This Week in the Mets Offseason: A Case for Bryce Harper

Spring Training is coming up quick, with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp in less than four weeks. Even with Spring Training that close, it does not seem as if Bryce Harper or Manny Machado is close to signing a contract with any team.

With that being said, I would like the Mets brass to take advantage of the situation and jump in on Bryce Harper.

I get it, the Mets aren’t going to make an attempt to sign him because of the price tag and length of the deal, but I really think it is a huge mistake.

I know 30 million per year for 7-10 years is a huge investment and the Mets have been burned on big contracts in years past. However, the difference here is the fact that an 8-year deal for Harper would only sign him through his age 33 season, which means the Mets would essentially just lock up a superstar for his prime athletic years.

Also, we have to remember that the Mets are paying Robinson Cano over 20 million dollars per year for the next 5 years and he’s already 36. Plus the Mets just signed the 35-year-old Jed Lowrie for 2 years and 20 million dollars.

Harper would make more than both of those players, but he would be younger than they are now for the entirety of his contract. Let’s just say the Mets sign him for an 8-year deal that guarantees 240 million dollars, throw in multiple player opt-outs and 50 million dollars worth of incentives making the deal worth up to 290 million dollars.

That’s a big contract no doubt, but if Brodie is going to continue to make big statements that draw attention to the team then he has to talk the Wilpons into getting a player that would make those statements easier to believe in.

For the Mets to acquire Harper they would have to trade away Juan Lagares and his 9 million dollar contract to make room for Harper on the big league roster. That shouldn’t be too hard to do if the Mets can find a team that values elite defense.

Before we talk about how this signing would affect the lineup and the outfield let’s look at how this contract really isn’t going to kill the Mets’ payroll for years to come.

Right now the Mets payroll is at 155.55 million according to spotrac, this website has not taken in to account the contracts of players that don’t have guaranteed major league contracts, so we will add the minimum league salary 9 times because the Mets have that many spots technically open on their 25 man roster.

That brings the Mets current big league payroll up to 160.45 million and we don’t know what type of settlement the Mets came to on David Wright’s contract, so it is actually less than that, not to mention the Mets also have insurance on Yoenis Cespedes’ contract, saving the Mets even more money.

Even with the Mets paying the entire contract for Wright and Cespedes the Mets would still have a payroll well below the 206 million dollar luxury tax threshold when adding Bryce Harper, his 30 million dollars, and trading Lagares and his 9 million dollars.

This hypothetical situation would make the Mets 2019 payroll just about 181.45 million dollars.

In 2020 The Mets will be freed from contracts of Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas, Travis d’Arnaud, and Zack Wheeler. Also, David Wright is due 3 million less in 2020. That is a total of 27.475 million dollars off the books and 3 of those 4 free agents can easily be replaced with internal/cheap options.

I know that money will be used for arbitration raises and possible extensions for deGrom and Wheeler, but for the most part, the Mets core starters on offense and in the rotation are already set in stone for 2020, especially if Peter Alonso proves himself this season.

The Mets would only need/be able to sign one or two starting pitchers, a few low-leverage relievers, maybe a backup catcher, and depth options. What this means is that the Mets would likely only need to spend a max of an additional 15-30 million dollars on top of the 181 from 2019 in free agency/on raises and extensions next year keeping the Mets’ payroll around 200 million.

It is high, but guess what they’re in the biggest market in the country, they have the money to have a payroll that high even if it is for just one year.

Yoenis Cespedes and his 29.5 million dollar contract come off the books after 2020 along with Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, and David Wright which in total will take 61.75 million dollars off of whatever the previous season’s payroll was.

Essentially, Harper’s contract would replace Cespedes’ as they are about the same price and the Mets would still have a payroll much cheaper than the previous two seasons.

My point here is that adding Harper would only truly raise the Mets’ payroll for two seasons before Cespedes comes off the books. It is a worthwhile investment for reasons I will explain below.

If the payroll talk above was confusing I apologize, I just wanted to lay everything out for the Wilpons and Brodie to see why it makes sense to sign Harper when they read this article. Since that has been taken care of let’s talk about how Harper fits the Mets for 2019 and beyond.

Once the Mets sign Harper and trade Juan Lagares they would slot Harper in right field and move Nimmo over to center while Conforto would stay in left. This would make the everyday outfield weaker defensively, but the offensive addition of Harper easily offsets that, plus the Mets could easily use Broxton for defense late in games every game those three start together.

With Cespedes out until after the all-star break and most likely until late August or early September, the Mets really need a big bat in the middle of the lineup to complete their team and Harper fits that role best.

Cespedes had his second heel surgery on October 26th and the projected recovery time from these surgeries is 8-10 months. Considering that this surgery is not just to fix his heels but his entire lower half and that anytime he has been injured as a Met his rehab has not gone quickly, we have to expect that he will take the whole 10 months to fully recover.

That would mean he wouldn’t be fully healthy until the last week in August, right before all major league teams are allowed to use every player on their 40 man roster.

The Mets could call up Cespedes September 1st and then just have to juggle playing time for him, Harper, Nimmo, and Conforto for the final 27 games of the season, a pretty easy task. Each player can play 3 straight games then have a day off and they would play 21/27 games in September. Broxton would come in for defense late in games when the team is ahead and the Mets would be able to keep all 5 outfielders fresh.

Now, I’m assuming that adding Harper would be enough to get the Mets in the playoffs and then figuring out playing time is a bit more difficult to do until the World Series, should they make it there.

In the offseason, the Mets could then look to move Cespedes if he stays healthy in September and beyond. A healthy Cespedes shouldn’t be hard to move to a team looking for a DH, especially if the Mets are willing to pay part of his remaining contract.

If Cespedes performs well upon his return the Mets should only have to kick in about 10 million dollars in a trade and could get something of decent value in return. If he struggles then paying 20 million is more likely with something of value in return not going to happen.

Cespedes does have a full no-trade clause, but he wants to win, and any team that would want Cespedes would be trying to win.

The point here is that if you add Harper Cespedes doesn’t really cause any issues because unless he recovers as quickly as possible they would only have to be on the roster together for a month and maybe the playoffs.

After looking at the Mets payroll and the Cespedes aspect this should show the Wilpons and Brodie that Harper really does fit for the Mets if they continue to be creative as they have been all offseason.

I mean look how scary the Mets lineup would be on Opening Day if you replace Lagares/Broxton with Harper.

  1. CF Nimmo
  2. 3B Lowrie
  3. 2B Cano
  4. RF Harper
  5. C Ramos
  6. LF Conforto
  7. 1B Frazier
  8. Pitcher
  9. SS Rosario

The length is unbelievable, Conforto batting 6th really means this team has a big league lineup. I know Harper isn’t as good as we thought he would be when he first got drafted but even in a down year this past season he hit .249 with a .393 OBP, drove in 100 runs, and hit 34 home runs. Those are numbers that would be career bests for basically everyone in the Mets lineup.

(On a side note, let’s look at a possible 2020 lineup if the Mets don’t resign any of their position players and trade Cespedes. It is going to look pretty familiar.)

  1. CF Nimmo
  2. 3B Lowrie
  3. 2B Cano
  4. RF Harper
  5. C Ramos
  6. LF Conforto
  7. 1B Alonso
  8. Pitcher
  9. SS Rosario

Imagine how good the Mets would be if you added that to their everyday lineup? It is definitely worth 30 million dollars and I think Brodie and the Mets know that. They just can’t worry about what they’ll do when Cespedes comes back, even if it is in late July.

In baseball, these things take care of themselves. Injuries happen, players underperform, so it is time to take a risk and sign one of the best players of the generation to signal to the fans and the entire organization that the Mets can and will be a force to be reckoned with.

At that time then Brodie could say: “We’re the favorites, take your best shot”.

January 21, 2019

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