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‘Right now’ would be a great time for the Mets to spend big-market money

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The team seems to be dialing back expectations about what else is possible in free agency this winter, but it should be spending big to become a prohibitive favorite.

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Having made three good moves to acquire good players, the Mets are looking much better right now than anyone might have reasonably expected when this offseason began. That’s great, but it also means that the team should be more willing than ever to spend like the big-market team that it is.

The concept of going big this winter isn’t exactly a new one on this site. But following the team’s press conference to introduce Wilson Ramos, its new catcher, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen seemed to lay the groundwork for holding off on significant additional spending in interviews. He deflected questions about an outfielder like A.J. Pollock by saying that Ramos was a right-handed middle-of-the-order bat that might make a right-handed hitting outfielder a top priority, but in the same interviews, he mentioned that the Mets’ internal projections have them as the team to beat in the National League East “right now.” There are a few things to chew on there.

  • Ramos has been a very good hitter over the past three seasons, and he’s a right-handed bat with some power. Whether or not he’s a bona fide middle-of-the-order bat is at the very least debatable.
  • Using one publicly-available projection system as a quick reference, FanGraphs has the Mets projected for 85 wins at the moment, the second-highest mark in the division but six fewer than the Nationals for first.
  • There are still a boatload of free agents on the market, including the best two: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Either one could easily sign with one of the Mets’ divisional rivals, and in the two-Wild Card era, the Mets aren’t competing solely within their own division.

While it’s no longer true that the Mets have literally no money committed beyond the 2020 season, they’re still in a position to have a ton of payroll flexibility—their favorite thing—after that season ends. Only Robinson Cano is guaranteed money from that point on, and it’s roughly $20 million per year after accounting for the money the Mariners are chipping in for his contract.

Throw in the fact that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are still very, very good and under team control for the next two and three seasons, respectively, and it’s incredibly clear that “right now” would be a great time to spend real money to put this team over the top. That would mean entertaining the notion of signing Harper or Machado rather than presenting fans with the false dichotomy of either spending any remaining funds for 2019 payroll on a relief pitcher or an outfielder—if it’s even that much.

Van Wagenen has already done more than anyone would have expected this offseason, and it certainly won’t be his fault if the Wilpons aren’t willing to provide the funds that allow him to make the Mets as good as they can possibly be for the upcoming season. And if he were given the go-ahead to sign someone like Harper or Machado, they’d be a much better team well beyond the upcoming season, too.