The Mets are betting on the game on the rise.
They did it up to a point with Trevor May, into a bigger one with James McCann and raised it even a few more points to reach a deal with Taijuan Walker on a multi-year deal.
The Mets have guaranteed that trio of important roles, and $ 78 million, in the hope that a shortened 2020 is a true indicator of who they are now and at least in the near-term future. It also means that they didn’t guarantee anything to more tried / talented options like Liam Hendriks, JT Realmuto and Trevor Bauer.
And wasn’t one of Steve Cohen’s advantages supposed to be that the Mets could stop accepting second, third and fourth best alternatives?
Imagine on November 10, the day of Cohen’s introductory press conference that sparked such optimism from Mets fans, he would have been told that the Mets will not sign any (ZERO) of the top six free agents this offseason. . That would have felt impossible, right?
Now the Mets have traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco and, who knows, before this spring training is over, they might be announcing long-term extensions for Lindor, possibly even Michael Conforto.
But this is the offseason when most teams were generally out of major free agency. The Yankees only had their eyes on retaining DJ LeMahieu, the Dodgers only on a positive play for Bauer and retaining Justin Turner. When will next winter be when the Mets have this little competition at the top of the market?
Yet these Mets invested in volume as much as anything else. Walker will be the Mets’ eighth major league free agent contract. Only the Cubs and Giants, with nine, have more. The total cost is $ 94.15 million, less than the Yankees ($ 104.15 million), who we believe have an inactive offseason. Still, he’s the fifth most spent in free agency so far.
What the Mets are looking forward to is surrounding a strong core led by Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Edwin Diaz, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo and Dom Smith with a superstar in Lindor through the trade, plus the kind of overall depth they’ve been burned through. . these last years. Within that depth, they have seen the potential for more complementary players.
Since May returned from Tommy John’s surgery in 2018, he’s been doing great, but that includes two seasons (2018 and ’20) of 24 appearances each and a total of 113 innings in three years. He posted a 3.10 ERA in that time with 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. With Seth Lugo (elbow) out for at least a month of the regular season, May might have to be Mr. April.
McCann enjoyed two solid seasons with the White Sox, especially last year when his OPS shot up to .896 and all the data on pitching framing started to rate him better. But questions remain about whether he will hit well as a right-hander, plus he has faded in each of the past two years as his workload has increased, and he is the clear number one receiver with the Mets, who was not the one. last year with Chicago. .
Walker pitched 53 1/3 innings last season, which isn’t much, but it’s more than he had produced through an injury haze since 2017. His ERA in 11 starts for Seattle and Toronto in 2020 was 2.70. But his independent fielding ERA was 4.56 because the opposition only had a .243 batting average on balls in play. Such a low GPA generally indicates at least one element of luck, especially for a pitcher who walks an extra drop and strikes out an extra drop, like Walker. And the Mets, even with the Lindor update, don’t project to be a strong defensive team in 2021.
Still, the Mets saw enough to guarantee Walker two years at $ 20 million (or three at $ 23 million if Walker activates a third-year option; the contract was agreed pending a physical). The Mets see a 28-year-old starter ready perhaps to deliver years of excellent health and at least solidity in the middle of the rotation.
In their idealized scenario, the Mets wanted to have a rotation that would put a legitimate starting candidate at Triple-A, which they can now do with Joey Lucchesi or more likely David Peterson behind deGrom, Carrasco, Marcus Stroman and Walker; with Noah Syndergaard in June after Tommy John surgery.
A Walker who can give the Mets, say, 140 innings and a 4.00 ERA serves the purposes of a team that believes its strengths are that deGrom leads a strong rotation front three (maybe four when Syndergaard returns), an offense. superior and a capable bullpen that has a chance to be much better than that. And if 2020 was real for Walker and not an aberration, then the Mets get a strong starter, not to mention a quality setter in May and a front-line receiver in McCann.
This is the upside play. The Mets are betting on depth overall and that 2020 was just the beginning for the three most expensive outside free agents they bought this offseason.