Dec 14

Phillies land Lee in stunning turnaround

On a day Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Johan Santana won’t  be available until July at the earliest and Oliver Perez had a chance of going to spring training with a chance to compete for a job, the Philadelphia

LEE: Back in Philly

Phillies stunned the sport by bringing back Cliff Lee.

Ouch.

Lee left money and years on the table to return to Philadelphia, the place where he was most comfortable, now even more cozy because he’s joining  a rotation that includes Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. The Phillies’ team he left is better now than when he was there, and now arguably is the best in baseball.

Never mind that the Yankees were spurned. No tears for them as they’ll sign Andy Pettitte as a stop gap and add somebody at the All-Star break. I feel a little for the Texas Rangers, but they probably made off better in the long run by not being saddled with a huge contract. With Lee, they might have become the Mets in four years.

The Mets and Phillies are close in payroll, but there’s such a disparity in talent. So much so, that adding Lee wouldn’t have put them over the top. Adding Santana didn’t put them over the top, either.

You can try to convince yourself  Halladay and Lee are 32, that Oswalt is showing breakdown signs, that Lee had a bad back, and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, that Jayson Werth is gone so there is a closing window in Philadelphia. Maybe so, but before it slams shut the Phillies will have played a lot of October baseball games. Maybe even spilled some champagne.

For the past four years the Phillies have been more aggressive and smarter than the Mets, and eclipsed them in the standings despite similar resources. The Mets have spent money since 2006, but not wisely. The Mets, in essence are starting over with a plan to make up for the poor choices of the past. The Phillies’ choices in that span have worked and they continue to feed the monster.

Maybe, when it is done eating, the Mets will be in position to do something. But, it won’t be anytime soon.

Dec 13

Are you ready to sacrifice 2011?

Sandy Alderson insists the Mets will compete in 2011, but at the same time acknowledges limited resources and holes in the rotation and bullpen. The plan is for those injured to bounce back healthy and the others to play at the top of their game.

Don’t expect Johan Santana before the All-Star break at the earliest. We’ve known since he joined the organization this would be the case, but it is sinking in after coming home with scraps from the winter meetings. Yes, the Mets needed a back-up catcher and another bullpen arm, but that’s not enough to get it done.

Alderson said today he’d like seven or eight arms to compete for starter roles but came up with only Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, John Niese, Dillon Gee and Pat Misch. Jenrry Mejia, he said, isn’t ready. Alderson didn’t say where the other arms would come from. Chris Young is somebody they are looking at, but he’s a project and wants more than what the Mets want to give.

Everything has to break right for the Mets to have a competitive season. That much Alderson has told us. He just hasn’t said how this is to happen.

Dec 09

Mets coming home with scraps

Scott Boras was right, Carlos Beltran will start the season with the Mets. The Red Sox signing Carl Crawford put an official end to that wishful thinking. So, with the exception of second base, two slots in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets are set for 2011.

Sandy Alderson said he wouldn’t make a splash and he has been true to his word. Alderson said last night it would be highly unlikely the Mets would leave Orlando today with a starting pitcher. There’s still interest in Chris Young, but he’s thinking $5 million a year while the Mets are thinking less than half that. They are talking with Freddy Garcia.

The Mets have added a mediocre arm to the bullpen and a mediocre back-up catcher. The Mets are hoping three key players – Beltran, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay – are healthy and two starters will fall out of the sky.

All along, we’ve been looking forward to 2012, and this week just underscores that sentiment. Alderson did say the Mets would be competitive this season, but that’s vague. Everything has to break right for the Mets to be competitive and how often do things always break right?

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 06

Winter Meetings open with stunning Werth deal

Nobody saw this one coming. Jayson Werth was going to stay in Philly or go to Boston. He would make his money, but $126 million over seven years from the Washington Nationals was completely off the radar.

WERTH: Mets shouldn't be swayed by deal.

Losing Werth weakens the Phillies, but they are resilient, willing to spend and will find a way to replace him. No tears shed there. As for the Nationals, he can’t help but make them better, but this is a team that just lost Adam Dunn so are they upgrading the offense that much?

Werth is good player, but how much of that production comes from hitting in Philadelphia’s bandbox and the protection afforded him in that lineup? Not sure he’ll do the same for the Nationals.

Word is the Nationals aren’t done and are willing to throw money after pitching, notably Carl Pavano.

We know the Mets aren’t as good as Philly, Atlanta and probably the Marlins. Now the Nationals are making noises like they want to escape the NL East cellar. Sad to say, but they just might be the yardstick the Mets will measure themselves by in the near future.

Washington’s aggressiveness is being noted by the Mets, but hopefully they will stay the course and give Sandy Alderson’s blueprint time to develop. Trying to keep up with the Joneses with foolish spending is what got the Mets into trouble in the first place.

Mets fans have been clamoring for change since the end of the 2007 season when the team blew a seven game lead with 17 to play. There has been no structured plan for development the past three years as the Mets approached each offseason with a piecemeal approach.

This time, the Mets are trying patience and trying to build from the bottom up. That’s been the party line and Alderson has not wavered and suggested this team will be competitive by throwing large sums of money at players.

There is a lot of work to do, and most of it will come next winter after Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and probably Francisco Rodriguez are off the books. That’s when the spending will come. For now, it’s evaluating, minor moves and hoping players stay healthy as the way to go for 2011.

It’s tempting to watch the Nationals and give in to the spending impulse, but in the long term that’s not the way to go.

We’ve wanted a front office with vision, organization and planning for three years now. We now have one, so let’s give them the time to get it done, no matter how much spending goes on this week.