difficult this winter. He has got to push the right buttons or he will risk damaging a team that looks like they could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. With Terry Collins saying the 2017 season may be his last, this organization is in a very delicate place right now and we may look back 5 years down the road at this offseason and talk about how it was a contributing factor to the Mets’ success or the source of their demise depending on the decisions that get made over the next few months.