Posted by Stephen Guilbert at 12:25 AM
I do not dislike Alejandro De Aza. I'm pissed off at what the Alejandro De Aza signing means.
Consider the situation the Mets are in. Many consider the young stable of starting pitching the Mets have as one of the best units in the game. And that's just from evaluating from talent. When you consider their age and that they'll make 9 million...ish dollars next year combined, the combination of talent, value and age might be the best most of us will see in our lifetimes. Make no mistake--it is very special, and very rare, to have five aces on the same staff and have four of them make minimum wage and the other be in his first year of arbitration. Needless to say, the Mets have a very unique and rare opportunity right now.
They're also coming off a World Series appearance.
They're also in a rare position where three teams in their own division are rebuilding and one is a mess that can't get out of its own way.
They're also in a National League that lacks a true dominant force--unless, of course, you consider the Mets and their dominating starting pitching that very force.
They're also a team with holes going into their first off-season after a successful rebuild.
All of this points to one thing: Going for it while the pitching is still young and still cheap. That means the next few years with a big emphasis on next year. Soon, one by one, the starting pitchers become free agents. They continue to get older, more expensive, and, likely, less effective. I don't have to convince you. We all know about competition windows and we know that the Mets' window is wide open right now in a way that it might not be again for a long time.
Heading into the winter of 2015-2016, Mets fans, beat reporters and the front office identified three areas of need: Bullpen, bench/depth, and center field. After acquiring Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera in perhaps puzzling-but-depth-creating moves that were redundant but cheap, the Mets certainly made their infield bench a strong unit. At this time, they still have not addressed the bullpen, short of bringing LOOGY extraordinaire Jerry Blevins back for a year. They also added fan-favorite Bartolo Colon to fill in for Zack Wheeler until the summer. Despite kind of really hating the Cabrera signing, I'm still fine with all of this. I didn't see the need to sign Zobrist or Murphy because I like Dilson Herrera (and after Walker's acquisition, I am more than fine with him at 2nd). No, the prizes were and always would be in the outfield this fateful winter.
No matter how you look at the free agents this year, the area in which the Mets could most improve the team, best solidify the lineup and most forcefully charge into 2016 ready to pick up where they left off was with a star center fielder. There were three players that fit that mold: Denard Span, Jason Heyward and Yoenis Cespedes (Span less a star than the other two but still a great/sensible option). I really wanted Jason Heyward. How can you not? The guy has all five tools. His range is other-worldly (read: He could
handle dominate CF), he hits, he runs, he's 26, and heck, he will opt out after three years anyway so you could hypothetically pay your pitchers whatever they want once he's off the payroll. The Nationals--a team with a payroll mountains higher than the Mets and a team far worse, made the highest reported offer to Heyward to play center. He will be the center fielder on the Cubs--a team that didn't go as far as the Mets in the playoffs, has far more dollars committed in current and future salaries--and, before signing Jason Heyward, was objectively not as talented overall as the Mets squad (come at me, Cubs fans).
Heyward not your cup of tea? How about Denard Span? One of the best defensive center fielders in the league the past few years, an offensive threat on the bases, walks a ton, can lead off in a pinch, and is left-handed, providing a beautiful platoon for Juan Lagares that would also give Span time to rest his surgically repaired hip. Not enough offense for you? Okay I get it.
How about Yoenis? Yea, the guy who mashed to the tune of a 135 wRC+ last year, proved he could slug in spacious Citi Field and carry a Mets team that truly needed an offensive identity. How about him?
No? Dexter Fowler? Gerardo Parra? Not really my thing but I guess I at least understand it.
Mets didn't/won't get any of them. Heyward signed for 23 million a year for 10 years and two player opt-outs in a deal I the Mets absolutely could have and should have at least tried to make. If you look at it as a 3-year 70 million dollar deal (perhaps a few million more with a signing bonus) for one of the best all-around players in the game, it's eons away from a bad deal especially when you consider it covers the years when our competition window is open the widest. But the Mets didn't even make an offer.
They won't make an offer on Cespedes.
Jon Heyman reports that they are unlikely to pursue Denard Span now. You can apply that statement to Parra and Fowler too.
No, the Mets went with Alejandro De Aza for 5.75 million. Alejandro. De Aza. He who has barely played center field since 2013 because he was such a disastrous defender there for the White Sox that they shifted him to left and eventually traded him. The idea is that De Aza, a lefty who hits righties well, and Lagares, a righty who hits lefties well, will platoon to give the Mets something like league average offensively and something like league average defensively (Lagares being a great defender and Alejandro De Aza being the defensive equivalent of Steve Harvey's beauty competition card-reading ability).
That's what we have, Mets fans. This is what we have to deal with. We have to deal with half a dozen better options on the market and three can't-miss outfielders just to watch them get signed by other teams who actually, you know, made offers to them. We have to watch the four best set-up men on the market get signed to completely reasonable deals while the Mets, again, fail to make an offer.
What do we get? Marginal improvements and small dollar amounts committed to a number of players--some of which are redundant and mainly depth moves. Instead of going for it while the window is open, the Mets project to open 2016 with a payroll in the bottom ten in baseball. Some might argue that it is stupid to spend money for the sake of spending money and that this free agent class was weak. To that I would say, "You're half right". It is stupid to spend money for the sake of spending money. But there was massive amounts of talent available in this free agent class, especially in the outfield and relief pitching--the two biggest areas of need for this team. What did the Mets do? Signed one free agent in the top 50 free agents this off-season: Asdrubal Cabrera at 37. And he's not even an improvement over Wilmer Flores. He provides depth. Asdrubal Cabrera was a depth move and it's the best the Mets ownership gave us this winter.
That's why I'm pissed at the Alejandro De Aza signing. This is a team with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dominate this game we cherish so much for a long time and they're squandering it because ownership cannot support a big market major league team. That or they're still using team profit to pay off personal and business debt.
Whatever it is, this should anger you. No, the off-season isn't over. However, we've all become far too familiar with how this team operates. That means we all know that De Aza and Lagares will be our center fielders, Asdrubal Cabrera is our shortstop and god knows who our 8th inning guy will be. This is the hand we've been dealt and will continue to be dealt as long as the Wilpons own the New York Mets. It's a shame that I even have to write this. A financially sound owner in the situation the Mets are in right now coming off the season the Mets just had would be announcing Jason Heyward as the new center fielder for the team. And if not him, Cespedes.
We get De Aza. Woohoo.