By signing his brand new $162 million contract with the Mets last week, Brandon Nimmo ensured that he will remain in Flushing for the next eight years of his career. When all is said and done, he will be 37 years old and will have played with New York for 15 seasons. That means that he could be the rare breed of ballplayer who starts and ends his career with the Mets. In fact, there are only three players who have played an entire career of at least ten seasons with the Mets: Ed Kranepool (18), David Wright (14), and Ron Hodges (12).
Now, there is always the chance he could get traded before the end of the contract. There is also the chance he signs with another team at the end of those eight years. The Mets could also keep him beyond the eight years of his contract if he still has something left int he tank. It’s hard to know exactly what the future holds, but his new contract could set Nimmo on the path towards being one of the most successful and longest-tenured home-grown players in the franchise’s 61-year history.
As Chris McShane discussed in his piece, it’s great that the Mets are at a place now where they can flex their financial muscle and we no longer have to worry about “payroll flexibility”, and this includes financially securing homegrown talent and keeping them in Queens for longer than their pre-arb and arbitration years. In the past, someone like Nimmo, who was highly sought-after this winter and stood to make a lot of money, would have been gone as soon as he hit free agency and, luckily, that is no longer the case.
If anyone deserved the contract he received, it’s Nimmo. The Mets selected “The Happiest Man in Baseball” 13th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft—he was picked five spots behind current teammate Francisco Lindor—so he has already spent 11 years with the organization. During his time here, he’s been a consummate professional and a gamer, although injuries have done a number on him for parts of his career. Still, 2022 was his healthiest to date, as he appeared in a career-best 151 games. In his career, he’s slashing .269/.385/.441 with a 134 wRC+ and a 17.9 fWAR. More than anything, it’s his propensity for consistently getting on base that has made him both a key cog in the team’s offense out of the leadoff spot, and a fan-favorite. When all is said and done, a Mets Hall of Fame induction is likely in his future, and perhaps the team captaincy could also be a possibility.
All this is to say that there aren’t a lot of players who have suited up in orange and blue for the majority (or entirety) of their careers, and far fewer who have done it while performing at his level. This got us thinking about some of the most well-known. longest-tenured Mets, or players who, at minimum, players 10+ years with the franchise, with the majority of their career being spent in orange and blue.*
You cannot talk about lifetime Mets without talking about Kranepool. While Tom Seaver is, rightfully, the “The Franchise”, perhaps Kranepool should be franchise with a lower-case ‘f’. Kranepool was an original Met and played each of his 18 seasons in New York and holds the franchise record for games played with 1,853, a mark which may truly never be broken. For context, Nimmo has played 608 games with the Mets, and would need to average just under 156 games per season over the length of his contract to surpass Kranepool. Kranepool was far from a star player—in fact, he made the NL All Star team just once, in 1965—but he was a part of the team through the entirety of its first two decades and a member of their first two World Series squads before retiring in 1979. As a result, despite not appearing in the top 10 in many offensive categories for New York, he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1990 and remains a beloved franchise icon to this day.
Cleon Jones fell one year short of finishing his career with the Mets—he played his last 12 games in 1976 with the White Sox—but he spent his first 12 major league seasons in Flushing with the Mets. He debuted in 1963 for a brief cup of coffee—15 at-bats, to be exact—and didn’t play in 1964, and after another brief stint in 1965, he became a staple in the Mets’ dugout from 1965 through 1975. He appeared in at least 124 games in all but one of those seasons, and ranks sixth in games played in franchise history with 1,201. Jones was fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1965 and was an All Star in 1969. He finished seventh in NL MVP voting that year, but of course his biggest claim to fame was catching the final out of the team’s first world title. Jones followed Kranepool in the series of Mets Hall of Fame inductees, receiving his rightful place among that illustrious group in 1991.
Harrelson, in addition to playing his first 13 years in Queens, also holds the distinction of being the only person who was part of both Mets’ World Series champions. Harrelson has a 1969 ring as a player and a 1986 ring as their third base coach coach. He debuted in 1965 but really blossomed when the Miracle Mets emerged. He was an All Star in 1970 and 1971 and finished 20th and 22nd in MVP voting in those two seasons. He earned his first career Gold Glove in 1971 and finished 29th in MVP voting during the team’s pennant-winning 1973 campaign. His fire was on full display that year as he famously fought with Pete Rose during the NLCS. With the Mets jettisoning everything that wasn’t tied down in the late 70s, Harrelson was dealt to the Phillies, where he played for two seasons before closing out his career with the Rangers in 1980. He re-joined the Mets as a coach in 1986—he was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame that year, too—and managed the club in 1990 and 1991. His 1,322 games rank fourth in franchise history, while his 13.7 defensive WAR is the highest in club history, according to Baseball Reference. His 573 walks rank third, his 1,029 hits rank seventh, and his 115 stolen bases rank eighth.
Stearns is a unique case on my list, as someone who started his career with another team but spent most of it with the Mets. In fact, he recorded two at-bats with Philadelphia in 1974, and played the final ten years of his career (2,681 at-bat’s worth) with the Mets. “Bad Dude”. who passed away earlier this year, was a four-time All Star in Flushing and one of the only reasons to watch the Mets during the post-Seaver years in the late 70’s. On teams that were going nowhere, he gave it his all every single game, and became a fan favorite as a result. His 809 games rank 20th in franchise history, and his 19.6 bWAR ranks tenth.
Had injuries not ravaged the later part of his career, we would be talking about Wright as the club’s all-time home run leader and a sure-fire First Ballot Hall of Famer. Instead, we are left to lament what could have been, both for the club and for the Norfolk, Virginia native who grew up a Mets fan and got to live out his ultimate dream. Sadness aside, Wright is the greatest position player in franchise history and will one day have his number 5 retired alongside the team’s other legendary ballplayers, managers, and figures. His 49.2 career bWAR is best among position players in team history, and he finished his 14-year career as the club’s leader in hits (1,777), doubles (390), runs batted in (970), runs scored (949), walks (762), and plate appearances (6,872). He ranks second in games played (1,585), fourth in batting average (.296), fifth in on base (.376), sixth in OPS (.867). But even numbers can’t do justice to how much Wright embodied the Mets during his tenure, as he became the face of the franchise, for better or worse, through the good times and the bad times of the Wilpon era. Even the owners, who were hemorrhaging money at the time, knew this well enough to offer him a contract extension worth $138 million, at the time the largest in club history.
*As a note: I chose not to highlight José Reyes, who does rank third in games played with 1,365 and is the franchise leader in triples and stolen bases. From an on-field perspective, he would very easily be under consideration, and while he did take a circuitous route to get there, he did start and end his career in Queens, playing 12 of his 17 total seasons here. However, it’s impossible to ignore the domestic violence suspension—he allegedly threw his wife into a sliding glass door in 2015, which led to his release from Colorado and his eventual ill-fated return to New York—and that has, rightfully, tarnished his Mets’ legacy for myself and for many fans.
Looking ahead, the Mets have a few candidate to join Nimmo in his quest as lifetime Met. Jacob deGrom was in line to be the first pitcher to spend all of his 10+ seasons in orange and blue before he defected to Texas. There are still a few players on the current club who could find themselves building up an impressive Mets’ resume.
Alonso is the obvious answer here. He’s only played with the club for four seasons so far, but he’s already set the benchmark for home runs in a single seasons with 53 (during his rookie campaign, no less). If he continues on this career trajectory, he will easily shatter Strawberry’s franchise record of 252 home runs—he’s already seventh at 146 homers after just those four years. He has two years left on his contract until he hits free agency, but one would imagine Steve Cohen will be heavily invested in keeping him in Queens for a long time beyond that.
McNeil has spent the first five years of his career in Flushing and, during that time, has made the NL All Star team twice. He is coming off winning the NL batting title and earning his first career Silver Slugger award. While he is lower down on the priority list for an extension, one could argue he’s been an invaluable part of the lineup and someone the club should keep around long-term, as he is set to become a free agent in 2025. His age is working against him—he is 30 now and will be 32 by the end of the contract—but if he signs once he hits free agency, that’ll help him reach 10+ years in New York, and could keep him here for most of his career.
Okay this one’s a long-shot, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Álvarez was the number one ranked prospect in all of MLB last year and debuted with the club in September, hitting his first career homer on October 4 against the Nationals. He figures to be a key contributor for the club this year, either behind the plate or as a Designated Hitter. It remains to be seen what the future holds for him, but he will be a part of the plans for the foreseeable future.