As the Mets go about the rest of their offseason hole-filling, don’t count on star free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to be on their agenda.
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen, appearing Wednesday on Mike Francesa’s WFAN show with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and manager Mickey Callaway, indicated that while you can never say never, it doesn’t appear likely.
The reason: the Mets’ financial restrictions.
“The two big boys do not have offers from us quite yet,” Van Wagenen said. “We’ll always look. We always try to be open-minded. Clearly, if we try to operate under the parameters that Jeff and I have, we’ll have to be really creative to move some money around and make those work. But clearly, they’re generational-type players that could work on any club, including ours.”
Harper and Machado, both 26, are expected to sign long-term deals worth about $30 million annually — perhaps topping Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million (over 13 years), the largest contract in baseball history — and will be two of the top storylines heading into next week’s winter meetings in Las Vegas. The Phillies are considered players for both, and the Nationals are hoping Harper will decide to re-sign. Any of those scenarios would further complicate a competitive NL East for the Mets.
As far as actual Mets targets, Van Wagenen acknowledged that with the Robinson Cano-Edwin Diaz trade wrapped up, the Mets recently have begun to ramp up talks with free agents.
Among them: centerfielder A.J. Pollock, with whom the Mets have been in contact, Van Wagenen said on MLB Network Radio. It’s not clear how much payroll wiggle room Van Wagenen has to play with, though.
“Brodie and I have an understanding where we are with payroll right now and what he can expand it to,” Wilpon said, noting that the Mets will reinvest some of the money they receive from insurance policies on the injured David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes. “[Van Wagenen] still has a lot of leeway and a lot of runway to go do some other things, be it free agents or additional trades.”
The Mets have talked with the Marlins about J.T. Realmuto, a source said. Such an acquisition would be a significant upgrade at catcher, but Van Wagenen expressed a hesitancy about dealing players from the major-league roster. A source said the Mets would have to center a package around a controllable big leaguer, a group that includes Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario or Michael Conforto.
“For us to move any of those guys off of a big-league roster, we don’t want to create holes somewhere else,” Van Wagenen said. “That’s why I talk about trying to be additive, not pulling pieces away.”
Free-agent options at catcher include Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos and Martin Maldonado. “Catcher is a huge position, and we’re taking that into consideration this winter,” Callaway said.
And then there are side effects of the Cano-Diaz trade.
With Cano the starter at second, the Mets plan for Jeff McNeil to be a utility player. Callaway mentioned the possibility of McNeil seeing time in the outfield and all over the infield.
“We could plug him in at many places and be an everyday guy, or we can move him around and get him almost just as many at-bats,” Callaway said.
With Jay Bruce traded to Seattle, that frees up first base for prospect Peter Alonso — as soon as Opening Day, Van Wagenen hopes.
“That certainly is the goal,” he said. “As we’re building our roster, we’re putting a lot of stock in having him be an impact guy.”