So the winter meetings were not a total loss. The Mets signed Mike Hessman and Clint Evers. I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath…
…has your excitement died down yet? But seriously, was that the quietest winter meetings for the Mets ever? Not only didn’t they do anything except signing two career minor leaguers, they weren’t even linked to any interesting rumors. The Mets inquired about pitcher Edwin Jackson before the Tigers sent him to the Diamondbacks in the three-team trade that netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson, but Omar Minaya admitted Detroit didn’t like any of the Mets prospects. And that’s about it, at least that we know about.
But word came out Thursday afternoon that the Mets had made offers to Jason Bay and Bengie Molina. The Mets hope to get Molina for 2 years at around $12 million. That seems doable. But before you get excited about the Bay offer, it was reported it was at or a little above the 4-year, $60 million deal Bay turned down from the Red Sox. So is this a starting point for the Mets, or just a way of saying, “hey fans, we made the guy an offer and he turned us down, so don’t be made at us. We tried?”
In his story on the offers in the New York Post, Joel Sherman writes:
The Mets currently find the second-level of talent both unappetizing and overpriced. So they figure why not make sure they cannot land one of the holy trinity of free agents from this tepid class – Bay, Matt Holliday or John Lackey – before accepting an inferior product?…
If the Mets landed Bay they would then try to make the best deal with a second-tier free agent starter from among Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Jason Marquis and Joel Pineiro. If Bay goes elsewhere, the Mets will turn strongly toward Lackey for the same reason they like Bay: He is far superior to that second tier.
And this, in a nutshell, is the problem with the Mets — if they can’t sign Bay (left), they’ll go after Lackey. Why not both? If the Yankees can sign C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira in the same winter, why can’t the Mets sign Bay/Holliday and Lackey? The Mets are not a small market team, but they have a small market mentality. They have money — lots of it, according to Scott Boras, the agent for Holliday and many others. “Their revenues are in the top three or four in baseball. The New York Mets have a lot of choices, and the Wilpon family is very successful. Sure, the Mets can sign any player they want to sign if they so choose to.”
Now, Boras is not the most unbiased person in the world, and his comments, as always, are designed to drive up the prices of his clients. But what he said is true — the Mets can sign whomever they want. They only have to decide if they want to spend the money.
It’s easy to forget the Mets had the second highest payroll last season at a whopping $145 million. So the Mets clearly are not cheap. But why does it seem that way? Maybe it’s because they lowball the players they should be paying, and overpay the ones with whom they shouldn’t bother. In short, they don’t spend their money wisely.
Let’s look at last season’s payroll. $10 million of it wasn’t their fault — that money went to an injured Billy Wagner. But they paid J.J. Putz nearly $7 million to be a set-up guy. That’s a lot of money for the 8th inning. But Omar Minaya identified the bullpen as the main culprit of the 2008 collapse, and he set out to improve it. He took a chance on Putz, overpaying for a year in which he thought the team would be a contender. The move didn’t work, but Minaya can hardly be blamed.
Of course, he can be blamed for giving Oliver Perez $12 million, Luis Castillo $6 million, $2 million or so each for Tim Redding and Livan Hernandez, and $5 million for Brian Schneider. Carlos Delgado’s $12 million was also questionable, the classic example of getting rid of a player one year too late instead of one year too early.
That’s a whole lot of wasted money that could have been better spent. You can look at so many other teams with more talent than the Mets and much lower payrolls, and ask, “how do they do it?” They do it by spending intelligently. Even the Yankees, accused for decades of wild, irresponsible ways, almost always spend their money on the right players.
This can’t be blamed on Minaya — it’s been going on before he got here, and will probably be going on after he leaves, which could be very soon if the Mets get off to a slow start. The blame has to go to the Wilpons. As owners, Fred, and now son Jeff, have the final say on all matters. And their final say has not produced much in the way of winning.