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The Mets are one of the only interesting baseball teams this offseason

Interesting doesn’t have to be synonymous with good, but it’s a start.

New York Mets v New York Yankees

There probably wasn’t coordinated collusion between the 30 different owners this offseason. There might be a reason why the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants all decided at the same time that the luxury tax was an electric fence, which meant it was imperative that they tinkled somewhere else, and it’s at least a little suspicious. But there have been a lot of theories of how the offseason devolved into this, and most of them don’t involve actual, coordinated collusion.

If there were collusion, though, it would be absolutely hilarious if the Mets were the team to flip the other 29 owners off. “Nuts to you guys, I’m spending to improve my team,” is what Fred Wilpon is probably saying to himself because he cares only about building the best team he possibly can. That’s the Mets for you. They’re renegades, and they don’t care who’s bent out of shape about their constant spending.

In a normal offseason, this sort of spending wouldn’t stick out. It might be possible, even, to claim that the Mets are doing something close to the bare minimum. In this offseason, though, it’s the Mets who are renovating their roster like teams did in the ‘90s and ‘00s: By spending money on older players who should succeed for a year or two before becoming liabilities. It’s almost refreshing.

Is it smart, though?

Start with the Todd Frazier contract, which is a 1987-ass Tim Raines contract. For just two years and $17 million, the Mets secured a third baseman who was worth three wins last year, according to Baseball-Reference. He was worth four WAR the year before that, and five WAR three years ago. Even if you follow the mathematical pattern and give Frazier just two WAR this year and one WAR next year, he’ll be a bargain.

That’s ... not how projections really work, though. He should be more valuable than that, and the Mets don’t even have to tether themselves to Frazier for his inevitable decline. There’s a part of my brain that’s wired to write something like, “Wow, Mets! Great job!” This offseason has rewired it to, “Baseball, you’re gross. Stop hoarding the profits.”

But if there is misery to profit from, at least the Mets are the ones trying to pick the bones of Ned Flanders.

The Mets got better and filled a position of need. And while I’m less enamored of the decision to give Jay Bruce scores of millions, I can’t begrudge their dinger fever. They already had an outfield with three corner outfielders and a defensive whiz who needed one of them to DH.

“Hey, got a delivery here. Uh, looks like it’s a corner outfielder who isn’t going to win a Gold Glove.”

“Put him over there with the rest.”

If the idea is that one of Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto is going to be hurt at all times, then the Bruce deal is proactive. If the idea is that one of Nimmo or Conforto can be traded for whatever superstar the Mets covet in July, then the Bruce deal is proactive and risky. If the idea is, “idk, just get more dingers,” I can respect that, even if it’s foolishly shortsighted.

The lineup looks something like this:

  1. Brandon Nimmo/Michael Conforto/Juan Lagares - CF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera - 2B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes - LF
  4. Jay Bruce - RF
  5. Todd Frazier - 3B
  6. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
  7. Travis d’Arnaud - C
  8. Amed Rosario - SS

It’s not without its upside. The Mets fell into a pile of scorpions last year, and there were no survivors, but you can understand why they wanted to build a lineup with a chance to be competent. The once-mighty Mets’ staff had just one healthy starter, and he was also the only one with an ERA under 4.50. They had five different pitchers who made more than 10 starts with an ERA over 5.19, and most of them were expected to be assets, not liabilities.

Even if you assume that the gremlins in Matt Harvey’s arm will never be sated, it’s easy to look at a rotation with some combination of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, and Harvey and think that at least four out of the six have a shot to help their team win in 2018. It’s not overly optimistic to hope for a rotation that can thrive with an average offense. The trick this offseason, then, was to build that average offense.

Meet the Mets, who will probably fall into a pile of scorpions again, but at least they seized on the slow offseason. They brought the market down to their payroll and mad off with some good players. Made off. They made off with some good players.

The question I have is this: Where are the other Mets? The Giants were so scared of the luxury tax that they traded away young players and absorbed high salaries just to get rid of Denard Span in a complicated scheme, but they count as a team that’s trying. The Brewers have been active and creative. The Phillies started down that path, at least, and they might still have more moves coming. The Rockies spent, just in that classic Coors we-haven’t-tried-this-yet way.

But where are the teams that are ready to pounce on the depressed market, like the Mets? Where are the Nationals coming in to swoop up a second starter to be their fifth starter? Where are the Twins using their future financial flexibility to make a series of dramatic moves? Where are the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, and Giants in this buyer’s market, considering none of them should really give a hot damn about the luxury tax?

And, really, can someone check on the Orioles? They’re not returning my texts, and that’s not like them.

It’s the Mets for now, though. They’re looking at an oddly shaped window and taking advantage of this shady offseason. We’ll see if the Twins follow through with their plans, or if the Nationals jump into the scrum. For now, though, the Mets are just about the only baseball team making free agency work for them. It’s what they needed to do.

If the plan works or not is kind of beside the point.

I don’t even know why the Mets keep that scorpion pile so close to Citi Field in the first place.