Team Will Have Money To Spend, But Front Office Is Cheap And Free Agent Class Is Weak

By Jason Keidel
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Zack Wheeler landing on the DL was just punctuation on an epitaph long written on the 2017 Mets. A season with so much promise so quickly devolved into three months of injury and ineptitude.

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And it makes you wonder: Has the window already slammed shut on this run that seemed endless in 2015? A starting staff that once had no ceiling, the potential to trot out five aces, is left with Jacob deGrom. Two years ago, the Mets were in the World Series, with an endless line of longhairs flowing from those blue caps, on the doorstep of a dynasty.

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Now the only reason the Mets will make headlines is if they trade away a big name with an expiring contract.

Set to become free agents after this season are Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, Addison Reed and Jose Reyes. Yoenis Cespedes, their all-world slugger who literally carried the Mets to the 2015 playoffs, is very much under contract, though he seemed to have tweaked two or three limbs just by signing his massive deal.

Jacob deGrom pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the first inning at AT&T Park on June 24, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The good news, if any is to be found, is that the Mets only have $71 million committed to players next year — 40 percent of which ($29 million) is for Cespedes alone. So a splash or two in free agency could remake the Mets into contenders.

An idea that felt blasphemous two years ago is pretty palpable now. Should the Mets peel off some of their pitching for people who can hit, catch and throw the baseball? If they do, whom should it be? And how much would they get for them? What was once an obscene surplus of starting pitching has quickly morphed into a MASH unit. You’d think Noah Syndergaard and deGrom are untouchable. Could they get something or someone substantial for Matt Harvey or Wheeler or even Steven Matz? Do you even care to find out?

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We all know great teams pivot off pitching. But the Mets clearly can’t win on arms alone. And the ones they have don’t stay healthy long enough to test the theory.

The Mets are 46-51, a robust 13 games behind the streaking Washington Nationals for the NL East lead. And there’s no back door to the playoffs via the wild card, with the Arizona Diamondbacks (57-42) and Colorado Rockies (58-43) each 15 games over .500. So the October ship has long sailed for the Metropolitans.

But if you’re waiting for the Mets to crowbar open their notoriously tight wallet for free agency, don’t get too psyched. First, the Mets are historically and biblically cheap. Second, 2018 isn’t exactly overly fertile with free agents.

Whom would you prefer? Retreads? Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Neil Walker or Carlos Gomez? Former Yankee Melky Cabrera? Current Yankee, 37-year-old Matt Holliday? How about some more aging, decaying pseudo-stars, like Jayson Werth, Brandon Phillips and Howie Kendrick?

You hate to wave the white flag in July, before the trade deadline. And there’s no trade out there that makes the Mets essential, as we saw in 2015 when they bagged Cespedes and rode that magic carpet to the World Series. But assuming Thor returns in 2018 with his hammer restored, deGrom keeps pitching as he has, and Matz can stay healthy for more than a month, the Mets still have the pitching nucleus to make noise next year. If Wheeler returns to full strength and Harvey finds some fraction of his mojo, they can either help the Mets or audition as trade bait.

Even with the haggard state of the starting staff, the Mets still have enough to throw a baseball with almost any team in MLB. Now if only they can find some folks who can hit and catch it … next year.

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Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel