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Mets Need To Spend Intelligently

Mike SteffanosMonday, December 29, 2008
By Mike Steffanos


I know I've said this before, but recent events compel me to restate this: if I wanted to be a Yankees fan I could have been one.

With the Yankees recent signings of C.C. Sabathia, J.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, some in the local media are proclaiming that the Mets must go on some sort of similar spending spree to "prove" that they belong in the same city as the Yankees. Typical of the genre is this article penned by the Post's Mike Vaccaro last week:

... [the Mets] should at least start acting like they belong in the varsity league by addressing their lingering needs - starting pitching and more stick - with the most tried-and-true method possible.

By spending their money. By acting like they belong in the same sentence - or the same city - as the Yankees. By not conceding and meekly accepting their place as after-thought, also-ran, and permanent kid brother.

I understand that, as a Mets fan, I am supposed to read Vaccaro's (admittedly effective) inflammatory prose and start screaming at the top of my lungs for Fred Wilpon to start spending like Sarah Palin set loose with someone else's plastic in a Neiman Marcus. Instead, I find myself annoyed by the transparent effort to manipulate my emotions with this crap.

The truth of the matter is and always will be that the Mets need to put a winner on the field. If they do, everything else will take care of itself. If they don't, they can spend untold millions on players and it won't change a thing.

This idea that the Mets have to compete with the Yankees in everything they do is a conceit of many of the local columnists, that the Mets can only measure up by trying to out-Yankees their rivals across the river. The problem with this thinking is that the Yankees themselves have proven over the last eight seasons that you can spend a lot of money and not win anything.

I know a lot of folks are pissed off by the Yankees spending spree. I can't say it bothers me all that much. I think the Yankees took a mighty big risk by tying so much payroll into so few guys.

Still on the hook for 9 years of Alex Rodriguez' $275 million contract, the Yankees take on $161 million over 7 years for Sabathia, $180 miilion over 10 for Teixeira and $82.5 million over 5 for Burnett. Combine this with the remnants of large contracts owed Derek Jeter (2 more years), Mariano Rivera (2), Jorge Posada (3), Johnny Damon(1), Hideki Matsui (1) and Robinson Cano (3 + 2 option years), and you have a lot of money tied up in a few guys.

If it works -- and nothing less than a championship will matter after this spree -- Cashman and the front office are geniuses. If not, they'll be cannon fodder. If nothing else, I'll give them credit for cojones. If your object is to buy a championship, don't do it halfway. Everyone is going to hate you anyway, you might as well go all in.

I don't need the Mets to try to go dollar for dollar with the Yankees to satisfy me. I want to see them run the club intelligently with a mix of player development, trades and smart agent spending. While mistakes have been made, for the most part they seem to be doing a decent job of balancing the different approaches.

That doesn't mean the Mets shouldn't spend this winter. I'd like to see them do what it takes to get Derek Lowe to sign on the bottom line. If they land Lowe I would still like to see them pursue a contract with Oliver Perez. The way the market is shaping up, it's not out of the realm of possibility that both could be signed. A rotation of Santana, Lowe, Maine, Pelfrey and Perez would be pretty solid.

If they can't come to a reasonable deal with Ollie, a veteran like Randy Wolfe or Pedro (given the right contract) should be signed for the fifth slot. I'd rather see Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell start off the year in the minors, developing their game and providing the Mets with some reasonable quality depth when needed.

I'd still also like to see them land a right-handed 1B/OF type with some pop, and they'll also need a backup infielder capable of providing depth at 2B (particularly if they do start the year with Luis Castillo) and spelling Reyes at shortstop.

If they sign Lowe and Perez they will not have a first or second round pick, and they'll need to offset that by spending in the Latin American market to get some fresh high-ceiling quality into the lower levels of the farm system. Even if Perez does sign elsewhere, bringing back a first or second round and a sandwich pick, they should still look to be aggressive in that regard.

Let guys like Vaccaro fuel the fire as much as they want. The Mets don't need to take part in some sort of juvenile financial pissing contest with the Yanks. They need to be smart, and they need to win. Making the playoffs this year is important after two straight disappointments. Spending money wisely with a purpose is the best way to achieve that.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (5)

Amen, Mike. Yours is the calmest, most rational assessment of the Mets situation that has been written in quite a long time. The hyper response of talk radio, newspaper guys trying to attract readers and over-reacting fans who blurt out on the blogs and on talk radio all act as though this is a rotisserie league and casually fail to concern themselves with $ and, particularly, lengths of contracts. Most teams that have sudden drop-offs in their competitive stature tend to do so by being hamstrung by underperforming players with long term contracts or by tying to much of their payroll up in one or a couple of players and are left with no flexibility. Boston has done an amazing job avoiding this over the past 4 to 5 years and the Braves were the best at this for nearly a decade.your approach is sound for today and the future.

Bingo, Mike! The YankMes have spent a billion dollars in payroll since their last World Series victory. If they want to get a head start on the second billion, I say let 'em. Just because your next door neighbor spends money like an idiot doesn't mean you should, too.

The only caveat to this forced indifference is that when teams overspend on players, it can artificially inflate the perceived value of other players WE might be trying to sign. But to Omar's credit, he hasn't blinked yet. I hope he continues to take his good, sweet time kicking the tires of Lowe, and Perez, and Pedro.

The best bargain I ever got on a car was when I honestly knew I could walk out of the dealership empty-handed. Same holds true here. Throw in a few floor mats, and we might be interested in Randy Wolf. Or not.

So far the acquisitions the Mets have made look good and are at a reasonable price. They have a few more moves to make and it seems as if Omar is playing the market correctly. If he can get Lowe & Ollie, that would be great. I would settle for any combination of Lowe, Ollie, Wolf, Garcia, or Sheets (even with the injury risk). Of course I would like the high end starters, but with a couple more additions to the pen, I believe the Mets will do fine if they can't acquire the top names. A utility man, and a righthanded bat with pop on the bench, maybe move Castillo, and I think they will be ready. My only concerns are: 1) Will Maine be healthy and able to get back to full form? 2) Will Pelfrey continue to excel ( I think so), or will the extra innings last season take a slight toll? 3) Do they have enough offense? 4)Will Murph continue to develope into a bonafide MLB hitter in a platoon with Tatis? 5) Lastly, how much will Citifield play into the team's performance? I like the approach so far this winter, and I believe it will get better the next few weeks. Lets go Mets!

I agree with all the comments here, so far about the Mets money approach to the offseason. DKA is quite right about the Mets' following the Braves and Red Sox' market approach, as well.

The Yankees are making waves because they are the Yankees, and have to "live" up to their billing as an expensive team. They know they have the money for their roster, and after they had $85 million come off their payroll this season, it was duck hunting season for their Elmer Fudds. The Yankees should be embarrassed though, since they essentially bid against themselves for all of their acquisitions. And what's better is that the Yanks will probably find out that Burnett is injury prone, Texiera starts the season slowly, and that Sabathia is good, but not a super ace worth the money they gave him (should have gone for Johan.....).

All the Mets need now is to add another starter or two to the rotation- and they appear to have the inside track on Lowe, Ollie, Redding, AND Wolf. It's their market, and they know it. They could add a leftfielder- Burrell, Dunn, and Manny are still available, and they could also make changes to their catcher situation, if the right deal comes by.

Asides from getting another starter for the rotation, the biggest concern for the Mets should be the bench. They need backup infielders, especially someone to cover SS/3B to give Wright/Reyes a rest, and also a 1B to give Delgado a rest. Additionally, they have dead weight in Marlon Anderson and Luis Castillo- especially the latter, who probably will be an injury risk if he stays on the Mets. They'll need to seriously think about moving Danny Murphy full time to 2B and working on an reserve OF of Tatis/Reed/Pagan/Evans. best bet for the infield is Aaron Miles, Tony Graffanino, and Alex Cora.

I agree with all the comments here, so far about the Mets money approach to the offseason. DKA is quite right about the Mets' following the Braves and Red Sox' market approach, as well.

The Yankees are making waves because they are the Yankees, and have to "live" up to their billing as an expensive team. They know they have the money for their roster, and after they had $85 million come off their payroll this season, it was duck hunting season for their Elmer Fudds. The Yankees should be embarrassed though, since they essentially bid against themselves for all of their acquisitions. And what's better is that the Yanks will probably find out that Burnett is injury prone, Texiera starts the season slowly, and that Sabathia is good, but not a super ace worth the money they gave him (should have gone for Johan.....).

All the Mets need now is to add another starter or two to the rotation- and they appear to have the inside track on Lowe, Ollie, Redding, AND Wolf. It's their market, and they know it. They could add a leftfielder- Burrell, Dunn, and Manny are still available, and they could also make changes to their catcher situation, if the right deal comes by.

Asides from getting another starter for the rotation, the biggest concern for the Mets should be the bench. They need backup infielders, especially someone to cover SS/3B to give Wright/Reyes a rest, and also a 1B to give Delgado a rest. Additionally, they have dead weight in Marlon Anderson and Luis Castillo- especially the latter, who probably will be an injury risk if he stays on the Mets. They'll need to seriously think about moving Danny Murphy full time to 2B and working on an reserve OF of Tatis/Reed/Pagan/Evans. best bet for the infield is Aaron Miles, Tony Graffanino, and Alex Cora.

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