Just like that, there's less than a month to go before Spring Training. It's time for another batch of questions and answers:
Hi Anthony. Question for you: Why don't the Mets sign Bryce Harper?
-- @do_notpassgo via Twitter
Look, I'm with you. I've made it clear on my various soapboxes that the Mets should sign Harper, which would transform their offseason from a good one to a transcendent one. I don't care that the deal might not look great on the back end, or that there are imperfections to his game. Harper is a generational talent. Every team should want him.
But it's not my money. Teams have budgets, and the Mets' appears to be somewhere in the range of $150-$160 million for 2019. Maybe as we get into late January or even February, Harper's market diminishes to the extent that he's willing to take a shorter or cheaper deal. Maybe the Mets surprise everyone and make a real run at him regardless.
Until that happens, we have to operate under the assumptions that the last decade has taught us: The Mets aren't going to compete for payroll supremacy, meaning players such as Harper are largely off-limits for them. They'll have to find more creative ways to keep pace.
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Since the Mets at this point may or may not make any more "game-changing" moves, what current rostered player can have the type of the breakout/comeback/Jacob deGrom-esque season that will make us say, "Wow"?
-- Elipshetz52 via Twitter
Certainly, Zack Wheeler's name springs to mind. If Wheeler can even come close to repeating his second half of 2018 over a full season, he'll be a dynamic, All-Star caliber pitcher. Jeff McNeil is another player with breakout potential, though it's unclear how the addition of Jed Lowrie will affect him. We saw what he could do over 248 plate appearances.
We've also talked all winter about the Mets' young lineup core of Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Amed Rosario. All of them enjoyed varying levels of success in '18. All were inconsistent. If one or more of those players develop into legitimate stars in '19, the Mets will be in a much better place.
McNeil's bat should be in the lineup every day. Can he play center field, and will they let him audition there at Spring Training?
-- @zdee31 via Twitter
Center field is probably a stretch for McNeil -- not because he can't play it, but because if a situation arose where he needed to start every day in the outfield, the Mets would probably be better served playing Nimmo, Conforto or Juan Lagares in center, and McNeil at a corner. McNeil saw plenty of time in left field in college, and actually did appear in center a few times early in his Minor League career. His biggest challenge in a super-sub role may not be adapting to the outfield, but to first base, where he boasts little experience.
Who can convince Lagares to not dive for every ball, so he can play a full season?
-- @BobPav via Twitter
We saw that in 2015, didn't we? Notably less aggressive on defense while he nursed an injured arm, Lagares simply wasn't the same player as in his Gold Glove season. And that's the rub for a standout defender like Lagares. Take away his aggressiveness, maybe he stays healthy, but maybe also his impact lessens. If I'm the Mets, I don't want to change what makes him great, even if it means accepting the likelihood of injury.
I'd be curious about the organization's view on spin rate. The Astros are reportedly kicking the tires on a Seth Lugo trade, and it looks like they are seeking that attribute based on their recent arm acquisitions.
-- @TheCouchGMs via Twitter
The Mets dig it, and have for some time. For a good example, check out their Jay Bruce trade in 2017. In that deal, the Mets targeted a reliever with a 4.79 ERA in Class A ball, in large part because of his spin-rate data. Ryder Ryan has been thriving ever since, making it all the way to Double-A Binghamton last summer.
Spin rate, though, is just one piece of the puzzle. It's data we didn't have until quite recently, and can be extremely helpful in predicting pitcher breakouts. But it's also just one of many tools that teams have at their disposal. By itself, it only tells a small part of the story.
Shake Shack or Pat LaFrieda?
-- @OneMetSaid via Twitter
That's a trick question.
Is there any information on pending celebrations or events for the 50th anniversary of the 1969 World Series championship team?
-- @MarkBrichta via Twitter
The Mets have a full celebration weekend planned from June 28-30 and are working to bring as many living members of the 1969 team as possible to Citi Field for the event.
Any news on how ex-general manager Sandy Alderson is feeling?
-- @MetsFanInPhilly via Twitter
I ran into Alderson last month at the Winter Meetings, where he performed his usual duties on Major League Baseball's rules committee. He appeared in good health and good spirits, curious if there is a new challenge out there for him. The Mets are certainly rooting for him.
When is the BBWAA dinner? And how can people get tickets?
-- @BryanHoch via Twitter
Where have I seen that name before?
Since you asked, Bryan, the Baseball Writers' Association of America's annual New York Chapter dinner will take place Jan. 26 in Manhattan and will feature a decidedly Mets flair. deGrom will receive both his National League Cy Young Award and the New York Chapter's Player of the Year award, while David Wright, Nimmo, Alderson and the 1969 Mets will also receive chapter awards. All of the above will be on hand for the festivities, including four members of the '69 Mets.
Tickets are available at NYBBWAA.com. I'm emceeing the event and would love to see you all there.