If their top decision-maker is to be believed, the New York Mets really would love to have Bryce Harper or Manny Machado on their team. They just have some pesky players that are also pretty decent in the way.
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen appeared on Mike Francesa’s WFAN show on Monday, and the conversation naturally turned to baseball’s two biggest free agents.
Van Wagenen praised both players, but he also indicated that he doesn’t believe they are the right fit for the Mets.
A transcript of the major part of the exchange:
Francesa: Any way a team, such as yourself, can be creative and come up with something that might entice them since it’s been a different year for them in negotiations?
Van Wagenen: I hope teams are trying to be creative to get them. They’re good players and that only makes sense. Again, as this conversation is an indicator, it’s not so easy to find spots for all of our good players already-
Francesa: You’re telling me you don’t have room for them in the lineup?
Van Wagenen: Probably not the best fit for us.
Francesa: Brodie, are you telling me you don’t have room for them in the lineup?
Van Wagenen: You weren’t sure we had room for [Jeff] McNeil or-
Francesa: You’re kidding.
Van Wagenen: We like our club. Those guys make every team better, but right now, I think we’re going to focus on the guys we have now in camp.
Van Wagenen’s reasoning for not pursuing Harper or Machado is not particularly remarkable, though it does serve as an example of how teams attempt to get around such scrutiny.
You see, the Mets have Jed Lowrie, Todd Frazier and Jeff McNeil on their third-base depth chart, so why would they need Machado?
That argument is, of course, ridiculous. For starters, Lowrie is a recent acquisition, so he’s essentially an obstacle the Mets put in front of themselves for signing Machado.
Frazier hit .213/.303/.390 in 2018 and isn’t the answer anywhere, and while McNeil had a strong rookie year hitting .329/.381/.471 and would be considered a decent young player by some, his .322 xwOBA and .359 BABIP indicate that year at the plate might have been more than a little fluky. Oh, and McNeil, entering his second MLB season, was also born in April 1992, which makes him older than Machado.
If they felt any sort of pressure to sign Harper or Machado, pretty much any team could find room for one of those players. The Nationals offered $300 million to Harper even though they already have Juan Soto and Adam Eaton in the corner outfield spots, and there are probably quite a few teams who would rather have that pair than the Mets’ current duo of Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo.
The explanation for why Van Wagenen really doesn’t want Harper or Machado is probably financial. The Mets, to their credit, have been one of the few teams that have actually spent this offseason between taking on Robinson Cano’s contract along with Edwin Diaz and the Lowrie contract. But you wonder if spending even more on a player like Machado would have been the simpler, and more effective, way of improving the team.
Maybe the Mets really just want to save up for a Jacob deGrom extension — which Van Wagenen told Francesa he intends to accomplish — or something else in the future, but the team’s history of spending and its insistence that it’s already the NL East favorite probably shouldn’t inspire much confidence.
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