Signing George Springer would have topped off a terrific offseason for the Mets since he’s a righthanded-hitting centerfielder, a winning player and a Connecticut native who was said to be interested in returning to the area.
But the Mets didn’t want to pay the 31-year-old centerfielder the $150 million he agreed to take from the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night. That contract agreement is pending a physical, according to The Associated Press.
The Mets’ best offer, according to MLB.com, was for six years and $115 million to $120 million.
So we know why Springer agreed to relocate across the border, at least figuratively. It’s possible the Blue Jays had to pay a hefty price to get the former Houston Astros star because of the uncertainty surrounding where they will play their home games in 2021.
Remember, there’s no guarantee the Canadian government will allow the Blue Jays to play in Toronto this season. It could be Buffalo, as it was during the 2020 season, or Toronto’s spring training home in Dunedin, Florida, at least initially.
With Springer off the board, where do the Mets go from here? Here are two options:
For planning purposes, let’s assume the National League keeps the designated hitter in 2021 and beyond. While that’s subject to negotiations between the owners and players, Mets team president / de facto general manager Sandy Alderson is likely proceeding with the belief he’ll have the DH available for Pete Alonso so Dom Smith can play first base instead of leftfield this season. It’s the smart bet.
Let’s assume the Mets add a centerfield platoon and shift Brandon Nimmo to left. Jeff McNeil also can play left in a pinch.
Available free agents for centerfield include lefthanded-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brett Gardner. Bradley is younger (30 to 37) and would require a longer commitment, but how much fun do you think the Mets would have if they could sign beloved Yankees veteran Gardner for one year and pair him with a righthanded hitter in center such as free agent Kevin Pillar or Jake Marisnick? It’s not as sexy as signing Springer, but those moves would cost far less than $150 million.
The Mets, who are believed to be about $25 million under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, could leave their starting outfield as is and pivot to two very available star third basemen via trade. One would be for one year, the other for a much longer commitment, and both could help the Mets balance their lefthanded-leaning lineup.
We’re talking about Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Both are coming off subpar 2020 seasons. Bryant is signed for one year at $19.5 million and then will be a free agent. Arenado has six years and $199 million left on his deal.
Why would the Mets spend $199 million on Arenado when they wouldn’t spend $150 million on Springer? Excellent question. Alderson would have to get the Rockies to chip in money and/or take on some of the Mets’ onerous contracts such as Jeurys Familia (one year, $11.6 million) to even begin to have this deal make sense. But it’s there if the Mets want to explore it.
Bryant could make more sense. The Cubs are in retool mode and are looking to change the makeup of their team. Acquiring Bryant heading into his walk year could help spur him to return to the form that won him NL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and NL MVP in 2016.
The Mets likely would have to give up J.D. Davis in either deal, as many teams covet a low-paid, versatile player with a plus bat such as Davis.
Alderson proved with the Francisco Lindor / Carlos Carrasco trade that he is willing to act boldly, get creative and take on money — three things the Mets were not known for under previous ownership.
After Tuesday’s twin news events of the Mets’ firing of general manager Jared Porter and the Blue Jays agreeing to terms with Springer, is Alderson ready to make headlines again, but this time for something that will put the smiles back on Mets’ fans faces who were already picturing Springer in centerfield at Citi Field?