DETROIT (APe scenarios this season. They didn’t finish last Bryce Harper Jersey , or all that close to it.In the end, however, they had the same record as in 2017, and the franchise still seems a long way from contention.“Not everything is going to go perfect. As you know, some things are going to turn out good, some not,” general manager Al Avila said. “I feel we had a good year for the first year of our rebuild. We played with a lot of players that made their major league debuts. We saw some good performances and we saw some that were not as good.”Detroit went 64-98, the same record the Tigers had last year, when they ended up tied for the worst record in baseball. There were a few teams worse than that this season, which may have contributed to the sense that Detroit was exceeding expectations.The Tigers are hoping some of the prospects in their system turn into players they can build around. In that respect, 2018 has been inconclusive. Detroit hasn’t yet been able to bring a significant number of top prospects to the majors.“This is just the beginning. If you think we are young now wait until next year,” said Ron Gardenhire, who was in his first season managing the Tigers. “We’ll see. That’s the goal is to get all these young kids up here and play them. Triple-A is going to be full of prospects. Guys that are knocking on the door.”PROSPECT WATCHOutfielder Christin Stewart, Detroit’s No. 6 prospect according to mlb.com Stephen Strasburg Jersey , made his big league debut this season, playing in 17 games. He hit 25 home runs in the minors this year. The team’s top five prospects on that list are all pitchers, and they’re at varying stages. Casey Mize, the top pick in this year’s draft, made five starts in the low levels of the minors. Franklin Perez, who came to the organization in the trade for Justin Verlander in 2017, was limited to seven minor league starts this year by injury problems . Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows have all pitched at Double-A, and they’ll be prospects to watch in 2019.PAYROLLDetroit shed a lot of salary in 2017, trading Verlander and Justin Upton. Victor Martinez’s big contract comes off the books now, but as a rebuilding team, the Tigers aren’t likely to be big spenders in the short term.“I don’t know what payroll is going to look like. It could very easily come down, it could stay neutral,” Avila said. “I’m trying my best not to make it any higher because that’s not where we want to go. It’s my goal to set up the organization’s foundation moving forward for success.”CABRERA’S HEALTHOne player still with the Tigers who has a huge contract is Miguel Cabrera http://www.nationalsfanproshop.com/authentic-gio-gonzalez-jersey , whose future production is certainly in doubt at age 35. Cabrera played only 38 games this year before being lost for the season because of left biceps surgery.FULMER’S FUTUREThere are times when Michael Fulmer looks like exactly the type of cost-controlled player the Tigers need — but now the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year is recovering from a knee issue. Fulmer’s 2018 showing wasn’t terribly encouraging: He went 3-12 with a 4.69 ERA.BRIGHT SPOTSReliever Joe Jimenez made the All-Star team, although the 23-year-old right-hander did not have a very good second half. Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos had a fine season with the bat, hitting .298 with 23 home runs.“As far as a multiyear contract with Nick, it’s something where we have to, at this point, figure will he be here when we are ready to contend for the playoffs? That’s the big question,” Avila said. “If you are going to tell me over the next couple of years we’re going to be a team that’s going to be going to the postseason, that would be an easy thing to answer and say we want to try to keep Nick around. But right now, we are trying to assess if he could fit.” The real issue with Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets is the same one the Mets so often face, the one they never seem to completely answer.Are they willing to act like a big-market team?A big-market team should be willing to sign a Cy Young-winning pitcher to a long-term contract. But a big-market team also shouldn't be afraid of any artificial deadlines along the way.For all the talk of an Opening Day "deadline" in the deGrom negotiations, the only real deadline is the end of the 2020 season, when deGrom would be eligible to leave as a free agent. And even then, the Mets would still be able to sign him until someone else does.Yes, it could cost more by then. Yes Anthony Rendon Jersey , it could cost more by next winter, if deGrom comes anywhere close to replicating a 2018 season in which he had a 1.70 ERA and struck out 269 in 217 innings.Big-market teams don't need to worry much about things like that. They can afford to wait, because if the price goes up, they can afford to pay it.The New York Yankees often operate that way.With the Mets, you're never sure they could afford it. You're not even sure they can afford to sign deGrom for whatever the price would be now, and their lack of a contract offer at this point in the offseason raises uncomfortable questions.Even though the Mets have signed some stars before free agency (David Wright, 2012) and others after they reached that point (Yoenis Cespedes, 2016), their fans understandably wonder whether the owners are willing to fully commit. Just this winter, the Mets took on a big contract when they traded for Robinson Cano, but they stopped short of engaging with Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, the two biggest impact players on the market.And, of course, they have yet to make an offer to deGrom http://www.nationalsfanproshop.com/authentic-daniel-murphy-jersey , as both sides acknowledged to reporters Thursday.There's still plenty of time between now and Opening Day for the Mets to make an offer, plenty of time for counteroffers, plenty of time for this all to become a non-issue and for the Mets and deGrom to schedule a press conference to announce he has signed.But if they decide not to meet whatever deGrom's price is now, so what? He's still going to pitch for them in 2019, with a $17 million salary that represents an appropriate raise over the $7.4 million he made in 2018. He's still under control for 2020, too.When Brodie Van Wagenen was Jacob deGroms agent last year, he tried to pressure the Mets into a deal. Now, hes the Mets general manager.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press/Associated PressAnd while there's been lots of talk about a memo written by Jeff Berry, now serving as deGrom's agent, that's most likely a non-issue as well. The memo, as published by ESPN.com in December, outlines all sorts of "player-first" strategies players and their union could use to counter what some of them see as unfair practices by management.The most relevant tactic in this case would be for a pitcher approaching free agency to limit his innings if it might help him make the case for a better contract as a free agent. Asked about that possibility at Mets camp Thursday, deGrom didn't run away from it."I think that's a discussion that's going to have to be had with my agents," he said Adam Eaton Jersey , according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.So we're supposed to believe that deGrom would ask out of games early even if it might impact the Mets' position in a pennant race? Sorry, not buying that one (and if he did, is that the kind of guy you want to sign long-term?).OK, so what about this deadline, the one first reported by the Postand later confirmed by Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen? Should it scare the Mets or their fans that deGrom doesn't want negotiations to continue into the season?No, because he's not eligible for free agency this year. And while players are often more reluctant to sign long-term deals in the winter before free agency (next winter, in deGrom's case), would deGrom really refuse to negotiate next winter when the option would be to become a free agent at age 32 at a time when free agency isn't favoring older players?Mets owners Jeff Wilpon and Fred Wilpon (with Brodie Van Wagenen) havent been able to shake the perception theyre running the Mets like a mid-market team.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press/Associated PressAny frustration deGrom is feeling right now would be understandable. The Mets told him more than two months ago they'd get him some kind of contract offer soon, according to a person familiar with the talks. Both sides said Thursday there has yet to be a long-term contract offered.It would make sense for the Mets to engage, not just because they said they would but because they need to find out for sure if what they're willing to pay is anywhere near what deGrom is willing to sign for. But even with an Opening Day deadline, they still have well over a month to do that.The only risk of keeping him without signing him long-term is they could be convinced they can't afford to pay him enough to stay. Small-market teams think that way and get pushed into earlier extensions.Big-market teams shouldn't. They should get an extension done if the numbers make sense and not because of fear of an artificial deadline.But there's that question again, the one that still doesn't have an answer:Are the Mets willing to act like the big-market team they should be?Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.