After reaching the World Series for the first time since 2000, New York Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson has some work cut out for him with the expected departures of Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy, who occupied the three and four spots in the Mets’ lineup this season. An obvious need for the Mets is an outfield bat, but the team has struggled finding the right option, with owners Jeff and Fred Wilpon notoriously thrifty on spending after the Bernie Madoff scandal. Well, the Mets should spend big money on an outfielder this offseason–not Yoenis Cespedes–but Cardinals’ free agent Jason Heyward.
Now, Heyward won’t come at a price that is cheap. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman projects that Heyward will land a contract at an estimate of $180 million over nine years this winter, a lengthy deal the Mets have been uncharacteristic to give out in the past. But the Wilpons are gaining money back, as depicted by the recent aggressive attitude by the club. Last winter, Alderson had reportedly been in trade talks last off-season to acquire Troy Tulowitzki, and those talks even surfaced this July again. Acquiring Tulo would’ve summoned the Mets to owe him $119 million until 2021, a sign that the Mets had the ability to take on such a contract, otherwise Alderson wouldn’t have even engaged in talks. Especially since the contracts of the Mets’ young starters aren’t up until starting 2018, when Harvey hits free agency, there is obviously room for New York to spend in the proper situation.
Heyward presents the ideal situation for the Mets. Although he hasn’t developed into the MVP-caliber player he was supposed to be, Heyward has still become one of the top players in baseball. He is a career .268/.353/.431 hitter, and enjoyed a fantastic season hitting .293/.359/.439 with an OPS of .797 this past season in St. Louis. Not to mention, Heyward led the Cardinals–who had the best record in baseball–with a WAR of 6.5, and holds a career WAR total of 27.8, which is outstanding. Heyward is also one of, if not the best, outfielder in baseball, and has proven over the years that he can play center fielder, which is very important in the Mets’ pursuit. The Mets have left and right field locked up with Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares hasn’t necessarily proven his worth as a starter in center. New York would be able to put Heyward in center field until Curtis Granderson’s contract is up, when they could move Heyward to right and Lagares to a full-time role in center.
So, all the stars are aligned. It’s clear the Mets do need Heyward, and his presence for years to come would be a huge addition to this franchise. But the question is: When do the Mets bite bullet and spend money? The Amazin’s haven’t dished out a major contract since David Wright‘s mega-deal extension years ago, and they currently sit 21st in payroll behind the Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, and others. Something similar regarding the teams ahead of the Mets in payroll, well they’re all considered small market teams–and spend like it. The Mets, meanwhile are considered in a big market team, yet spend like a small market team. And although ownership has had excuses not to spend in the past, (Madoff scandal, not contending), the team just made the World Series, and has one of, if not the best rotation in baseball, but does not currently have the offense to push them back to an National League championship. The time is now.
As was noted, the Mets payroll is less than the Royals, which beat them in the World Series. The fact is that although Kansas City has a low payroll, the Royals spend money when they have to. Such is the case with the signings of Jeremy Guthrie, Edinson Volquez, Omar Infante, and others in the past. Now, those signings may have been a little less than the Mets need to spend, but the Royals are a small market team.
If the Wilpons, Sandy Alderson, and the Mets want to reach the World Series again, it’s time to spend some dough. And what a better way to make a statement to the team, fanbase, and to baseball–that they are in it to win it, and spending the money to do it–than by the addition of Jason Heyward this off-season.