What Free Agency Says About the Mets, Jacob Degrom’s Value

When a team grabs the supplement berth, two quotes often come up Mine mind _ mind.

The first is from Dodgers head baseball Andrew Friedman, who told me several years ago—before Los Angeles won its only championship since 1988 in 2020—“If only one team had a successful year[who won the title]that’s miserable.”

Friedman was offering his opinion of the cliché to stop and smell the roses. There are victories all the way through the season — big wins, post-season berth clinch wins, division wins, capturing playoff rounds — and that appreciating and enjoying them is important because they are hard to come by.

The other came about a quarter century ago from Paul O’Neill when he was the middle of the Yankees dynasty. “When you win, everyone has had a good year,” O’Neill told me. His view was twofold: First, even players who have had a bad statistical season can snatch a positive make-ahead moment or three out of a winning year. Second, it was a way of acknowledging that it takes a village, and that Homer Bosch in 1998 or Jose Vizcaino in 2000 can feel like a contributor even within a galaxy of stars.

As I watched the Mets celebrate the playoff game Monday night, both quotes came back to me. I know Steve Cohen and his group have bigger dreams than just being invited to the tournament. But a lot has gone wrong since the Mets last played a playoff in 2016, so it’s been worth learning and enjoying not only how well the Mets have navigated this season (so far), but also professionally.

O’Neal’s quote got me thinking about how Travis Jankowski and Adonis Medina at the right moments of the season have helped the Mets overcome short situations and win a few games.

The Mets celebrated reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2016 Monday night in Milwaukee.
Getty Images

However, while watching the Mets enjoy the score in Milwaukee, I had the opposite thought: The Mets were going to have important games in October because their top players were world class. Again, this does not fit with the recent Mets clubs’ status. Cohen authorized the team’s payroll so far in 2022, and this was like a big-budget movie where you all see it on screen.

The Mets stars are played like stars. In the first season of his $341 million 10-year extension, Francisco Lindor will finish fifth in the NL MVP. Max Scherzer, the highest-grossing yearly player in history, may get a low vote for Cy Young. Edwin Diaz may get a lower vote for both MVP and Cy Young. Jacob Degrom arrived late in the season, but put in an excellent show. Pete Alonso is likely to finish in the top ten in the NL MVP vote.

In particular, free agency is a challenging game. You can be a tiger, decide that you’re ready to take a step up the rankings, open your wallet to guarantee Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez $217 million – and things will get worse and worse. It was the kind of disaster that finally cost General Manager Al Avila his job.

The Mets signed five major league off-season free-agent contracts totaling $258.5 million, and went 5 for 5 with Scherzer, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and Adam Ottavino. Nothing cistern. Each has been worth the investment, so far. Scherzer descended like an ace. Canha, Escobar and Marte deepened both the Mets lineup and the sense of professionalism in the locker room. Ottavino was the toughest man for Diaz.

Everyone except Ottavino has future years in contracts, so final grades are not there. For luxury tax purposes, the Five Mets are costing $90.05 million this season; The Fangraphs function that converts Wins Above Replacement to dollar figures has a value of five of $102.1 million in 2022 as of the end of the week. This reflects a good investment in 20 percent of the list.

Mark Kanha hits the RBI song in the fourth inning.
Mark Canha is part of the Mets Free Agent group that has seen each addition contribute significantly.
Charles Wenselberg/New York Post

Was luck the Mets? Do they know anything? Mix? I thought I’d note the success of the Mets as a way to use 3Up to take a look at how to top the free agent market from the last off-season and see if there are any lessons that can be learned:

1. Cory Seeger, Rangers, 10, $325 million. The right way to think about this is in conjunction with the third biggest offseason signing: a seven-year, $175 million contract for Marcus Simin. Together, they represent a half-billion dollar investment by Texas in its middle ground.

These two players performed well. However, Rangers are still third in 19 games under 0.500. However, the Rangers can tell that they put up the tent poles with Semien and Seager to begin changing their losing ways.

On the other hand, The Rockies signed Kris Bryant to the second largest offseason free agent contract (seven years at $182 million), and it was a disaster. The injured Bryant barely played last in Colorado.

Baez tied the Trevor story to the Red Sox (six years, $140 million) for the fifth biggest off-season deal. Baez hit badly and was sloppy on the field, and together with Rodriguez (five years, $77 million) he contributed to Tiger’s last place.

Javier Baez #28 of the Detroit Tigers takes the field during the second half against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 1, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
After awarding Javier Baez a $140 million contract, the Tigers found themselves in a similar spot at the bottom of AL Central.
Diamond Images / Getty Images

Baez and Bryant’s struggles aren’t part of the 2016 Bigger Cubs tournament, because Kyle Schwarber (Phelese) and Anthony Rizzo (Yankees) were good free agent buys.

All of these clubs can talk about the need to add name recognition to excite fans and sell tickets.

But when it comes to free agency, one of the keys has to be avoiding the illusion and being pretty honest about where you are on the competition curve as a privilege. Should the clubs that would have faced this challenge of making the playoffs make these kinds of long-term commitments rather than saving the money to increase the opponent when that comes? I don’t want to discourage team improvement, spending, and fanning the fan base. But there is a way to do it with shorter commitments and less risk.

The Nationals signed Jayson Werth for seven years for $126 million after the 2010 season when he was a losing team. It has served as a fulcrum toward seriousness and contention for Washington, and the signature is often cited by clubs offering these kinds of plays. But for each of these types of engagements by one of the players who also manages Werth it (sorry), most of them are not. And the smaller the market, the more dangerous this path is.

For example, the Giants and Red Sox are expected to be bold this season after moving from the 2021 play-off teams to the most disappointing clubs this year. But if they make mistakes, they will suck it up regardless. Conversely, the Diamondbacks have put a lot of interesting young players into the majors this year. Should they aggressively add veterans to try to speed up the feud? This is more questionable. It is also unlikely.

2. Scherzer, Mets, three years, $130 million. It was the most guaranteed bowler in the most recent season, and $43.3 million is the most awarded annually to any player. Two periods on the affected list added the imperfection to the signature. But overall, the Mets are thrilled with Scherzer’s work and leadership.

New York Mets bowler Max Scherzer (21) started a first-half shot when the New York Mets played the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, August 28, 2022, at Citi Field in Queens.
Max Scherzer’s ability to perform at All-Star level and provide leadership gave the Mets the return they wanted on their $130 million investment.
Robert Sabo

Performances from Shearzer, Justin Verlander and even Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright – all signed as free agents last season – will encourage competitors not to be intimidated by older rookies. That should benefit Verlander and deGrom in free agency this off-season as well as Kershaw and Wainwright, although like the last off-season, the assumption would be that if these two keep playing, they’ll stay put – Kershaw with the Dodgers and Wainwright with the Cardinals.

However, the risk of infection is real. Scherzer, Verlander, Kershaw and Wainwright have been in IL at least once this year, and DeGrom has missed most of this season. But it’s not like younger beginners have thought about how to stay healthy. These people have shown that knowing how to view has great advantages. And it’s not as if Verlander and deGrom have made compromises with their stuff.

DeGrom and Verlander could both play a role in getting close to or getting Scherzer’s annual salary of $43.3 million.

3. Carlos Correa, three years old, $105.3 million, twins. It was the 10th most guaranteed last out of the season, and the least awarded in total dollars for any of the five promoted stops in the free agent category. Seager, Semien, Baez, and Story got bigger contracts (Semien and Story played second base).

Another elite class is looming with Correa and Xander Bogaerts expected to pull out of their deals to join Dansby Swanson and Trea Turner.

Would anything mean that none of the Big Five from last year’s class are in this year’s playoffs – or even a team likely to end up with a winning record? Baez was just totally unfortunate, although the Red Sox’s deal with Story certainly wasn’t a win.

Carlos Correa
Carlos Correa has played well, but like his fellow major clients, it looks like he will be at home during the playoffs.
Getty Images

Correa looked a lot like him in attack with the Twins, but not so good in defense. He is believed to have turned down a $275 million offer from the Tigers – with an eye on topping $300 million – before settling on a deal with the escape slots after the 2022 and 2023 seasons. He turned 28 on Thursday.

How many teams will be looking for short stops? This is tricky because it is related to whether the Braves (Swanson) and Dodgers (Turner) retain their youth. If the Red Sox Bogaerts lose, the story could theoretically turn into a Shortstop.

The Yankees ignored a short class outside last season, believing that Oswald Perazza and Anthony Volpi were close. They are closer now. But what if the Yankees lost Aaron Judge in free agency? Will that motivate them to buy Correa or Turner because there isn’t much influence to be found in the offshore free agent market after Judge?

The Angels can use a short stopover, but they have a lot of money tied up in Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout and they have to figure out what to do with Shohei Ohtani – if they exchange Ohtani, getting a short comeback may seem a near necessity. The Cubs had Nico Horner backs, but there are clients who think Chicago will take care of Korea. The Giants could be players here and move Brandon Crawford into second place. Can the Red Sox hold the story in second place and try to hit a short stop?

Once again, the free agent class will not fall short in this type of plot.

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