With the acquisition of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz pending, the Mets have made a bold statement that they are looking to win now. But for the sub-.500 team to actually contend, they need to make a big splash—and that splash’s name is Bryce Harper.
Harper has always been a divisive player whose brash attitude turns off rival fans and old-school analysts alike. But he’s also a superstar, and he has a .900 OPS in his career and 184 home runs under his belt. The six-time All Star and former MVP is an all-around talent, capable of getting on base at a .400 clip, knocking 30 bombs, and swiping 15 bases with above-average corner defense. Harper’s exceptional talent can’t be overstated; since his 2012 debut only Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout have put up better offense among outfielders.
What’s most remarkable, though, is that Harper is just reaching his peak. Entering his age-26 season, he’s the rare free agent hitting the market in his prime and any team taking him on can expect to see more of the same, if not better, over the lifespan of what will surely be a blockbuster deal. Youth is the one commodity in baseball that can very seldom be bought, and a team like the Mets that is badly in need of re-invigoration shouldn’t let this opportunity slip away.
The Mets aren’t a perfect fit on the surface, with a bevy of corner outfielders and a lefty-heavy lineup, but they are a strong match in other regards. Financially, the team has exactly zero dollars in salary commitments from 2021 onwards and there is unlikely to be a more deserving target for big money between and then. That will change when Cano becomes official, of course, but with the rumors that the Mariners are taking on a significant portion of his contract, that should leave more than ample flexibility for Harper as well as other smaller pieces in the coming months.
In terms of outfield alignment, it’s true that the defense would take a hit with one of Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, or Harper plugged into center, where they all have had experience but limited success. And it does leave Yoenis Cespedes as an odd man out, should he return in good health at some point during the season. But good health is a concern for much of the current roster and a problem like four All-Star-capable outfielders is one the Mets would love to have.
Offensively, though, that trio would be at good as any in the game, and just imagine this starting eight behind Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler in 60% of the team’s games:
- Brandon Nimmo, CF
- Jeff McNeil, 3B
- Bryce Harper, RF
- Michael Conforto, LF
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Peter Alonso, 1B
- Amed Rosaio, SS
- Literally Anyone, C
That’s a pennant-winning-caliber team, and if the Mets want to shed their LOLMets reputation while taking advantage of a bold new front office, this is the kind of move that makes that happen instantly, while also setting the table for their window to stay open for years. Unlike most free agent signings, which have to assume a major decline within three or four years, Harper can easily be a top-ten player in the game in 2023 or beyond.
Now the question remains, do they really want to contend if the price is a top-five payroll in baseball? Unfortunately, it’s a question that hasn’t been answered in the affirmative for a long time, but it’s not without precedent. A front office being run by a former sports agent and Omar Minaya should be spending real money. And what better recipient than a 26-year-old superstar, with a brilliant bat and a made-for-New-York cockiness?
It’s time, Mets, let’s make some noise.