Because the Mets and Yankees dodged a financial bullet by avoiding Machado and Harper, there should be a parade, not a funeral down Broadway.
Like many of you as fans of the Mets and Yankees, we’ve had it up to here with seeing the names Manny Machado and Bryce Harper in print. Thus, this is my epitaph on the story and also one which I couldn’t wait to write…
Ever since the New York Daily News purged itself of their best and longest tenured (i.e., most expensive) baseball writers and embedded reporters for the Mets and Yankees, I have dismissed them. Until today which is when I picked up a copy and read a story by Wallace Matthews titled “Bryce Harper To The Phillies Is One More Bad Day For The Mets.”
You might figure, and you are correct in assuming the story railed against the “cheap” (my word) Mets and their unwillingness to get closer to this year’s luxury tax threshold of $206 million in team payroll. This, while standing by and not even making a play for either player, generously referred to as “Superstars” and a cinch to make the Baseball Hall Of Fame – even though they are babes in the sport of baseball at age 26.
Discount that though, and let’s make a larger point. The game of baseball is changing as these words are written. Both owners and players are lining up to do all they can to avoid their coveted players reaching even arbitration, much less, free agency.
Wide-ranging extensions are being offered by management and accepted by players as an avenue for both sides to avoid three contentious years of arbitration, and ultimately, that final day when both the team and the player must come to terms with free agency. Thus, both Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances sit on the Yankees to-do list as a top priority this season.
From outside the Mets and Yankees, we see Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies working out an eight-year $280 million extension, Aaron Nola, the Phillies almost Cy Young winner, wrapping up a four year deal for $45 million, and Miles Mikolas to a four-year contract worth $68 million with the St. Louis Cardinals. More are on the way because this is, finally, the wave of the future in baseball.
Meanwhile, there sits the Mets. To be clear, both the Mets and Yankees have the wherewithal to sign anyone they wish, but again if you think that way, you are missing the point, as did my colleague Wallace Matthews, the Phillies and the Padres.
Bryce Harper will play his final game as a Philadelphia Phillie at the age of 39. Looking at Harper now, the Phillies are apt to say – who cares – he might just be the exception to the Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols rule. Wishful thinking and it’s good for baseball that teams like the Mets and Yankees seemingly do care.
They care because both the Mets and Yankees have players currently on their team who provide a core for success, not only today but in the future. The Yankees have already locked up Aaron Hicks with a generous but universally fair contract for the next seven years. Reports indicate they are proceeding aggressively to do the same with Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius sooner rather than later, and talks have begun to extend Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, both of whom reach their first year of arbitration next offseason.
The Mets have lagged, but they can quickly catch up as soon as the “big one” is nailed down and Jacob deGrom reaches an extension agreement with the team. After that, the Mets can switch their attention to Noah Syndergaard, followed perhaps by Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo in the next year or so.
This is just common sense where you protect and arrange for the continued presence on your team of players whom you have heavily invested in, and you consider part of the core of your team now, and in the near future.
$330 million for Harper, $300 million for Machado? Soon, with the lone exception of Mike Trout, they will become the dinosaurs of baseball, having taken the last of the scraps left on the table by owners and players who are smartening up to the game as it’s played today.
The Mets and Yankees did well this offseason through addition and subtraction. But it is in the area of the addition of players with unknown and long-term commitments that each did not add widely sought after but costly, in return for value, players that this offseason is to be remembered as a plus for both teams.