Here is the next candidate in our search for two new authors. This one, like the first, is also applying for minor league guru.
Minor League, Major Trouble
by Candidate 2
The Chinese have the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity” – translated into English, courtesy of Homer Simpson, it is “crisitunity”. Needless to say, whomever the Mets select as their new GM is going to have a crisitunity to get the organization moving in the right direction. Not least amongst the to-do list is fixing the minor league system, while not as fallow as many would have you believe, has not until this year been the pipeline of talent into Queens that people expected under the Minaya regime, and even still lacks prime impact talent that is ready to contribute on a big league level. Part of the problem is the WFAN fueled ideology of looking at a list of who will be a free agent this coming off season, circling names you recognize, and throwing garbage bags of cash at them. To the professional gas-bag, this is known as “having to do something to compete with the Yankees for the back pages” and “showing the fans you want to win”.
Clearly, the fans are impressed
For the uninitiated, here is why signing big name free agents is an inherently flawed system for building an organization:
•You’re paying a player for what he has already done. Say the Mets are interested in a big name free agent. For argument’s sake, let’s call him Bason Jay. If this player was drafted out of his junior year of college, he was 21 entering pro ball. Most players need 3-4 years of minor league experience before they break into the bigs, and once they do are under that team’s control for six years before being granted free agency. That takes this hypothetical player to the age of 31. By now he is an All Star and an “established veteran®”, and would very much like to be paid as such. This is when the Mets can be counted on to swoop in and make this player very wealthy and comfortable with a multiyear, top dollar deal. Trouble is, his years with the Mets are more likely than not to be part of his decline phase. This means he is making a ton of dough from the Mets for past performance with another club.
•Next, players who qualify as Type A free agents award the team that loses them as a free agent a draft pick from the team to which he is going. You may be wondering “how does this get determined?”, and the answer is it is a complicated formula originally instated by the Freemasons and kept under Bud Selig’s pillow. What it means for the Mets is that when they sign players for a lot of money who are unlikely to improve, and likely to get worse, they lock up a lot of cash, decrease roster flexibility and lose the ability to leverage high draft picks into the next wave of David Wrights.
So what’s a GM to do? Word on the street is that Sandy Alderson is the front runner for the position and some speculate he wants the fabled “full autonomy” that Omar Minaya coveted…in writing (if so, smart move). In terms of the draft, the next GM should use that autonomy to wrest the draft budget out of the penny-pinching hands of the Wilpons. According to Baseball America, the Mets are 20th (!) over the last three years in spending on the draft, averaging about $4.8MM a year. In contrast, the Red Sox, another big market team with their own network that has to contend with the Yankees on a daily basis, averaged $9.4MM. If the Mets split the difference, and increase the draft budget to $7MM a year – they increase, if not the quantity, than certainly the quality of the haul they receive in a given year’s crop. Let’s say they sign 33 players – if two guys make it to the show and are average major leaguers, you are basically getting two big leaguers for an original $7MM investment, coming to $3.5 per guy. That’s less than two mil a year per person for the first three years of major league service, before a player’s arbitration years. Getting average performance that little scratch is, in the words of economist Adam Smith, “ridonkulous”. And all for one mil more than they pay Luis Castillo, a below average player in every respect, and just one man to boot.
Coming up in part 2, we’ll look at three distinct examples of how the Mets have not properly valued minor leaguers, and how it prompted them to make the worst trade in the history of the franchise (and it’s not the one you think)…