Why the Mets are playing from behind in Hector Neris negotiations

The New York Mets are interested in ace reliever Hector Neris, but they face stiff competition.

Hector Neris, Houston Astros
Hector Neris, Houston Astros / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY
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The New York Mets are engaged with Hector Neris, according to SNY's Andy Martino. The 34-year-old relief maestro, who spent the last two seasons with the Houston Astros, is seeking a one or two-year deal worth $7-11 million annually.

That falls inside the Mets' price range. David Stearns and the New York front office are willing to spend roughly $10 million more on the current free agent pool. That said, the Mets face stiff competition — and an undeniable disadvantage. The New York Yankees are also after Neris, and he maintains interest in teams outside New York.

Neris won the World Series with Houston in 2022 and he has a ton of high-stakes postseason experience across 10 years of MLB action. The Yankees are all-in on competing for the World Series, as evidenced by the acquisitions of Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, and Marcus Stroman. Neris would be a natural fit. He's a veteran built for the postseason. The Mets, on the other hand, are limiting their spending bill after a botched contention effort in 2023. Never say never in baseball, but it's clear the Mets won't contend at the highest level next season. Neris, in search of a short-term deal, would probably prefer to win.

Mets interested in Hector Neris, but face Yankees disadvantage

This is the inherent trouble with being the Mets. There will always be the Yankees — a more prestigious, accomplished, historic clubhouse a stone's throw away in the neighboring borough. Steve Cohen has the deepest pockets in baseball, which helps. But the Mets will always struggle to match the Yankees as a recruitment force.

Neris continues to operate at a high level, even as he approaches his mid-30s. Last season he appeared in 71 games (68.1 innings), posting a 1.71 ERA and 1.054 WHIP with 77 strikeouts. Expertly finessing his 93 MPH fastball and 83 MPH changeup, Neris is a master of soft contact. His groundball rate (28.0) landed in the MLB's 98th percentile last season, per Baseball Savant.

The Yankees recently splurged on a heavy groundball pitcher in Stroman. It's worth noting how poor the Yankees' defense is, which could cause problems behind pitchers who rely more on the defense than their punch-out power. Still, Neris knows how to work the plate and his big-game experience would boost the Yankees' bullpen considerably.

He would help the Mets too, of course. Aside from Edwin Diaz, the Mets' bullpen leaves much to be desired. There's no harm in adding a veteran to a younger group. It generally boosts player development, and Neris can help the Mets stay composed when the bullpen might otherwise fall apart.

If it turns into a bidding war, we all know the Mets can out-spend anybody. Even the Yankees. But, if the Mets hard-cap their spending and Neris receives a similar financial offer from the Yankees, one has to imagine he will choose the contender.

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