Mets GM Sandy Alderson has been quoted as having an aversion to long term contracts. Last December he said:
“There are the Carl Crawford and the Jayson Werth (type contracts), but there are also the Paul Konerko’s and Adam Dunn’s – and where that infrastructure comes into play is to figure out the best combination of players with the best combination of prices. Everyone would have a preference to signing shorter rather than longer contracts. (The longer) deals are setting a dangerous precedent.”
Some may say Alderson is just watching the Wilpons’ diminishing bank account. But he might have a point given the Mets history with long-term contracts. I took a look at the contracts the Mets have handed out, minimum of three years, and gave them a grade of GOOD or BAD. I based it on whether the Mets got their money’s worth — whether the player performed well, if he remained healthy throughout the contract, and whether he completed the contract with the Mets.
I decided to begin in the off-season of 1998, when the Mets handed out what was then their biggest contract ever:
Mike Piazza: 7 years, $90 million
Piazza was brilliant during the first four years of the contract, then he suffered through three injury-plagued years. Despite the average production during the second half of the deal, the Mets would definitely do this deal again in a heartbeat.
Al Leiter: 4 years, $32 million
After a stellar 1998 season, Leiter chose to resign with the Mets rather than test free agency, saying he was afraid he might get a better offer and have to leave the Mets. Leiter was only nine games over .500 during the four years of this contract, but his ERA was less than 3.50 in three of those years. He remained healthy, and stayed on for two more years.
Robin Ventura: 4 years, $31.5 million
Mets fans have fond memories of Ventura. He was part of one of the best fielding infields ever and he hit the memorable “Grand Single.” The Mets blog Real Dirty Mets recently ranked him the ninth greatest Met of all time. But a look at the numbers will tell you he actually wasn’t that good. He had an incredible first year, then followed that up with seasons in which he hit just .232 and .237. The Mets pawned off the final year of the deal to the Yankees, of all teams.
Todd Zeile: 3 years, $18 million
Zeile was never a superstar, and that’s just how he performed. He finished off the deal in Colorado. This wasn’t a huge investment, and the Mets got their money’s worth.
Kevin Appier: 4 years, $42 million
After Mike Hampton left for Colorado, the Mets panicked and overpaid for Appier. He lasted one average season and was turned into Mo Vaughn.
Roger Cedeno: 4 years, $18 million
Cedeno was horrible, lasting just two seasons of his deal.
Tom Glavine: 5 years, $50 million
This was originally a four-year deal, but it was reworked to add a fifth. Even though Glavine will always be remembered for his awful performance that sealed the 2007 collapse, he pitched five healthy, reasonably successful seasons in New York.
Mike Stanton: 3 years, $9 million
Stanton was lousy, going 4-13 in two seasons before trading him back to the Yankees where he belonged.
Cliff Floyd: 4 years, $26.2 million
When Floyd was healthy enough to take the field he was a pretty good player. But in his four years he missed an average of 45 games per year, managing only one injury-free season.
Kaz Matui: 3 years, $21 million
What do you think? Can you believe the Mets moved Jose Reyes to second to make room for this stiff?
Mike Cameron: 3 years, $19.5 million
For one season, the Mets got what they paid for — lots of power, lots of strikeouts, low average, stellar defense. He was moved to right field in his second season after Carlos Beltran joined the team, and we all know how that painfully ended. He was gone by season three.
Pedro Martinez: 4 years, $53 million
One of the great disappointments for the Mets and their fans. Martinez pitched only one healthy season, and never appeared in a playoff game. Despite a 32-23 record, this deal did not work out.
Carlos Beltran: 7 years, $119 million
This is a tough one. Beltran’s first season in Flushing was simply terrible. He followed that with three tremendous years, then two injury-plagued seasons. If he is somehow able to pull off another big season in 2011 this could be considered a good contract, but frankly I see another season in which he is hobbled by injury. I could call this one incomplete, but that’s no fun.
Billy Wagner: 4 years, $42 million
Another tough one. Sure, he missed virtually all of the final season with injury and was traded away. And he suffered his injury down the stretch in 2008 when the Mets really needed him. But before that he was lights-out. He had 101 saves in his time in New York with a 2.37 ERA. This could go either way.
Jose Reyes: 5 years, $34.25 million
The numbers include the $11 million option picked up for 2011. Reyes missed most of 2009 and 29 games last year, but he was sensational before that and looks good this season.
David Wright: 6 years, $55 million
No questions about this one. There is also a $16 million option for 2013 that the Mets will almost certainly pick up.
Scott Schoeneweis: 3 years, $10.8 million
Sorry if this dredges up old memories. Fortunately the Mets were able to dump him on the Diamondbacks so we didn’t have to watch him for a third year.
Luis Castillo: 4 years, $25 million
Johan Santana: 6 years, $137.5 million
So far each of Santana’s three seasons with the Mets have ended in surgery, and he is likely to miss most of 2011 recovering from the last one. But when he’s on the mound, he’s something else. There’s still time to decide on this one. The contract includes a $25 million option for 2014. Odds are it will not be exercised.
Francisco Rodriguez: 3 years, $37 million
It would be easy to call this a bad contract after what happened last season. But it is also easy to forget that K-Rod was good in his first year, and was doing very well last season until he slugged his girlfriend’s dad and hurt his thumb. If he has a good 2011 and doesn’t trigger that $17.5 million option, this could go down as a good contract.
Oliver Perez: 3 years, $36 million
Not only the worst contract in Mets history, but perhaps the worst contract in the history of baseball.
Jason Bay: 4 years, $66 million
It’s way too early to tell, although so far things don’t look so good. But it’s not too early to say the Mets will likely not pick up his $17 million option for 2013.
So let’s tally this up. Of the 22 contracts of three years or more the Mets have handed out since 1998, I have judged 12 bad, seven good, and three incomplete. That is not a good track record. So maybe Alderson has the right idea in trying to avoid long-term deals.
Mug Shots Courtesy Ultimate Mets Database