The New York Mets are just two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training as Brodie Van Wagenen’s first winter as general manager is inching toward completion.
It’s been a busy offseason for the Mets, who are portraying the sincerest of intentions that they actually want to contend for the postseason this year despite their usual display of frugality that has trickled down from ownership.
Despite being a big-market club, the Mets’ payroll is currently at $152 million. By comparison, the crosstown-rival Yankees, who are far closer to a World Series title, is at $184 million.
While there might be room for another big-time contract, which has Mets screaming for the team to seriously pursue the likes of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, Van Wagenen has been able to address plenty of New York’s offseason needs. The winter has already yielded the team’s new starting second baseman in Robinson Cano, a No. 1 catcher in Wilson Ramos, a star closer in Edwin Diaz, infield depth in Jed Lowrie, and bullpen arms like Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson.
The improvements have undoubtedly made the Mets a better team on paper, as Van Wagenen has been brash in saying his team is the one to beat. The fact of the matter, though, is that the National League East is still wide open between the Mets and the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals.
Among the biggest question marks for the Mets — hypotheticals that Van Wagenen wanted to eliminate this winter — is the uncertainty in center field.
With the corner outfield spots set between Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo while Yoenis Cespedes is set to miss most, if not all, of the 2019 season, the Mets are slated to have Juan Lagares start in center field while Keon Broxton backs him up.
It’s a risky move considering Lagares has played in an average of 68 games per year over the last three seasons as he’s been constantly hampered by injuries. Behind him, Broxton has plenty to prove after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers. After hitting 20 home runs in 143 games in 2017, Broxton batted just .179 in just 51 games last year. Over four MLB seasons, he’s slashing just .221/.313/.410.
There is still time for the Mets to secure the position with a bit more dependability, especially with a player like Adam Jones still on the market. The 33-year-old veteran center fielder is a five-time All-Star and still productive despite down power numbers last year on a league-worst Baltimore Orioles team. He’s batted at least .280 with 20 home runs in seven of the past nine seasons while playing in 145 games or more in eight of those years during that stretch.
The closer things get to spring training, the more likely Jones could be had on a cheaper deal, which is perfect for the penny-pinching ownership that continues to run a New York sports franchise like a mid-market club.