So, Jake Arrieta is still a free agent. And that might change soon; or, it might not. No matter who signs him or when, at this point he wouldn’t even be ready for Opening Day.
That goes for a lot of the remaining free agents. And some players are pretty upset about it.
Kenley Jansen took to FanRag sports to express his frustration over the lack of free agent signings. Like many, he accused teams of tanking in favor of trying to make the most profit. But he very specifically called out the NL East, saying there’s only one team competing.
I guess he’s not talking about the Mets.
Here’s the thing, though. The Mets are trying. In fact, they’ve been ahead of the curve on the whole ‘not spending thing’ for years. It’s just what the Wilpons do. Are people copying the Wilpon business model now?
Of course not. Look, Kenley, I get it. And I don’t necessarily disagree with you. But let’s give the Mets some credit here. If the rotation stays healthy, they’ll probably make the Wild Card game—and they might just win it, too. Jeurys Familia has looked awesome this spring. Same with Matt Harvey and, to an extent, Zack Wheeler. Noah Syndergaard looks like he didn’t even miss the entire 2016 season. And Jacob deGrom can do whatever he wants with his hair and he’ll still be great.
They have Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Jason Vargas all vying for a fifth spot in the rotation (let’s be honest, Steven Matz needs some low-pressure time in AAA to start the season).
But let’s go back to Jansen. I think he’s got an overall point, but his judgment on the NL East needs more context. The Phillies are stuck in a rebuild that’s going horribly and locking up a long-term contract at this point doesn’t make sense. The Braves just lost all integrity and are still rebuilding, it would be stupid to dump all their money into a free agent now. The Marlins are just a dumpster fire. The Mets…the Mets could use another starter.
They could use Jake Arrieta.
They should be in the mix for him. There’s no reason not to be. They could get him, at worst, for a stupid low price on a three-year deal with an opt-out. At best, they could notch him for one year and just let him join the star-studded 2019 free agent class. Yeah, they already signed Vargas, but this is a team that not even a year ago had Tommy Milone making starts because they had no healthy pitchers. To act like everything will be sunshine and rainbows with a new manager and a new coaching staff is a little naïve, even though I do think they’ll make a big difference.
With this historic buyer’s market, it would be short-sighted to argue against the Mets even making a few phone calls. Just show interest. Prove to people like Kenley Jansen that you’re serious about contending—half the fanbase is full of Kenley Jansens, just waiting for the Wilpons to finally act like they care.
Arrieta has gone 54-24 over his last 94 starts with a 2.71 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. He averages almost a strikeout per inning. He won a World Series. Nobody on the Mets can say that right now. The Phillies and Nationals have also been rumored to have interest in Arrieta. If the Nats get him, it’s all over. If the Phils get him, well, he’d just be a huge pain the Mets’ butt.
It’s a long shot, I know. But imagine Syndergaard-deGrom-Arrieta as your 1-2-3. Imagine what signing a World Series champion, a Cy Young winner and an All-Star would do for team and fan morale. Imagine what kind of message it would send to the rest of the division; to the rest of baseball.
There’s never any harm in trying and this type of move can take the Mets beyond their Wild Card ambitions. They’d have a legitimate shot at knocking off the Nationals and making another magical run.