Pennywise and Pound Foolish – A Case for the Mets to lay off the Free Agent Market

 

Yes, the Mets have a lot of money coming off payroll this offseason.  But spending that money on a big ticket free agent may not be all that prudent. 

How can I possibly say that, given that trouble we have scoring runs?

I didn’t say don’t spend money.  It has to be spent wisely.  For those that do not learn from the past are destined repeat it.  

We have a lot of young talent.  They’re going to need to be paid.  Matt Harvey’s not making a lot now, but he will be before too long.  If Wheeler continues to progress, he’s going to need to be paid.  Niese is wrapped up for the next few seasons.  Dillon Gee is showing he’s a major league pitcher.  Jeremy Hefner shows he belongs.  We have Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard waiting in the wings.  

That’s seven starters for a five man rotation within the next two years, health willing.  Maybe not all three (Wheeler, Montero and Syndergaard) will make it.  We’re seeing what we have with Hefner and Gee.  But what we do have right now is a young and solid starting staff with payroll being cleared.  

Right now, the team is in the very real and very enviable position to have the opportunity to make wise decisions to lock up a potentially very good and very deep starting pitching staff to make a prolonged run without having the burden of bad contracts weighing them down.

Pitching wins championships.  If you don’t believe me, look at the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants have won two of the last three world series.  They did it on the backs of their pitching staffs.  

Even with a weak offense, having a solid starting rotation gives you a chance to contend every single year.  

But you still need offense… why not make the splash, spend the money and get a big bat?

If the right situation comes up, sure.  But look at the free agent market.  Is there really, really a difference maker this season that you want to overpay that can possibly hamstring you when you need to pay your bread and butter starting pitching?  Or even worse, do you want a bad contract to an aging position player to get in the way of paying one of your own younger players that makes a breakthrough because you have to chose which homegrown player to keep and which one to let walk?

If Travis d’Arnaud becomes the stud everyone’s expecting him to be and he becomes the east coast version of Buster Posey, he’s going to be paid.  We have David Wright wrapped up (I’m not concerned about the length of his contract – he didn’t enter into an 8 year deal approaching his mid 30s.  It will expire during his age 37 season and we won’t be saddled with years and money tied up in a 38+ year old player).

Ike Davis likely won’t be there for a long term solution unless he quickly turns things around.  I think we may have something with Josh Satin for the next couple of seasons if he’s given a real chance.  He can hit and he’s cheap for now.

Daniel Murphy isn’t making a lot of money (by baseball terms, at least).  I like him.  I like him a lot.  He hits a lot of doubles, but with the streakiness and the low on base percentage, maybe his future is with the team, maybe it’s not.

Shortstop is to be determined.  

Then there’s the outfield.  It was the joke of he offseason.  

Sure, I’d love to trade for Giancarlo Stanton.  But for the right deal.  If we can’t get him for the right price, why clog up the outfield for a bad free agent move?  I don’t see an issue with bringing Marlon Byrd back for one more season.  He’s done well and even though he’s a free agent, he’s not going to break the bank for anyone or command a long term deal.  Eric Young is only 28 and he may be a solution for the next couple of years in Left.

And if the team can contend next year, what about Carlos Beltran on a one or two year deal? 

But there’s still one outfield spot (or two, depending on how you look at it).

And we have calvary coming.  Kirk Nieuwenhius has played better as of late, but I don’t see him as the solution.  Juan Lagares hasn’t shown he can hit at the Major League Level, but he’s hit in the minors and he’s shown he can be an outstanding defender.  Matt den Dekker is another contender.  He hasn’t hit much, but he’s also great defensively and may have made the team out of Spring Training if he hadn’t broken his wrist. Cesar Puello has been tearing the cover off the ball in AA.  There’s controversy around him, but he’s another contender.  Son of former Major Leaguer Cory Vaughn is in AA and is another contender (to a lesser extent).  Brandon Nimmo is young and still in A ball, but he’s in the wings.  

Not all five of these guys will make it.  Two may not even make it.  But we only need one of them.  Do we want to block one of them when that money may be better spent on a dominating rotation or locking up another younger player that emerges as a must keep?  

The Wilpons aren’t cheap.  Let’s not forget they have spent plenty of money in the past.  The Mets have had one of the highest payrolls in the sport in recent years.  Yes, payroll has been slashed in recent years and I’m not defending them.  I’m just pointing out reality. The perfect storm hit the team in recent years that led to the need to slash payroll and lay dormant the last couple of seasons.  The Great Recession happened.  Bernie Madoff happened.  Citifield was built.  Disposable income dried up for many Americans and attendance was down all across the majors, not just the Mets.  The stock market tanked and Madoff was caught.  There went that income stream.  The sudden drop in revenue occured just when a new stadium was built and expenses increased because there was new debt to pay.  

When you have revenues decreasing and expenses increasing – it becomes a game of survival.  If you can’t increase revenues, you have to cut expenses.  Payroll was slashed in a not-to-different way from what many of us experienced in the Great Recession.   

The Wilpons will spend again.  This time, they just have to spend it wisely.  And making a splash in the free agent market just for the sake of spending money is foolish.  

Fear not, fellow Mets fans.  The future is bright.  It is bright indeed. 

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