Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3 Questions: New York Mets

The Common Man kept putting it off and putting it off, but it’s finally time to finish our 3 Questions series with a look at the New York Mets (you can find links to all of our 3 questions series here). Really, TCM just kept waiting for the Mets to do something…anything…but it never happened. And with the big transition in the front office, there are a lot of questions that loom for the Mets. Here are the three biggest:

Question 1:
The Mets have spent wildly on top-end talent in the 2000s, and have seen a very mixed return on their investments. Jason Bay’s first season was a disaster in the new Citi Field. Oliver Perez has ruined his career in the last two years. Francisco Rodriguez has proven volatile and will probably make $29 million over the next two years to throw 120 innings. Carlos Beltran has been hurt for much of the past two years. Johan Santana has proven fragile. And the less said about Luis Castillo the better. Even homegrown talent Jose Reyes has seen his production plummet while his price tag balloons. The septet will earn around $97.5 million in 2011.

Frankly, it’s hard to believe they could be worse, but it’s possible. Together, the seven contributed 9.0 WAR in 2010. Castillo and Perez will likely be gone, but combined to be below replacement level in 2010. So their loss will not hurt. But Santana, who was excellent even while suffering from shoulder problems, will miss at least half of the coming season, and may not be the same pitcher when he returns. Carlos Beltran is moving to a less demanding defensive position, and has already been sidelined this spring because of his balky knee. Rodriguez was probably at the upper limit of what he can realistically contribute given his role and abilities last year. Which means that the Mets will be hoping for big rebounds from Reyes (in a contract year) and Bay. Frankly, even a small correction from these two will likely make the entire group more valuable than last year. But it won’t give the Mets their money’s worth.

Question 2: How quickly can the Mets resolve the financial crisis that seems to have paralyzed them?

The contracts of the players above, with the exception of Reyes, pretty much make them untradeable at this point. Assuming the club isn’t motivated to deal David Wright, there really isn’t anything approaching financial relief available to the club until at least next offseason. Which is a problem. When it was initially discovered that the Wilpons had invested (and profited) heavily in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, many predicted that there would be some financial questions with the club. But did anyone guess it would be this bad? To the point where the Wilpons are going to have to sell at least (almost) half the club to dig themselves out of their financial hole?

It’s fortunate that, with the Sandy Alderson takeover, the Mets weren’t poised to make a lot of moves anyway. But as the club seeks to recover, weak financial footing could force the team to trade off its well-paid stars who actually are worth the money, which will extend the rebuilding process significantly. Otherwise, the answer to the question above is probably “not quickly.”

Question 3: So, barring an infusion of cash, should they jettison the escape pods?

It’s incredibly tempting to say yes. Fully recovered from his concussion, David Wright is likely to hold his value over the next three years, and could bring a substantial return from a club like the Angels, who have an identifiable need at 3B and apparently no qualms about adding money via trade. Assuming they are uninterested (or unable, given their financial situation) to work out an extension with Jose Reyes, the Minnesota Twins might come calling in June or July. Angel Pagan is a strong player and underpaid, but he’s also already 29 and will be a free agent after 2012. Mike Pelfrey may also be a candidate to get moved; given that his durability, ERA, and win totals may make him overvalued by some GMs based on his low strikeout rate.

Actually, the more The Common Man thinks about it, destroying this village may be the only way to save it with the Wilpons as the ownership group in charge, and without more money incoming. The danger, however, is that this could poison the waters in Queens for the Alderson crew before they get a chance to truly right the Mets’ ship. Really, the best outcome is clearly a sale or partial sale of the club. Which, frankly, doesn’t sound like a lot of fun either. Sorry, Mets fans. Will the Mets get any bang for their big bucks?

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