The Mets failed to get their top target, Ben Zobrist, and I'm almost relieved. Four years and $56 million seems a lot for a player who turns 35 next May whose days of double-digit homers and stolen bases are in the past. Getting Neil Walker for one year until Dilson Herrera is ready while shedding Jon Niese's salary is a better plan, since the Mets are now in better position to add the big bat they still need.
The big bat that nobody expects them to get.
I have to wonder if part of the Mets' interest in Zobrist was to attempt to refute the notion that they are unwilling to spend money to improve the team. Look, we signed a big free agent that lots of teams wanted! Zobrist is a good player, but he's more of a complementary piece than a game-changer. And $56 million is practically chump change in this free agent market - the top players available could end up getting four times as much.
Last year, the Mets raced to lock up free agent Michael Cuddyer. It looked like a dubious move at the time - Cuddyer was turning 36 and injuries had limited him to 49 games the previous year. After preaching prospects for several years, the Mets surrendered their top draft pick to sign Cuddyer. But for $21 million, they could say they signed a free agent, even if his entire contract was less than a superstar makes in a year.
At best, Cuddyer could have been a starting point to a productive offseason, but the Mets' only other offseason signing was, wait for it, John Mayberry Jr. I wish Sandy Alderson a speedy recovery and appreciate the fact that he delivered a pennant last year, but all of the praise he got for his midseason moves should not obscure the fact that the offense was in such bad shape last July because of the moves Alderson did not make the previous offseason.
So far, this offseason is going better than the last one. Adding Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera shores up the infield, while Niese was ticketed for the bullpen once Zack Wheeler returns. If the Mets re-sign Bartolo Colon, all that would be left to worry about would be another reliever and a big bat.
But until I see otherwise, it's hard not to wonder if this will be another wait-and-see-how-the-Mets are doing before opening the pursestrings at the trading deadline when you only have to pay for two months of the next Yoenis Cespedes and Tyler Clippard.
Cespedes has his issues, and I'm not saying he's worth any price. And the money being talked about for Jason Heyward is money you give a superstar, not a very good player who is not yet a superstar. But the Mets' offense was the worst in the league before they got Cespedes. Michael Conforto's first full season is unlikely to make up for the loss of Cespedes. A full year of David Wright at his peak would go a long way, but Wright is well past his peak and injury-prone. A full year of Travis d'Arnaud would be great, but d'Arnaud is very injury-prone as well.
The Mets have been pushing 2016 season tickets since before last season ended. How would they feel if fans waited to spend money on the team until July 31 to see if they were in contention?
Update - just saw that the Cubs signed Heyward. So the Cubs have now added Zobrist, Heyward and John Lackey to a team that won 97 games last year and has young hitting talent to match the Mets' young pitching. It must be nice to root for a big-market team.