Why Mets didn’t sign George Springer
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One element the Mets have to weigh during new owner Steve Cohen’s administration is whether they should outspend their evaluation on players because his wealth allows that.
When it came to George Springer, the answer was no.
The Mets let Springer’s camp know over last weekend that they were willing to go to six years at $120 million, but no further. At that point, the Mets were pretty much out of contention, as Springer headed toward the six-year, $150 million pact he reached Wednesday with the Blue Jays.
If the Mets had matched that — added $5 million annually to their bid — they believe they stood a strong chance of landing the star center fielder, helped by the lure of proximity to Springer’s Connecticut roots.
But Mets officials felt the Blue Jays were willing to extend because they had, to that point, been shut out on bigger items they had pursued, including Francisco Lindor, who was obtained by the Mets.
The Mets also were weighing throughout:
1. If Springer were signed would that preclude them from also retaining Michael Conforto? This falls into the realm of how much even Cohen is willing to spend. Conforto will be a free agent after the 2021 season, just like Lindor. In an ideal outcome, the Mets would retain both.
But if they do, they also have Robinson Cano’s $20 million annually returning to the bottom line for 2022-23. Additionally, they either have to retain or replace, likely, two starters because Steven Matz, Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard all are entering their walk years. Cohen has said the Mets will spend like a big-market team, but “not like drunken sailors.” The Mets were wondering, if they have all of that on the payroll, would it be wise to have two outfielders making as much long term as it would have necessitated for Conforto and Springer?
2. If Springer had been willing to take the $120 million, the Mets would have figured it out, or hoped for the DH in the NL in 2021. But the lack of clarity in that area is clouding their center field pursuit. The addition of a full-time center fielder would move Brandon Nimmo to left field and force the Mets to decide whether Pete Alonso or Dominic Smith would be playing first base without a DH. The Mets could move Smith between left and first and have two of three, among Alonso, Nimmo and Smith, starting. That would provide depth, but not use their bats fully.
The Mets are being asked by the representatives of the non-Springer center field market just how many at-bats will be available if the NL does not go to the DH in 2021.
3. Ever since obtaining Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, the Mets have been trying to figure out how to divvy up the rest of what Cohen will spend this offseason: On one more big piece or by addressing a few areas?
Outside executives who dealt with Jared Porter in his waning days as the Mets GM said he presented that the Mets were concentrating heavily on roster spots 20-30 because they were worried about depth for the long season, but also that it could be the best way (rather than another big outlay) to produce more wins.
The Mets would like to address center field, even if it is just to add defense or a righty bat to complement Nimmo. They could pivot to the defensively outstanding Jackie Bradley Jr., though he is a lefty hitter. Or they could look for a righty, smaller piece, such as Albert Almora Jr. They want to add to the bullpen, preferably a lefty who can work late in games. Brad Hand, who led the majors in saves last year, is atop their list. They want a further stockpile of starting pitchers, though they would like to have more starting alternatives who have minor league options. That Joey Lucchesi, obtained earlier this week from the Padres, has two minor league options left made him even more attractive to the Mets, who began this offseason with huge worries about having Triple-A alternatives when injury, poor performance or fatigue strike the major league roster during the 2021 campaign.
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