By Mike Steffanos
Buster Olney clarifies his silly Mets rumor in his blog today. Basically yesterday Olney cited the private speculation of unnamed baseball executives that proposed a scenario where, if the Red Sox failed to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Mets would send most of the Sox' posting fee and prospects to the Sox in return for the Japanese pitcher. In effect, the Red Sox would be keeping Matsuzaka away from the Yankees and buying some talent from the Mets for whatever millions they were not reimbursed in the deal.
Today Olney clarifies this proposal to note that the Red Sox would actually have to sign Matsuzaka to a contract before they could trade him:
Assuming that the Red Sox win the bidding on Daisuke Matsuzaka, they have the option of trading him -- but procedurally, it would have to be a sign-and-trade, with a contract being set before Boston shipped him to, say, the Mets. They cannot merely swap the rights to negotiate with him, according to the U.S.-Japanese player contract agreement: "If the highest bid is acceptable to the Japanese club, the US Commissioner shall award the sole, exclusive, and non-assignable right to negotiate with and sign the posted Japanese player to the US ML club that submitted the bid." This can be circumvented the way it is in the NBA, where the teams negotiate the trade and terms of the contract with the player involved.
It still would be a crackpot move on the part of the Mets, who would be giving up both more money than they have originally bid and young talent in return to the Red Sox. Even in that scenario, I can't see the Red Sox taking much less money in return than their bid that is reported to be in excess of $40 million. The whole thing just doesn't make any sense, and to me is just another example of the garbage speculating that fuels the winter hot stove season. You can conjure up some unnamed baseball insider as a source for any spurious deal you want to put forward.
I guess what annoys me the most here is that the Mets are often portrayed as the team that is so desperate to make a move that they will throw caution and good baseball sense to the wind in order to facilitate this deal. How many times last year did we read of "imminent" Manny Ramirez deals where the Mets were going to ship out all of their prospects and take on most of Ramirez' salary? Yet, you notice this deal never actually happened.
Two years ago when Minaya took over the Mets undoubtedly overpaid for both Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. In Martinez' case, it was almost a given that he was unlikely to hold up physically for the entire 4 years of the contract. But there was a purpose to these two signings -- Pedro's in particular -- in that they quickly brought credibility to a franchise that effectively lacked any real standing going into that winter. Two years ago the Mets were a joke, but when Pedro and then Beltran signed here the laughing stopped rather quickly. There was certainly a method to the madness.
Nevertheless, Minaya was branded as an impatient and impulsive GM who depended on Fred Wilpon's checkbook rather than any real baseball smarts, and that impression seems to have stuck despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary. Sure, the checkbook played a big part in signing Billy Wagner last winter, but there were also the smarter deals. We killed Omar for trading for Lo Duca instead of signing the big free agent, but who had the last laugh there? He was also accused of giving up too much for Carlos Delgado, but although Jacobs is a nice player he'll never be a superstar, and Petit may be a decent major leaguer but he's experienced some troubles at the higher levels. Meanwhile, Delgado's leadership was huge to this team. And how do we all feel about Seo for Sanchez now?
Last winter it seemed that one crackpot deal after another was rumored to be imminent for the Mets. I spent most of the winter convinced that Minaya was a lunatic and a bad deal was only a matter of time from coming to fruition. Gradually, however, it hit me that Omar wasn't quite the impulsive wide-eyed lunatic that he was often portrayed as. His deals -- even if there were some I liked more than others -- always made baseball sense. He resisted the urge to mortgage the future to rent Barry Zito for a few months. He refused to take Manny off the Red Sox' hands in a one-sided deal that only made sense for Boston, despite the fact that many in the media and possibly even the Sox themselves were convinced he would.
The Mets are a large-market club, and they spend some money. They are, however, about much more than just wild spending. While sporting the highest payroll in the NL last season, they were fifth in the majors and not a significant amount above the other larger market teams in the league. They operate under a budget that requires an approach that is more subtle than just trying to spend their way to a title. This may frustrate some of the fans occasionally, but I like it. As I've said many times, I have no desire to see the Mets become the Yankees.
Despite this, some media guys like Olney never tire of creating wild scenarios to attribute to the Mets. The source is always some anonymous official or scout or maybe the guy who cleans the restrooms. These rumored deals always seem to make much more sense for the other team involved. I've come to the grateful realization that the Mets are smarter than this, and that Omar has a plan that involves more than impulsive shopping sprees. Perhaps Olney has Minaya confused with his ESPN colleague Steve Phillips.
Don't get me wrong. I believe Omar will upgrade the Mets starting pitching. It sounds like the Mets were aggressive in their pursuit of Matsuzaka, and came up just short. I'm sure Omar will aggressively pursue other options and pull the trigger on any that make sense from the Mets point of view. I really, really doubt that the Mets will do anything crazy to get a starting pitcher, however. They didn't last offseason, that didn't do it during the year, and I don't believe they will do this now.