Although they came up short in the Ben Zobrist sweepstakes, the New York Mets missing out could be a much needed blessing in disguise.
By David Hong
During this offseason the New York Mets were highly interested in acquiring Ben Zobrist. He was their No. 1 target and the Mets did everything they could to appeal to him. They even went as far as showing him around the suburbs.
There was competition though. The division rival Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants were were just two of the many interested.
It looked like Zobrist was going to decide between those three teams. This week, however, the Chicago Cubs jumped into the fray.
Zobrist’s choices narrowed down to the Mets and the Cubbies and on Tuesday, and unlike the NLCS when the Mets beat out the Cubs to win the NL pennant, the Cubs edged out the Mets to sign Zobrist to a 4 year, $56 million deal.
This might seem like a downer for the Mets, who tried so hard to land the versatile infielder who helped the Royals win the World Series, but if you look at it, I believe the Mets avoided disaster with Zobrist.
Four years is definitely too much for Zobrist. He’s currently 34-years old, and while he has been a good player for awhile and still is serviceable, he is clearly a player on the decline. Zobrist hit .276 with 13 home runs which is respectable numbers. But considering Zobrist hit 20+ HRs on three occasions, that low mark of 13 is alarming.
Recently, I’ve been wary about signing players to long term deals which creates risks. Four years may not be that much compared to the new mega deals that pitchers David Price and Zack Greinke got from the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks respectively, but four years is definitely too much for Zobrist.
He will be an aging 38 when his deal ends, maning he will be a shell of former self. He might be good for the first couple of years, but the last two years will likely not be and the Cubs will be stuck with his contract.
I know the Mets are now in a win now mode after their World Series run and signing a guy like Zobrist will help them right now, but the future is still the future and it will not look good for the Amazins if they’re stuck with a 34-year for the next four years, especially when they have promising prospect Dilson Herrera waiting in the wings.
Now that Zobrist is out of the picture it’s time for the Mets to look at Plan B.
Maybe they could be more aggressive in trying to re-sign Daniel Murphy. Murph may not be as good defensively as Zobrist but he is just as versatile who can also play third and give David Wright some much needed breaks. Murphy and Zobrist are pretty much equal in terms of their offense and who can forget Murphy’s NLDS and NLCS heroics. Plus Murphy (31 years old) is four years younger than Zobrist.
Murphy will likely get a similar deal to Zobrist. I think that deal would look better for Murph based on his age and him being a proven player in New York.
Or, the Mets could turn to prospect Dilson Herrera and give him a chance. Herrera is still unproven but he has potential. He has the flashiness and athleticism to be a really good defensive fielder at second and he has hitting potential after hitting well over .300 at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Of course Herrera must prove it in the majors, but in recent years the Mets have developed names such as Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, and Michael Conforto, all of whom have been instrumental in helping the Mets reach the World Series this past season.
So why not Herrera?
He won’t cost the Mets much financially so the Mets can spend on other needs. I know it’s always a risk asking an unproven prospect to come through when they are in a win now mood, but the Mets have done a good job developing their home grown players in recent stretches and it absolutely wouldn’t hurt developing another prospect with potential.
So while the Mets missed out on their No. 1 free agent target it will be a blessing in disguise in the long term and perhaps right now too because four years is too much for a player in decline.
I know the Mets gave a similar contract to then 33-year old Curtis Granderson back in 2013, and Grandy had a good year in 2015. However, the Mets do have other options as second base as well so this Zobrist snub is not as bad as some fans might attest to.
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