New York Mets: How Bryce Harper staying in NL East hurts the Mets

Bryce Harper. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Bryce Harper. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Once again, the New York Mets will have to worry about being tormented by Bryce Harper during an MLB Season, but this time it will be for the next 13 years and while he plays for the Phillies.

The New York Mets get dealt a lot of bad breaks and have unfairly poor fate as a franchise, but there is perhaps nothing worse than Bryce Harper being a Philadelphia Phillie for the next 13 seasons. He not only stays in the Mets’ division, but goes over to help perhaps even a bigger rival be even better.

For context, and to their fairness, the Mets did improve this offseason. They fixed their bullpen, added some bats that could hit for average, and the pitching staff that was so outstanding was hardly changed.

However, like everything with the Mets, there is a catch, there are circumstances beyond their control, much like how the Mets got better, so did everyone else in their division. Excluding the long-distant cousin of the division Miami Marlins, every team the Mets need to compete with to get to the playoffs want to get to the playoffs themselves.

The Braves are the reigning Division champs, the Nationals have won two of the last three Division crowns and added Patrick Corbin to improve, however, this is about the Phillies. The much improved, much to all of our chagrin, Phillies team.

The Phillies were already better than the Mets last season. The Phillies did finish only three games better than the Mets, but most of the season, the gap was not even that small.

But, that is still not even the point. Early in this offseason is when the Mets made their biggest move. It was in December when the Mets traded for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. That filled two needs in the Mets’ pursuit of greatness.

Meanwhile, the Phillies were out there trading for players like Jean Segura and singing players like Andrew McCutchen to fill needs. And while the Mets were not negotiating with Jacob deGrom on an extension, the Phillies ensured they were keeping their best pitcher Aaron Nola by extending him.

Yet, I didn’t even mention how right before the Mets’ prized 34-year-old free agent signing Jed Lowrie went down with a sketchy knee injury, the Phillies traded to get J.T. Realmuto to finalize the Marlins’ fire sale.

So, yes, the Mets did not do enough in terms of offseason signings to win the division. The Mets did not spend the money to bring in a lot of help. They did not even pretend they were interested in signing Harper, which I am sure they regret now.

But, what I can tell you is this, the Mets still have the best pitcher in the NL East. Jacob deGrom took that crown from Max Scherzer when he beat him out for the Cy Young award. What I can also tell you, is that five to ten years from now, when Harper still has three years left on his deal, is wildly unpredictable. No one knows how things will look.

The fact that it will be 2031 when Harper’s contract expires is a pretty alarming number. That sort of speaks for itself, that is a really, really long time from now. Baseball will be vastly different.

However, this still does not bode well for the Mets short-term. Once again, it does not feel like they made the biggest splash in the offseason. Once again, their constant failure to go all-in on free agents might bite them.

But, the Mets being hurt in the short-term does not even have much to do with Harper. He is going to come in and make an already improved team even better. What hurts the Mets is what is going to happen in the short-term.

The Mets still have players like Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, deGrom, Amed Rosario, Pete Alonso, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler on rookie contracts. That is their core. So, you would have to think that the Mets window to win falls in the next four to five years while that is still the case. Win while these guys are all together and the cheapest they’ll ever be.

That is what the Harper signing impacts. The first four to five years of the Harper deal will do wonders for the Phillies. He is only 26 years old, meaning the first six years of that contract won’t equate to him being older than 35 years old.

Eventually, that contract, and its $25M per year hit, are eventually going to catch up to the Phils. When he is 35 and aging and can’t keep affording to sign a bundle of players around him.

That is the problem the Mets face. Their contention window is now the exact same as the Phillies’ is. Their window is the same as the Braves’ is who have a similarly built team and the Mets in terms of young, budding stars.

So, Harper singing with the Phillies only hurts the Mets short-term. If the Mets fail to keep this young core, which is still unproven by the way, then just like the Phillies getting the latter years of Harper’s career for a high price, might struggle to contend later.

So, once and if that all happens, then five, six, even seven years down the road, we might be talking about the same thing. The Mets and Phillies both looking to add a young core and have talent in place.

There is a reason they play the games. There is a reason all of these teams have insurance and at least some protection from contracts like this. No one truly knows what will happen. Maybe the even with Harper the Phillies are not going to be able to hack their way to being part of the National League playoffs.

Just like the Mets adding depth and focusing on quantity of new acquisitions rather than quality ones could work out too if injuries league wide stockpile.

But, none of that matters. What matters right now is what has become apparent. That apparent fact that the Mets and Phillies might have the same exact contention window. Both are trying to be great now, and both might not be able to afford to stay great later.

Maybe it’ll work out like it always does and each team is able to win the division once or twice each and spread the wealth. But, it rarely works like that in baseball. After all, this is the same division the Braves won for over ten straight seasons, the same one the Phillies won for years in a row to start this decade.

Of course, all of this is theoretical. All of this might not even matter. Both the Mets and Phils could just stink. The Braves could win 100 games and smoke everyone. Who knows?

But, the point is there aren’t stats that reflect the impact Harper will have on the Phillies. Yeah he is an MVP and former rookie of the year, yeah the Mets are familiar with him from his days in DC.

The point is the Phillies have their guy for the future. Much like every large contract signed, they feel their window to contend falls somewhere in that deal, the Phillies’ is right now. Just like Brodie Van Wagenen says the Mets’ is right now.

The NL East is a deep division this season. Nothing is going to come easy for the already ill-fated Mets. However, they need to get creative and soon. If they don’t flex their muscles like the Phils just did, the Mets will lose all of their talent and have to restart. All the while the Phillies have the biggest name in baseball.

This doesn’t feel ideal for the Mets right now. But, at least they have given themselves a bigger chance they have the last few seasons.

Next. Cano's role is perfect for the Mets this year. dark

Also, maybe not being stuck with the same cornerstone for 13 years isn’t the worst thing. After all that has never been the Mets’ thing. To have a guy like Harper be the guy for a LONG time. That all has to catch up to the Mets eventually, right?