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Mets Checkered History with Long-Term Contracts

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:

November 1998
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.
Verdict: GOOD

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.
Verdict: GOOD 

December 1998
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.
Verdict: BAD

December 1999
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.
Verdict: GOOD

December 2000
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.
Verdict: BAD

December 2001
Roger Cedeno: 4 years, $18 million
Cedeno was horrible, lasting just two seasons of his deal.
Verdict: BAD

December 2002
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.
Verdict: GOOD

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.
Verdict: BAD

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.
Verdict: BAD

December 2003
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?
Verdict: BAD

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.
Verdict: BAD

December 2004
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.
Verdict: BAD

January 2005
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.
Verdict: BAD

November 2005
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.
Verdict: GOOD

August 2006
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.
Verdict: GOOD

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.
Verdict: GOOD 

January 2007
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.
Verdict: BAD

December 2007
Luis Castillo: 4 years, $25 million
Verdict: BAD

February 2008
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.

December 2008
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.

February 2009
Oliver Perez: 3 years, $36 million
Not only the worst contract in Mets history, but perhaps the worst contract in the history of baseball.
Verdict: BAD

January 2010
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

13 thoughts on “Mets Checkered History with Long-Term Contracts

  • If Ventura’s was bad then Zeile’s has to be bad. He was alright in year one, but in year two he slugged .373 as a first baseman. TERRIBLE! Castillo bettered that three times in his career. CASTILLO!!!

  • Mark Berman

    I was expecting someone to write that, and I don’t necessarily disagree with you. The difference to me is that the investment in Zeile was much less, as were the expectations. The Mets didn’t expect huge numbers from Zeile, but they did from Ventura. The Mets wanted those first-season Ventura numbers all four years and it didn’t happen. Zeile produced as expected, I believe.

  • i understand how you ranked these contracts by health, productivity, and where they ended up but i have to disagree with ventura, cliff floyd, and pedro. ventura, though not as young as he was, was a rock at third. yeah, his numbers dipped but he was part of the greatest infield ever!!! floyd was huge in the development of david wright. you always read how he took wright under his wing and such. i know he was always injured but he was solid when healthy and a good clubhouse leader. and pedro. by signing pedro they brough respect back to the organization. i wanted so much more from pedro but he was who he was and it wasn’t montreal or boston pedro, unfortunately. and without pedro i don’t think beltran (which i also disagree with you about) comes to flushing. beltran has got to be one of the most underrated mets ever. who else would you want patrolling center during his time here? overall…interesting read. thanks for posting!

  • Tom Glavine was a good contract? He didn’t achieve a winning record in Flushing until his 4th year here. On 6 different campaigns with Atl he pitched to an era under 3.00. Ten million a yr at that time was a lot of money. Not worth it at all for a guy with an era of around 4.00 in his 5 seasons here. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t want to be here. Also I’ll never forget him for that disgrace of a performance the last day of the season in 2007. He’d rather go home than play in the postseason with the Mets. This is WITHOUT A DOUBT a BAD contract!!

  • I’m a little confused by some of these ratings too. Although Cameron didn’t have a stellar career w/ the Mets, they traded him for Xavier Nady, which in turn netted them Oliver Perez (who was decent in 2007 and 2008). Meanwhile, the Mets had to pay half of Zeile’s salary when they traded him to Colorado, so I can’t see how the Mets got their money’s worth when they paid another team to take him. And if Pedro and Beltran are disappointing because they were hurt, why does that not count against Wagner?

  • The Zeile deal was terrible, his production at first base was laughable after 2000. Also the investment in Zeile was $250K less per year done nearly a decade prior, not apples to apples at all.

    How can Beltran possibly be considered a bad deal and Wagner good. He not only missed virtually the entire 2009 season, he missed the critical stretch run of 2008, leaving the Mets with close by terrible committee.

    By the way, where is the awful deal doled out to Rey Ordonez following the 1999 season?

  • How on earth can you say 4 out of 7 years for piazza makes it a good contract?

  • Perez not worst contract in baseball history. Hampton to Rockies or Igawa to Yankees are worse.

  • Bobby Bonilla and Juan Samuel???

  • Pingback: Mets Checkered History with Long-Term Contracts » Blogging Mets « Blogging Future

  • How many long term free agent contracts turn out well? It’s just the way the market works. If you want a top free agent you have to add on the extra years. Does anyone actually think the Crawford deal is going to be good the last three years? Last winter all the fans were screaming for Lackey and luckily we get to forget about that. More than not, long term free agent contracts are bad. Long term contracts that buy out arbitration and free agent years turn out well. Teams don’t always have that luxury of having good young talent however.

  • You really can’t blame Beltran for the two injury plagued seasons. If Minaya had a full, working knowledge of a disabled list there is a solid chance Beltran doesn’t miss nearly as much time. Not to mention the team for some reason decided to spend $119 million but then hired their training staff by bribing homeless guys with leftover french fries from the concession stand.

  • Couch potato analysis. How about delving into some qualitative statistics such as WAR? WAR value suggests that Ventura, Floyd, and Cameron earned what the Mets paid them. Glavine and Wagner, not so much.

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