Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

Oct 30

Mets Matters: Team To Pick Up Options For David Wright And R.A. Dickey This Week

The Mets have yet to open negotiations with either David Wright or R.A. Dickey, so the published report of a $100 million package for Wright is premature.

One internet outlet claims the Mets have the $100 million offer on the table, but that isn’t true as much as it is conjecture for a reasonable starting spot.

All options for the 2013 season must be exercised industry-wide within five days of the end of the World Series. The NFL trade deadline this week was extended because of Hurricane Sandy, but I have not heard of any extensions for Major League Baseball, so I am figuring they are remaining the same.

So, expect the Mets to pick up Wright’s $16 million option and Dickey’s $5 million option for 2013. Both are no-brainers and will allow the Mets time to work out the appropriate extensions. GM Sandy Alderson said his goal is to finalize both this offseason.

According to Wright’s contract, the Mets have until tomorrow, or three days from the end of the World Series, to pick up the option.

Neither Wright nor Dickey want to negotiate during the 2013 season, and both expressed their willingness to re-sign with the Mets is contingent on the seriousness of the team to build around them. That, presumably, means if the Mets are able to sign the other.

MEJIA HIT: Jenrry Mejia, who prefers starting to the bullpen, gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in 2.1 innings in a start for the Dominican Republic against Escogido in his first winter-ball appearance.

The Mets have not decided what role is best suited for Mejia, but last year’s numbers indicate better success starting than coming out of the pen.

As of now, assuming all their ducks line up, the Mets don’t have room for Mejia in their 2013 rotation, but do have room for him in their bullpen.

MANUEL UP FOR COLORADO JOB:  Former Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel, who arguably set back Mejia’s career by insisting he work out of the bullpen in 2012 when he was clearly not ready, interviewed for the vacant managerial job with the Colorado Rockies.

Manuel was 204-213 for the Mets from midway through the 208 season through 2010, which considering the team’s lack of pitching in that span, isn’t too bad.

Another former Mets coach, Rick Peterson, is interviewing for Boston’s pitching coach job. Considering head case Josh Beckett is gone, Peterson will have a fighting chance if he gets the job.

WRIGHT GOLD GLOVE CANDIDATE: Wright is the favorite to win the National League’s Gold Glove Award, which is to be announced tonight.

 

Sep 04

Red Sox Doing Valentine Wrong

Whether you like him or not, you have to admit Bobby Valentine is getting a raw deal in Boston. Big deal owner John Henry said Valentine’s job is safe through this season. If ownership really wanted to send a message to that dysfunctional clubhouse the Red Sox need to extend Valentine’s deal through at least next year.

Management put Valentine in an impossible position when the hired him by giving him that toxic clubhouse. The Red Sox helped themselves with that trade, getting rid of over $200 million is salary and clubhouse cancer Josh Beckett.

With all their payroll flexibility, they can add several good pieces and Valentine should get the chance to work with them. It would be unfair to sack him. It is even more unfair to let him twist in the wind. If there’s any chance he won’t be back, they should do it now.

But, if they did, it would be giving in the inmates for the second straight year.