Fred Wilpon’s proclamation in Port St. Lucie yesterday the Mets are now out of debt and ready to jump into the free-agent market brought a skeptical response.
The feeling wasn’t “oh boy, let’s go get Jacoby Ellsbury next year,’’ but rather “I’ll believe it when it see it.’’
Remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and not re-signing R.A. Dickey spoke volumes about immediately competing.
I never thought the Wilpons were cheap. I thought they didn’t always spend wisely and gave Omar Minaya almost carte blanche to bring in whoever he wanted.
The Wilpons once were spending over $140 million in payroll and meted out generous contracts to guys like Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Luis Castillo, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez.
That’s not being cheap.
They also gave long-term contracts early in their careers to Jose Reyes and David Wright when they could have had them for much cheaper. That was good business.
Also, don’t forget lesser tier contracts to guys like Scott Schoeneweis, Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Guillermo Mota and Julio Franco. That’s more misguided than cheap.
Wilpon’s name was on all those checks, so let’s dispense of the notion they aren’t willing to spend. Isn’t going after Michael Bourn some indication?
The Mets are committed to stocking their farm system, which is the right way to go. The minor leagues represent a two-pronged approach to building a franchise: 1) to develop the talent to play on the major league level, and 2) to have the trade chips to deal for proven talent.
The Mets have some good, young pitching with potential, but are thin on position player prospects. They don’t want to deal their pitching and have few major players of value to trade – they don’t want to part with Jon Niese or Ike Davis and can’t trade Wright now – so their primary route for immediate improvement is by the free-agent market.
Sandy Alderson was an austerity-driven general manager while with Oakland and San Diego, and his first two years with the Mets. If Wilpon is willing to spend, it will be interesting to see how Alderson will react.
I don’t expect him to abandon his method of evaluating players, but hope he’ll show some daring if there is a big-ticket player available. Curtis Granderson could be had next winter, but are all his homers – figure a decline moving out of Yankee Stadium – worth all his strikeouts? I don’t think Alderson would agree.
Ellsbury would be ideal for Citi Field, but won’t come cheaply.
But, that’s next year.
The first test to the believability of that statement will come at the end of spring training when players are released to create a new free-agent market. That’s a wave of available talent, and I would guess, there could be an outfielder or two that could start for the Mets. Nothing great, but better than what is there now.
There could also be a reliever or two.
The second test will be at the trade deadline if the Mets are competitive. Alderson waited too long yesterday in the hope the Mets’ bullpen would right itself. It didn’t happen and soon after the All-Star break the season began to spiral out of control. By the deadline it was clear the season was lost.
The first two tests are important because they will show the Mets’ true intentions as to fielding a competitive team.
Wilpon also said yesterday spending would in part be contingent on attendance. Attendance has steadily declined and the way the roster is presently constructed doesn’t inspire confidence.
Signing Wright was the first step, but there are so many more to take.