Mar 02

Impact of Wilpon’s financial problems already being felt.

F. WILPON: There's a Ponzi connection to the field.

Some have suggested the product on the field has not yet been impacted by the Ponzi scheme, but that is hardly close to the truth. In fact, much of what the Mets are doing with their team is directly resulted in the fallout from the Madoff situation.

There were rumblings of the Wilpons being in financial straits for over a year now, with a clear sign last July at the trade deadline when the Mets, within striking distance of the wild card, stood pat and did nothing to improve their club. It takes money to win and the Mets added no significant payroll at a time when they could have improved their team and made a change in the attitude at Citi Field.

A second clear sign – although we didn’t learn of this until recently – was receiving a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball at the end of last season. This is a team, despite a new stadium, that was beginning to swim in debt. If we had known it then, we could have been spared the off-season angst of them not doing anything in the winter.

Sign three, and very significant, was the hiring of general manager Sandy Alderson at MLB’s urging. Commissioner Bud Selig took a proactive approach in getting Alderson hired by the Wilpon’s, perhaps in large part, to be a caretaker for the franchise as it explores minority ownership investors and later a possible sale.

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Feb 02

It’s the not knowing that’s hard

Usually teams have a rough idea heading into spring training of what to expect for the season. Not so for the 2011 edition of the New York Mets. They could move dramatically in either direction.

Sandy Alderson said he’s hoping for a competitive season, which means building up from .500 and laying the groundwork for 2012 and beyond. However, in the back of his mind, he knows it is possible he might have to blow up the team by the All-Star break.

With the Wilpons facing legal problems in the wake of their involvement with Bernie Madoff, we won’t know the full impact of their financial situation until after the lawsuits are settled and that could take a long time. While it seems doubtful they will be forced to sell controlling interest of the Mets, we can’t say that with full certainty.

And, with buying limited interest in the franchise not including a part of Citi Field or SNY, where’s the incentive for attracting new investors? That might be harder to pull off than imagined.

But, if things continue to spiral downward, it’s almost a guarantee Alderson might have to sell off some of the pieces on the field to cut costs to attract a new buyer. Carlos Beltran, gone after this season, would be the first to go. Next, I can see them dealing Jose Reyes for chips rather then spring for a long term deal. If the team tanks in the first half and he’s having a good year, Angel Pagan would draw interest.

They will attempt to trade Francisco Rodriguez, but with that $17.5 million option, that would be tough to do. About as hard as trading Oliver Perez. I’ve been hearing about wanting to get out of Johan Santana’s contract, but with him not available until at least the All-Star break, what team is going to want to take that gamble? Jason Bay’s contract makes him untradeable and David Wright, who might command the most, is the face of the franchise. You have to have some assets.

If everybody remains healthy and have good years, winning 85 to 90 games isn’t completely unrealistic. It is what the team is hoping for. You really can’t say building for because they did little this winter

However, if there’s financial pressure on the Wilpons, there’s no telling what this team could look like come July.

Feb 01

Alderson wants to cut budget in the future

I wrote the other day to not expect the Mets go crazy next winter when the contracts of Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and possibly Francisco Rodriguez come off the books. Sandy Alderson pretty much confirmed that this week.

“Our payroll going into the season will be somewhere between 140 and 150 million [dollars],’’ Alderson said.

Then he drooped the other shoe.

“I think that’s significantly higher than we’d like it to be on an annual basis.’’

Ouch.

With the Phillies’ spending beginning at over $160 million for this season, can the Mets realistically expect to compete if they want to go “significantly,’’ lower?

With Alderson not defining what a significant reduction will be, it doesn’t take a stretch to reason the Mets don’t figure to spend extravagantly in the market, but will use the farm system to develop their team.

Building from within is the preferable way to go, but requires considerable patience and luck. To make it work, as San Francisco did last year, one must also develop pitching and the Mets don’t have any major league ready arms in the near future.

Building from within also requires the willingness to shop the market to patch the holes and in that regard we don’t know of Alderson’s aggressiveness when it comes to pursuing free agents. Even if the Mets slash their budget next year, he’ll still have greater resources than he did in Oakland and San Diego.

When he was hired, Alderson said he understood New York was a different animal and he had act to keep the fan base interested and excited.

So far, we’ve been told to wait. And, we’re hearing it again.

Dec 07

Immediate forecast for change not looking good.

The Mets are interested in Freddy Garcia, Chris Young and Jeff Francis, but Sandy Alderson said the Mets will only sign one middle-tier starter. That means the fifth starter will either be Dillon Gee, Oliver Perez, Pat Misch or maybe another sterling arm from the system.

Young and Francis, reportedly, are asking for one year, $5-million deals loaded with incentives, which Alderson described as “high.’’ Fact is, as a going rate, that’s a pretty decent price for mediocrity, but it might be too much of a reach since both are coming off shoulder injuries.

The Mets aren’t going to get catcher Russell Martin, which was interesting for a moment. Asking price of $5 million is too high. He’ll end up with Boston or the Yankees. They’ll go really low rent for Josh Thole’s back-up.

At least Alderson hasn’t promised us trades and signings he knows he can’t deliver. Alderson said this is going to take time and all indications are he’s not going to blink and make a panic move that will bite the Mets for years to come.

The only way the Mets can make substantial improvements for 2011 by addition is to eat the Perez and Castillo contracts and add payroll. That won’t happen.

Dec 04

Making a go with little

Sandy Alderson said it again, that the Mets have little payroll flexibility and aren’t expected to make a splash in the free-agent market.

Again, even if the Mets cut Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, they are still on the hook for $18 million between them. It’s not as if the money could be spent elsewhere.

The Mets need to find two starters, bullpen depth, a second baseman (if it is not Castillo), a back-up catcher and bench depth. Try doing that with about $10 million to spend.

There’s not much in the minor league system to help immediately. And, Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia are best served in the minor leagues for this year, Alderson said. There aren’t the prospects available to make a trade similar to the one Boston did for Adrian Gonzalez. And, if there was, the Mets are committed to not spending.

Again, we can re-examine trading Jose Reyes and David Wright, but you’d be dealing your two best players. And, with Reyes, his value because of injury and lack of production the past two years, and that he’ll be a free agent after 2011, make him difficult to deal.

And, while a solid player, Wright isn’t one that would bring a boatload of talent in return. Plus, he’d leave a gaping hole at third base.

Alderson said this would be a process and he’s not lying. This is becoming more apparent as the winter meetings approach. They might be able to add a band-aid or two, but other than that, hope for 2011 is for Reyes, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran to get healthy and continued development from players such as Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and Ike Davis.

As of now, hope is the plan.