Way back in the 2003-2004 off-season, Omar Minaya, just named Mets general manager, somehow convinced Mets ownership to spend a lot of money in the hopes of building a winner. The scheme worked (for a few years, anyway). Fast forward 15 years and we have a new Mets GM. Will Brodie Van Wagenen be able to get the Wilpons to open their wallets again for another spending spree? Don’t count on it.
It is very difficult to compare the situations from 15 years ago to today. After all, the Wilpons were then rolling in Bernie Madoff’s inexplicably incredible returns that promised to keep them knee-deep in money for decades to come. Now, that cash only comes up to their ankles, if that high.
When asked last week about whether he would raise payroll, Jeff Wilpon gave a similarly inexplicable answer:
“I don’t want to get into whether it’s higher or lower because everyone counts it differently.”
Huh? The New York Post said he used “insurance money as an example,” but still, huh? Either your payroll is a certain number or it isn’t. Based on that statement, my guess is that the Wilpons plan on not counting insurance money as part of the payroll. So the money paid to David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes (until he hopefully comes back) will count towards the payroll limits, even though the Wilpons will be getting tens of millions of dollars in insurance payments. That money will go into their pockets rather than towards the team. Hence the nonsense answer.
I fear Van Wagenen will only have around $15 million-$20 million to play with this winter. He needs to acquire a minimum of three high quality relievers (we’ve seen year after year what dumpster diving in the bullpen leads to), a starting catcher and perhaps a starting infielder. He will not be able to do all that for that amount of money. So it could be an off season of filling holes at discount rates. That should sound familiar, as it was Sandy Alderson’s MO during his reign of terror as GM. And we all know how successful he was.
Maybe the Wilpons will surprise us and make a real go of it. After all, I’m sure the 81-year-old Fred Wilpon would like to win another World Series sooner rather than later. Van Wagenen did a good job as an agent of prying money from owners. Maybe he can use that same magic now that he’s on the other side.