Now that the trading deadline has come and gone, it may be time to really put to rest the idea that this team is “rebuilding” or “evaluating” or that “the adults in the room” are following “the plan” or anything else like that.
This writer has been called an optimist, a sunshiner, an apologist, a Kool-Aid drinker, and worse, but as Emerson once said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Only the most blindly optimistic of fans could continue to believe that anything is going on with these Mets aside from the Wilpons doing absolutely everything necessary to retain control including the baseball ownership equivalent of financial carpet bombing, followed by constant damage control and Sandy Alderson coming before the cameras to rationalize it all.
As 2012 began and Met fans had been treated to what has been called the single largest one-year payroll cut in history, we were supposed to feel relieved that Omar was gone, and that finally we would begin building a team the right way, whatever that might be. A few great pickups like Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley and a truckload of steroids?
The bottom line is that ownership has been lying loudly and boldly for years now. There was the WFAN appearance at the end of the year a few seasons back. There was a Wilpon spokesman publicly trashing the author of the idea that Wilpon finances were headed for a serious fall. There was Fred assuring everyone that the Madoff situation would not affect Met fortunes. And there was Sandy with his already infamous and positively Nixonian/Clintonian “We’re buyers!” All Sandy needed was to expound upon this by saying something like “People have got to know whether or not their GM is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.” Or maybe “I’m going to say this again: I did not have trade discussions with that man, Mr. Wilpon.”
Yes, as fans we have been buying BS from ownership for years now.
The argument was made here and elsewhere that while the first half was exciting and fun, a team with a horrible bullpen, atrocious defense, negligible power and speed, and even less depth simply could not keep this up. This turned out to be true, in a fashion that made the Sixth Annual NY Mets Summer Swoon even more memorable than other recent editions.
Could Alderson have added a piece (or two) weeks ago to the bullpen? It is hard to say and very reasonable to accept that the market had not developed yet, and few if any moves were being made.
But this is not a rookie GM. This is not Omar Minaya, looking behind every potted plant for an aging veteran to award tens of millions to or an injured pitcher to trade for. This is Sandy Alderson, a man supposedly very wise in these matters. The man who built the 1989-1991 A’s, the man who is the father of the still-successful Moneyball A’s, now fighting for a Wild Card behind Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.
Isn’t the reason you pay a lot for a man like Sandy Alderson because he is supposed to find a market or create one? Because he is the smartest man in the room and if he can manage to pry Wheeler for Beltran, shouldn’t he be able to manage to make an early strike and create a market in which to trade for a reliever or two? Or if he indeed has financial resources, obtain a badly needed catcher? How do markets start to emerge? By people creating them, right?
But what if he simply has no money to spend? What if his minor league system is still loaded with Minaya detritus in the form of mishandled pitchers who decline further at each level they ascend to, and players who feel that you can never spend enough time on the DL?
What is going on here?
Is Alderson really an indecisive man of questionable integrity?
Or is there a larger picture here? Did he really reluctantly take this job to help salvage the franchise at Bud Selig’s behest and to be the front man for Fred Wilpon, who may be underground in Mongolia right now for all we know? Is Sandy speaking his own words, or someone else’s, or just doing the best he can to appease fans while knowing he simply has no money to spend, precious few really top prospects, and a very uncertain future?
Some combination of the latter seems likely.
Sandy cannot trade Harvey and he cannot trade Wheeler. He knows that. First off, Harvey is the only MLB-ready pitcher he has really in the entire system, and the Wheeler trade is the only thus-far good move he has made as GM, sad as that may seem. The Francisco and Rauch signings were head-scratchers at the time, and while the Pagan trade sure looked at least decent when made, it has turned out to be poor. Not so much due to Pagan, who as usual had one good month and has stunk the other three, but due to the surprisingly weak production of Torres and Ramirez. There’s not much else to judge Sandy on except what he has said and what he has not done.
Again, it is easy to accept that there were no moves to be made, but surely some of the players who changed teams did so due to monetary reasons (were there not several catchers available who were deemed too expensive?), and the Mets were not in the game for any of them. If this is truly due to the idea that nothing really would have helped, that we are rebuilding, and only concerned for the future, then why so many unsigned draft picks?
This writer does not ever claim to be a draft expert, but the most recent lists seen at Mets.com and elsewhere seem to show a large number of unsigned picks in the latter rounds, and an unsigned pitcher with a fine resume from the second round.
If we are not going to make any moves to get better right now, would it not seem that signing as many draft picks as possible would be the natural corollary to this?
What’s the thought process here? Complete inaction by a team which—despite the recent horrid stretch—remains just four games under .500 with over a third of the season to go. OK, so we are playing for the future. Then why not sign that second round pitcher? Exactly how much money could this have cost?
So what is next? Omar’s remaining albatrosses of Bay and Johan will cost about $41.5 million in 2013. David Wright’s option is $16 mil and Dickey’s is $5 mil. Francisco will earn $6.5 That’s $69 million. For five players. The other twenty players? At an average of a million a spot, we are basically around 2012 levels. Are we to assume payroll will rise significantly? We have heard constantly about how much money the team continues to lose. Met attendance has gone from a high of just over 51,000 in 2008 to just under 30,000 this year, going down every year. Surely with the lack of starpower, attendance the rest of this year will be weak.
Yes, the Wilpons took in money from new investors, but the money owed in the Madoff settlement remains to be finalized and paid. Loans from banks are still out there. And massive debt from the creation of Citi Field is not going away any time soon.
Is there reason to believe that this team is going to be able to do anything of significance in terms of adding salary in the offseason?
The feeling here is that we have just heard the resounding answer to that, and it is a loud and definitive no.
There’s just not much ready in the minors. Mejia and Familia once held huge hope, but neither seems even close to being ready to help at the MLB level. Johan Santana gave us a no-hitter, but clearly will never again be anything other than a passable number 2 or 3 starter. If he can stay healthy. Jon Niese is a good pitcher who has been better this year, but remains a bit of an enigma. Dillon Gee is surely a good fifth starter, and Dickey continues to be a fine, reliable pitcher. But the team clearly needs Harvey to continue his progress and for Wheeler to do the same in Buffalo. Scary as it may seem, the rotation will be this team’s key to having a shot at being .500+ in the next year or two.
The bullpen does not need to be dissected. It is just awful. Bobby Parnell has been trying to harness his potential since his college days, and he may never get it done. A total remake is in order, but with Francisco and Parnell sure to be back, and precious little to spend, it is hard to see what can be done. We will probably see Josh Edgin and maybe Ramon Ramirez, who may be primed for a low-cost rebound season.
The catcher position? Several mediocre names which were apparently available this trade deadline were said to be too costly for the Mets. Is this going to change this offseason? Surely the inexpensive Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy (who despite being the grittiest player since Ty Cobb, somehow did not draw flies in offers from other teams), and Ruben Tejada will return. As will Wright, most likely.
And will spring training see a battle of attrition between Valdespin, Kirk, Torres, Duda, Bay, and Den Dekker to see whose glaring deficiencies glare the least?
It’s not a pretty picture. And the sixth annual collapse and continued injuries lead one to wonder if this group might simply be best served by beginning its demolition.
David Wright would bring 2-3 excellent prospects. Depending on the team, he could bring a couple of future starters, maybe even a future star or two. Dickey could probably bring 1-2 good prospects, especially considering his relatively tiny salary for 2013 and potential longevity.
Would this be wise? It sure seems as though it is time to consider it.
Alderson did pry Wheeler from the Giants. Might he be able to obtain 3 to 5 Wheelers for Wright and Dickey? Would this be the way to go? Or just deal Wright, as someone out there must be ready to give an Omar-like Colon package of three future all-stars for Wright, and maybe you keep Dickey.
Release Jason Bay into the wild, don’t offer Torres arbitration, and just go with Duda in LF, Kirk in CF, and Valdy in RF, and hope at least two of them become viable starters?
Spend the little you have on a serious platoon/backup catcher, and for 2-3 new bullpen arms, hope for Johan and Gee to be healthy, and go with (Dickey)/Johan/Niese/Gee/Harvey (and Pelf/Young/a newcomer), with Wheeler hopefully replacing Johan at either the trade deadline or in 2014?
Then you have a very cheap young team, a handful of new top prospects, and really have some money to spend during or after 2013 when you see where you need to shore up: i.e., can Ike really rebound? Is Murph the answer? Do you need to really spend on a catcher? Which OF spot(s) need(s) (a) new face(s)? And you have enough money to sign more draft picks and maybe even international free agents.
This would be difficult, but can fans not see what the alternative is?
Do we really want this again next year? Sign Wright and Dickey to long-term deals, have decent starting pitching, a horrible bullpen, an anemic outfield, and no money to fix things or sign more draftees? Because based on everything we have seen this year, these seem to be the choices.
This space is not necessarily endorsing the radical nuclear option, but it is definitely time to consider it. Bringing back basically the same team is simply begging for miracles, especially as we may not see a repeat of 2012 from Dickey and Wright.
Ownership needs to be honest with itself and the fans and decide if it is serious about rebuilding, which does not seem to currently be the case. If it is, and if they really just cannot add payroll and afford to sign more draft picks, it is time to go all in and let Alderson use his skills and see what sort of return can be obtained for Wright and Dickey, and it the two can yield 4-5 top prospects, the trigger may have to be pulled. This would mean that after 2013, payroll would shrink by over $50 million, some maybe during the season if a hopefully healthy Johan can be moved. Let the kids develop, sign the draft picks, and use this money on acquisition of younger players to buttress the current Mets who show they are for real by the end of 2013.
By then Wheeler should hopefully take his place beside Harvey, and the 3-5 prospects acquired for Wright (and Dickey?) could be developing, and the franchise would begin to take on a very different face, with Wright, Johan, Bay, and maybe Dickey joining Reyes and Beltran in other cities.
It’s disturbing to think about, but this group seems fatally flawed and in need of a major cleansing. This writer has never and will never be one of the “We never won with Wright” types. But at some point serious, major change is needed.
Now might be the time. Wally Backman might be ready in a year or two to take charge of this group when it is rejuvenated with youth and many new faces.
Perhaps the beginning of this rejuvenation will be making some major changes this offseason.
Because what has been going on for the last several years—at all levels—simply is not working.