The New York Mets should have plenty of cash to splurge this winter and closer Wade Davis should be near the top of their shopping list.
The New York Mets 2017 season has been brutal and that might be putting it gently. However, it at least allows us to look towards the offseason with some optimism.
When comes 2018, the Mets will be looking to reload rather than rebuild. One of the main pieces to next season’s puzzle will revolve around bolstering the bullpen and closer Wade Davis should be a target for the Mets front office.
The Mets saved around $10 million between five players traded over the summer and have only Yoenis Cespedes’s salary as a significant payroll commitment for 2018. Now, the bullpen isn’t the only issue the Mets need to address as the team will likely look to explore upgrades in center field, add depth to their infield and maybe even add some solidarity to the starting rotation. Regardless, the Mets should have money to spend and Davis is a free agent they would be wise to consider pursuing.
Over the past four seasons, you’d be hard pressed to find any reliever more dominant than Davis. His sub-two ERA from 2014-16 and mere 2.17 mark this season speak for themselves. Although FIP indicates he’s been slightly fortunate, his success can’t really be downplayed.
Davis has been utterly dominant since moving to the bullpen in 2014 but does come with a few mild concerns. He’ll be entering his age 32 season in 2018 and regression is of course plausible as a pitcher enters his mid-30s. His 3.37 FIP in 2017 suggests he could already be showing signs of regression, but as long that number doesn’t balloon in coming years, Davis should still be a more than effective closer for the next several seasons.
It’s also worthy to note his average fastball velocity has dipped from 96.7 in 2014 to 93.9 this season, per Fangraphs. Still, his cutter and breaking ball remain excellent secondary pitches that should allow him to make up for decreased velocity.
So, what kind of contract can we realistically expect Davis to receive? It’s not crazy for him to ask for Kenley Jansen money (5 years, $80 million) but it’s also possible his deal looks similar to the one Mark Melancon received from San Francisco last winter (4 years, $62 million). Given that Davis is going to be similar in age to Melancon, you might anticipate a four year pact (Jansen was three years younger, age 29 as comparison) worth around $64-72 million.
Sandy Alderson has not spent any significant money on relief arms during his tenure as General Manager and assuming he’s still running the orange and blue ship this winter, it wouldn’t come as a shock if he steered clear of Davis. His philosophy is centered around power arms in the rotation and power bats in the lineup.
However, Alderson is an experienced executive and understands that the game has changed. The minor league prospects he traded for this offseason are all hard throwing relief arms. It’s evident that the Mets need to upgrade their bullpen and the acquisition of A.J. Ramos already points towards a run at contention next year. Prospects aren’t guarantees though as some of which won’t be ready for big league action next season anyways. Davis, although costly, is a fairly safe bet to anchor the back end of the bullpen.
Now to address the elephant in the room: Jeurys Familia. Despite his injury issues this season, Familia figures to be a major factor in the 2018 ‘pen. He’ll want to close, because closers cash much larger checks than set up men. He only has one year of arbitration eligibility left before becoming an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Familia has experience as a set up man and could return to an eighth inning role next season. Davis’s signature would protect against Familia leaving in the offseason should he seek closer money. This isn’t to say Familia cannot be trusted as a closer–he can–but it might suit the Mets better to deploy him in an eighth inning role next season.
Today’s game has evolved and deep bullpens often lead to success, especially with teams that have weak rotations (see Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals recent playoff runs). If the Mets rotation again cannot maintain good health, a loaded bullpen could help mitigate that issue. Furthermore, should the Mets rotation pitch like it has been heralded to, they likely won’t have much difficulty winning games.
The combination of Ramos, Familia and Davis could spell victory for a team that will hope it’s rotation returns to 2015 form. Signing Davis wouldn’t be keen to Alderson’s philosophy, but it would make a statement that the New York Mets are all in on 2018.