The Mets, who had gone some three days since singing a high free agent, went buying once more on Thursday night. Brandon Nimmo was a type of Aaron Choose situation-in-miniature: a New York group flirted with dropping its greatest outfielder earlier than realizing it’d be extra hassle than it was price to exchange him. Finest simply to deliver him again, even when it meant making him wealthy past the wildest fantasies of avarice.
Nimmo, the no. 9 participant general on our high 50 free agent listing and no. 2 outfielder behind Choose, obtained paid fairly a bit greater than our projections, which is rising as one thing of a theme this offseason. The readers thought he’d make an excellent $100 million over 5 years; Ben Clemens had Nimmo penciled in for $110 million over the identical timeframe. As a substitute, Nimmo has signed for eight years and $162 million.
To place that quantity in context: for $162 million, Nimmo may purchase this 15-foot-by-25-foot inflatable water slide for each single one of many 578,000-plus residents of his native Wyoming. (Wayfair says two-day transport is free for a purchase order of this measurement. We will see.) He’d then have sufficient left over to pay the $10 million the Mets agreed to pay reduction pitcher David Robertson of their second main signing of the night. And even after that he’d have some $1.2 million left over. Perhaps he may spend that on a brand new backyard hose or swim trunks in order to get probably the most out of the water slide.
Nimmo was a extremely sought-after participant at this week’s Winter Conferences, and as just lately as Tuesday, the Mets have been placing out the notion that they may lose him to the next bidder. However regardless of not being a nationally-known star on the extent of a Choose or a Justin Verlander, the Mets may in poor health afford to lose their middle fielder.
I’ve written about Nimmo quite a few occasions up to now three months, within the context of the Mets’ hit-by-pitch points, Scott Boras’ puns, and the capsule for the top-50 free agent listing. The e book on him stays the identical now; furthermore, this isn’t a situation during which he’s leaving for a brand new park, a brand new position, or a group which may change his swing to unlock extra energy. He and the Mets know one another intimately.
Nonetheless, it’s price revisiting briefly what makes him such a great participant. Nimmo is the sort of participant for whom the phrase “hitter” completely fails to sum up his offensive talent set. He’s a leadoff man who can play middle however will most likely evolve into a great nook outfielder as he will get into his 30s; on paper, that additionally describes George Springer, who signed a six-year, $150 million contract earlier than the 2020 season. However Springer hit 39 house runs in his stroll yr; Nimmo has hit 40 up to now 4 seasons mixed. Though he was the no. 2 outfielder on this class, he was not the sort of participant groups would go after in the event that they missed out on Choose. He’s by no means hit 20 house runs in a season or slugged .500. Choose hit 62 house runs final yr; Nimmo’s profession excessive in extra-base hits is 53. Regardless of nicely above-average velocity and clear baseball nous, he’s by no means stolen greater than 9 bases in a season. (One other factor he shares with Springer: a fully atrocious profession stolen base success fee for a quick man, simply 62%.)
So what does he do? [snaps fingers and points to Jonah Hill as crypto-Paul DePodesta in Moneyball] He will get on base. Nimmo is without doubt one of the most affected person hitters within the league; since 2016, he has as many seasons with an OBP over .400 as beneath. He’s by no means posted a stroll fee underneath 10%, and he’s an absolute magnet for pitched baseballs — and let’s be sincere, figuring out nothing about him apart from he runs to first after a stroll, you’d have guess each greenback you have got that he will get hit by a variety of pitches. He’s — and this isn’t going to sound like the best reward I can lavish on a participant, however I promise it’s — what you’d get if Brandon Guyer obtained to hit in opposition to solely left-handed pitching.
There are causes to not like Nimmo: the dearth of energy, the damage historical past, the dearth of stolen base manufacturing, the 34-point drop in OBP this previous season. Even aesthetically, his hustle-and-grind act has its constituency to make certain, however I personally discover it a bit tiresome. However what I’ve come to understand about him is that he does the one most necessary factor a place participant can do — keep away from making outs — about in addition to anybody on the market. And whereas he has no different carrying instrument to talk of, he does present worth elsewhere in his sport.
The sticker worth of $162 million is a bit bracing, however this isn’t as costly a signing because it seems to be. First, the early returns on the free-agent market have been excellent for the highest gamers. Generally that’s taken the type of higher-than-expected AAV, as within the case of Jameson Taillon or Josh Bell. However on the very high of the market, gamers and groups have reached a compromise: comparatively low AAV over an especially lengthy timeframe.
That method, pioneered in its fashionable kind by the Phillies and Bryce Harper in 2019, has knowledgeable the offers signed by mainly each high place participant other than Choose. Trea Turner: 11 years, $300 million. Xander Bogaerts: 11 years, $280 million. And now Nimmo, at eight years, $162 million. The previous couple of years of that contract gained’t be fairly. However for now, for budgeting and tax functions, the Mets have a 29-year-old coming off a 5.4 WAR season underneath contract for a hair over $20 million a yr. That’s virtually the identical AAV as Austin Riley, Kyle Schwarber, and Joc Pederson. Considered in these phrases, Nimmo’s deal seems to be fairly affordable.
One other factor to recollect, on the danger of belaboring the Springer comparability, is that by returning to the Mets, Nimmo gained’t be underneath strain to be something apart from what he already is. He’s not a hitter who can prop up a lineup all on his personal, however he’s a superb leadoff man and complementary piece. Simply as Springer has benefited from the emergence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, Nimmo matches completely in a lineup the place Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso can drive him in.
What illustrates the Mets’ monetary exuberance will not be that they re-signed a participant they’d come to depend on. It’s that they casually picked up Robertson the identical night time, the best way you or I would cease at 7-Eleven for a Slurpee on the best way house from the submit workplace. Robertson is 37 occurring 38, which implies he’s now not the elite setup man and someday nearer he was all through the 2010s. Throughout that point, he was the one exception to the rule of reduction pitcher volatility, however since 2019, he’s suffered a extreme damage to the flexor mass in his throwing elbow, undergone Tommy John surgical procedure, and briefly discovered himself out of the main league image totally. However after pitching for Staff USA within the Tokyo Olympics, he shortly discovered himself again within the majors with Tampa Bay, and from there to Chicago and Philadelphia, the place he pitched in the newest World Collection.
Robertson threw 63 2/3 innings within the majors in 2022, and whereas his ERA was greater than a run decrease than his FIP, he nonetheless posted an ERA of two.40. Maybe he’ll regress; he lacks supreme fastball velocity for a reliever, notably a high-leverage righty, and walked roughly one in each six batters he confronted in 2022. However his knuckle-curve stays a formidable weapon. In truth, one of many few issues in baseball that has the underside drop out tougher than his curve is a Mets group that’s main the NL East in September. Baseball Savant’s patriotic lollipops paint a rosy image: Robertson is within the 99th percentile in fastball spin and within the ninetieth or higher in whiff fee, Ok%, xBA, and xSLG. Perhaps the previous Yankee isn’t closer-quality for a contender anymore, however who cares? As long as Edwin Díaz remains to be pitching, he gained’t need to be.
In brief, each of those are good signings. But it surely’s price exploring how they slot in with the group’s bigger monetary construction.
It hasn’t all been one-way site visitors for the Mets, who’ve seen Jacob deGrom and Taijuan Walker signal elsewhere this previous week. However after retaining Nimmo and bringing in José Quintana, Verlander, and Robertson — to say nothing of the nine-figure extension they gave Díaz — New York’s estimated payroll for 2023 is as much as $322 million. After the varied accounting machinations required for luxurious tax functions, that quantity rises to $335.3 million.
And the tax invoice will probably be steep. Not solely are the Mets a repeat CBT payor, however they’ll additionally undergo extra surcharges over the $293 million “Cohen Tax” threshold, so named as a result of it appeared to focus on Mets proprietor Steve Cohen. As a substitute, he noticed a monetary goal together with his identify on it and went for it — blew previous it, the truth is, by assembling the costliest group in baseball historical past. Cohen, it appears, cares not for the legal guidelines of God or Manfred.
There will probably be extra strikes to return. The Mets are identified to be desirous about offloading Darin Ruf and James McCann with a view to avoid wasting cash, however like each group they may use some assist in the bullpen. And except high prospects Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, and Ronny Mauricio all flip into large league contributors shortly, the Mets may most likely use a bench bat or two.
However Cohen has staked his fame as an proprietor on funding the very best baseball group cash can moderately purchase. He couldn’t have maintained his credibility in that respect with no week like we simply noticed, notably after dropping deGrom. So why not run a $320 million payroll, when you’re a group that prints cash and serves as a goodwill-generating machine for a person price greater than $10 billion? I can’t consider a cause. A World Collection doesn’t depend much less for a group that paid extra to win it.
Cohen can’t simply up and purchase a World Collection, clearly; the very best he can do is purchase a berth in a brutal three-way rock battle with the Nationwide League’s two most up-to-date champions (the Braves and Phillies) for the proper to face an equally well-equipped Dodgers or Padres group within the playoffs. However he’s purchased a rattling good baseball group, which is all one can ask an proprietor to do.