Bryce Harper celebrates winning the 2018 MLB home run derby at Nationals Ballpark.

USA Today Sports Images

Keidel: Mets Need To Go After Bryce Harper

Jason Keidel
December 05, 2018 - 1:20 pm
Categories: 

If there ever were a staggering baseball contradiction, it's the assertion that it's a fun time for Mets fans. 

Yet there they were, management in full force, the brass shiny and polished and eager to deliver a new age of baseball in Flushing. Jeff Wilpon and Brodie Van Wagenen were grinning at the dais while they introduced their two new stars. Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz are now - to borrow from Run DMC - Kings from Queens. 

The trade that got them here from Seattle won't bring the Mets a pennant, or even the NL East crown. But the Mets are actually in business this winter. For years, the Mets were that seasonal motel with the neon "Vacancy" sign swinging in the winter wind. There was the youthful hope of spring training, the grim reality of summer, then the hibernation until next spring. 

Now the Mets are dealing like the moguls from Shark Tank. Not only did they bag two big-name players who can help them win now, but if the new GM is to be believed, they aren't done. There have been reports of a trade with Cleveland for pitcher Corey Kluber. And there are new murmurs about cracking open the vault for Bryce Harper. The hero of Harper's youth was - you guessed it - Robinson Cano. 

MORE: Mets GM Van Wagenen Says He's Been In Touch With A.J. Pollack's Agent

Will Harper come to Queens for a discount simply because he had Cano's visage lathered across his bedroom wall? Unlikely. Harper has been waiting nearly a decade for this moment, when he can sign that science fiction contract that requires the folks from Jet Propulsion Labs to calculate. 

You may call this space hypocritical because we've warned the Yankees to stay away from Harper. But that's because the Yankees are an arm or two from a World Series title, with more than enough lumber to get there. All Harper could do in the Bronx is devour payroll and tweak the team's fine chemistry. While absurdly talented, Harper has at times been immature, moody and aloof, which could ruffle the veteran feathers in the Yankees clubhouse. Plus they already have arguably the best lineup in the sport, and just set the all-time record for homers in a single season (267). 

In the Bronx, Harper would be a Type A personality who would not even be the top attraction at his home ballpark. He's not homegrown, and would be viewed as yet another mercenary for a team that bombed too many times with high-priced imports.

But the Mets have no farm system, have no clear leader in the lineup, and the only everyday star they have, Yoenis Cespedes, has his mail forwarded to the Disabled List. Imagine the fire Harper's arrival would light under the mercurial outfielder. He may spend less time flaunting his fleet of splashy cars, less time on the DL, and more time in the batter's box. Even with that bloated contract, Cespedes is an athlete with an ego and hunger for attention. So the only way to look better than Harper is to play better, creating a friendly, diamond duel of sorts. Instead of seeing swaths of his jersey across Citi Field, Cespedes would be irked by the growing batch of Harper accessories. 

Then there's just Harper. There may not be a more naturally gifted player east of Mike Trout. Harper was splashed across Sports Illustrated when he was 17, an athletic savant who was blasting planet-scraping fly balls in high school, the baseball version of LeBron James. He just turned 26, with five years of his prime before him, and another decade with a great bat. In seven years, he's been an All-Star six times, won the NL MVP in 2015. Even last season, considered an off year, Harper had 34 homers and 100 RBI while leading the NL in walks (130). 

MORE: Van Wagenen Says It's Unlikely Mets Trade Noah Syndergaard

The Mets desperately need that. The club plated a paltry 676 runs in 2018. Not one Met drove in 100 runs, or even 90. Michael Conforto was the only Met with more than 20 homers (28),  Conforto also led the team in walks (84) and was the only hitter with more than 80 RBI. Harper's 103 runs scored would have lapped the Mets, who were led by - yes, indeed -- Michael Conforto, with 78. 

Sure, the Mets would overpay for him. So would any team that signed him. You can live with Harper's hubris, especially in New York, where the natives love someone with an edge, and could help him shine in the vortex of American media. Since he's been a star since puberty - and raised in Las Vegas, no less - it's hard to imagine Harper overwhelmed by a few extra microphones under his beard after each game (the Yankees would have made Harper carve his face clean of hair).

The Mets need passion and purpose. They just acquired two players with talent, who make their roster better right now. When asked if the Mets would funnel this newfound aggression into the free agent market, he told the reporter to ask the new GM.  If Brodie Van Wagenen is truly in charge, he needs to lead the charge toward Bryce Harper. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel