The talk surrounding Reyes’ dream visit with the Marlins and the team’s impending signing of every free agent available has already dominated Mets blogs for some time now. It seems all but assured that Reyes is on his way out, be it to the Miami Marlins of Florida or any other club. So, finally, after several months of speculation and held out hope that for some reason, Reyes would forget that $120 million is more than $100 million, we are forced to look at what remains of the Mets as the hot stove begins to heat up. The problem with that? I have no idea what direction we are headed in.
It’s always been if Reyes this, if Reyes that, but, now that it seems certain he won’t be around, what’s the deal? We keep hearing that the Mets may make runs at C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, and Joe Nathan. But so what?
The bottom line is that, if Sandy intends to keep the payroll between $80 and $100 million, we need to call it what it is and rebuild. Plugging any of those guys into our rotation and/or bullpen would be an upgrade, to be sure. But, and I would ask this even if Reyes were still standing there at short, does that really put the Mets where we want to be? The answer seems to unequivocally be no. A couple extra wins would be great. Some assurance at the end of the bullpen would be fantastic. But if you think that team is contending with the big guns in the NL, you’re deluding yourself. However, there is one major block standing in the way of Sandy enacting an all-out rebuilding plan.
I have maintained all along that I don’t believe David Wright is tradable. Not because no one will take him, but because there is no equal value to be had. I still believe that. But the fact remains that if Wright weren’t on this team, I have a hard time seeing us doing anything but firesaling (v. to firesale) once Reyes walks out the door. Because of Wright, though, we are forced to examine every other alternative. The sad reality is that I don’t see a quick fix for these Mets. One of the most biting criticisms I heard about Mets fans this year was that our team is so awful we have talked ourselves into believing that Turner, Tejada, Pagan, and Duda are solid everyday contributors. Unfortunately, and as much as I like those guys, it’s true. The likes of most of the Mets aren’t contributing starters on good teams. They just aren’t. Look at the middle-of-the-pack players for a team like the Cardinals or Phillies. With the possible exception of Duda, no Mets middle-of-the-pack (or even slightly better) player is starting over their guys. That’s the cold hard truth and when you have so many guys who fit into that category (Pridie, Capuano, Thole, etc.), you need to start over.
Ask yourself these three questions. Is there a contender for which R.A. Dickey is a top-2 starter? Is there a contender sporting Manny Acosta as the most reliable 8th inning bridge? Is there a playoff team for which Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada are seen not as a hole in the lineup, but as gutsy participants in a position battle? No. And that’s why there are no quick fixes for the Mets. If we had one of those problems, sure, use the money lost on Reyes to upgrade one of those spots. But with all of those issues, even the wisest spent $20 million offers no solution.
So, we need a sign from Sandy. Is there a contender in this group only $20 million away? Or is it time to start over? My belief is that if Reyes leaves, we have to start over. I’m not convinced we couldn’t do that and keep Wright, but I don’t think Wright deserves to weather that storm. I love our guys, make no mistake, but to take an honest step back and call them a likely contender just isn’t possible. The team that a $100 million payroll will get us right now will keep us hovering around that 80-win mark and spare us embarrassment. But to expect anything more is a folly typical of previous front office regimes and one I can only hope this group has the foresight to avoid.