As Bryce Harper and Manny Machado look to sign contracts that will put them among the highest-paid athletes in the history of professional sports, there are plenty of quality free agents available this offseason for far less money. A few players that are only a year or two removed from All-Star seasons could be changing teams over the next few months.
The New York Mets aren’t expected to pursue players that will garner nine-figure contracts, though they have been linked to some notable names. The Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals are interested in some of those same players as they gauge the market on the top free agents.
New York and Houston have expressed interest in Los Angeles Dodgers’ catcher Yasmani Grandal, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. Catcher was a glaring weakness for both teams during the regular season, and Grandal would provide a significant upgrade for either the Mets or Astros.
No Met catcher played more than 69 games in the 2018 season, and the position produced a dreadful .208/.297/.355 split for New York in 162 games. Martin Maldonado, Brian McCann and Max Stassi all hit .231 or worse while splitting time behind the plate for the Astros. Grandal has hit at least 22 home runs in three straight seasons, and he must decide if he wants to sign the Dodgers’ $17.9 million qualifying offer.
Andrew Miller is the player the Mets and Cardinals could be competing for, according to Morosi. New York manager Mickey Callaway was the Cleveland Indians’ pitching coach during Miller’s time with the club.
A strong starting rotation didn’t help the Mets win many games in part because New York ranked 28th in bullpen ERA. St. Louis ranked 20th, and they are reportedly being active in trying to upgrade their bullpen. Miller was limited to 34 innings last year because of multiple stints on the disabled list, but he posted a 1.44 ERA in 2017 and a 1.45 ERA in 2016.
St. Louis does have interest in signing Bryce Harper, but it’s sounding like the Cardinals probably aren’t willing to pay the contract worth well over $300 million that he’s seeking. It’s unknown if Houston will re-sign Dallas Keuchel or Charlie Morton, who could both command high yearly salaries on the open market.