Nickel and Diming to Mediocrity

Despite many marches, the Mets’ obvious need for a slugging, righthanded-hitting leftfielder, and the availability of the best righthanded hitter in all of MLB, it’s quite clear that Manny Ramirez will not be reporting to Port St. Lucie in the next week, nor anytime this spring.

That fact has been accepted; we understand that the financial risk involved in carrying a $25M+ leftfielder for a year or two, in this unstable economy, is too much for the Wilpons to handle So, we as fans have stepped down our expectations, hoping that perhaps the Mets would look to someone like Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu — either of whom would accept a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $6-8M. This relatively paltry sum would be a drop in the bucket even for a Madoff-affected organization, and is a bargain for the services rendered by either of these productive on-base machines.

However, it has come to our attention that the Mets can’t even afford that to rectify their clusterflock of a leftfield situation. According to The Daily News:

A Mets official did not rule out signing free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu, but indicated that any contract likely would have to be for one year at less than $4 million.

OK. There’s hardball negotiating, and then there are offers so obnoxiously low that they don’t deserve the courtesy of a response. This has happened once this winter with the Mets and a certain righthanded pitcher now dressing in an Atlanta Braves uniform. Here again, we run into a Mets team crying poverty, hat in hand, hoping against hope that a quality, impact-type MLB veteran will take less than half his asking price.

There was a time, earlier this offseason, that I would have ridiculed the Mets for considering Bobby Abreu. That time seems decades ago. Had I known the Mets would spend so recklessly on futility players, and be so complacent regarding all but one of the top free agents, and so “comfortable” with the same team that choked two years in a row, my feelings would have been different. The Mets may well have dire financial issues right now, and if that’s the case, it’s their own fault. Before anyone cries about the economy or a Ponzi scheme, they better take a look at all the “cookie” money doled out to insignificant contributors.

People say I made too much of the Alex Cora signing, for example, Well, there’s $2M right there. Add those two to the $2.25M wasted on Tim Redding and suddenly you have a little over four million bucks to sweeten the pot for Abreu, who had reportedly been very interested in returning to the NL and playing another year in New York. Now you tell me: who would make more of an impact on the ’09 Mets? A combination of Cora and Redding or Abreu by himself? This becomes all the more irresponsible when you see people like David Eckstein, Juan Uribe, Rich Aurilia, Josh Fogg, and Odalis Perez signing cheap, non-guaranteed, minor-league deals.

Take a look at the assortment of nickels and dimes handed out by the Mets so far this winter:

$2.25M, Tim Redding
$2M, Alex Cora
$1.7M, Fernando Tatis
$1.6875M, Duaner Sanchez
$1.6, Pedro Feliciano
$925K, Jeremy Reed
$600K, Cory Sullivan
$575K, Angel Pagan

Right there is over $11M, spent on 8 players who are either overpriced, redundant, or won’t make the 25-man roster. The Mets had the option to let go any of the last six on the list, and to ignore the first two. I understand that you need “bit players” and extra guys to fill out a roster. I can sort of understand giving Tatis the big money after his great second half. I personally like both Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Feliciano, but from a business standpoint, either could have been replaced for about half their salaries (for example, LOOGY Juan Rincon signed a minor league deal; several other relief pitchers remain available). The real head-scratcher is the $2.1M handed to Reed, Sullivan, and Pagan, who are essentially the same player. Why not keep just one, or better yet, bring in any of the dozens of defensive-minded AAAA free-agent outfielders on a minor league deal?

If the Mets couldn’t afford another $3-4M to bag Bobby Abreu (or Adam Dunn, for that matter),then maybe they should have been more astute in their scrap heap bidding. A nickel saved here, a dime saved there, and Abreu — who is much better than the current Tatis/Murphy platoon — could have been a Met. Abreu batted third for the Yankees last year, yet would have fit somewhere from #5-7 in the Mets lineup. Think about that for a moment, and then consider the fiscal irresponsibility that has marred the Mets’ offseason. Yes, the Mets picked up K-Rod for below-market value, and brought back Oliver Perez at a fair price, but nearly every other “little” signing has effectively negated the efficiency of those signings.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude February 11, 2009 at 9:01 am
    It’s unfair to say it just yet, because there’s every possibility in the world that the Mets’ seemingly ass-backwards technique of assembling a “competitive” baseball team could produce a winning, playoff-bound season. Who knows at this point, stranger things have happened. But I get the feeling that the majority of fans are disgusted, disappointed, or utterly confused over the Mets’ mismanagement of money and infatuation over paying top dollar for mediocre talent this winter. After two consecutive seasons of flat out failure and embarassment, the Mets should be much more desperate to ensure that a third year does not take place. The signing of Krod and the trade for Putz got the Mets half way there, but the need for a reputable starting pitcher and a heavy-hitting LF were also needed to finalize the equation. Instead, the Mets played chicken with Ollie Perez and only retained his services when it was learned that all the other teams willing to pay for a top-of-the-rotation starter had exitted the market. They also prefered journeyman as a fifth starter (Redding) over a future hall of famer (Pedro), and prefered a LF platoon of 2 guys playing out of position who, at this time last year, were nothing more than AAA and AA filler over another bonafide hall of famer (Manny), a career .300 hitter (Abreu), and a perennial 40-HR threat (Dunn). This doesn’t even cover all the missed opportunities the Mets had at bringing in other players who were available and would have made a positive impact (Lowe, Vazquez, Andruw, Eckstein, Swisher, Ohman, etc). With all of these blemishes on the Mets offseason report card, fans should demand the jobs of the Wilpons and Omar if 2009 once again ends in catastrophe. 3 strikes and you’re out, losers.
  2. joe February 11, 2009 at 10:46 am
    It’s true, the Mets COULD turn out to be a playoff contender this year. Just like I COULD win the lottery, if I ever bought a ticket.

    I suppose what bothers me is that, here is Bobby Abreu, who wanted to return to New York, was willing to come at a significant discount, wanted only a one-year deal, and would have been a PERFECT fit for the Mets’ LF situation.

    Maybe Abreu declines from his .296/.371/.471 production of last year. In fact, I would guarantee his performance drops a bit, due to advancing age and not having A-Rod hit behind him. But this is a batter who routinely posts a .900+ OPS, even in his bad years, and an outfielder who won a Gold Glove not so long ago. (Yes, his defense is not what it was, but it is still better than the adventures of Tatis and Murphy.)

    If the Mets are already above budget, I can understand that. But it’s kind of like buying a new TV, even if you probably shouldn’t be spending money on luxuries this month, because it’s the exact one you want and it’s 70% off at a Circuit City going out of business sale. Times are tough, yes, but the smart people find ways to take advantage of a depressed economy, by picking up obvious bargains that meet specific needs.

    I suppose you could argue that the Mets were already “smart” by getting Ollie and Krod at discounts, but those two signings filled desperate needs and only made the Mets as good as they were last year — they didn’t necessarily make the team any better.

  3. mikes_mets February 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm
    Joe, I don’t agree with your judgement on some of the players.

    To have a guy like Redding who can give you rotation depth and also an option for long relief for $2.25 million seems right to me.

    I’ll agree with you on Cora. They could have received solid D and sub-par O for a lot less.

    I thought Tatis played well enough last year to earn another shot, and that money doesn’t seem out of line to me.

    I’m in favor of giving Sanchez a chance (and a full year recovered from surgery) to prove he can recapture what he had before the 2 injuries. If he does, that money is a steal. They’re still going to need someone else to pitch key late innings, as Putz can’t pitch every day.

    Before last year, Feliciano was a solid lefty who could be left in to face a RH. I guess a valuation of how much he’s worth is dependent on whether you see him bouncing back or continuing to slide, but they certainly couldn’t afford to go into the year without one experienced lefty reliever.

    Of the Reed, Sullivan and Pagan group, the only one they went out of their way to sign was Sullivan. It does seem like overkill to have all 3, but none are making all that much. I certainly like the idea of having a Pagan to bring up if someone gets hurt compared to some of the call ups from last season.

    I’m not a huge Abreu fan, anyway. Citi Field will demand a better RF than Abreu is right now, and he’ll be 35 this season.

    As a Mets fan, I am concerned about some of the contracts Minaya has handed out, and I think the success or failure of his judgements in LF and RF this season will determine whether in my mind he is the right guy to be in charge. On the other hand, Fred Wilpon hasn’t called looking for my opinion lately. But if he does I’ll be ready. If it’s Jeff, I’ll just hang up. :)

  4. joe February 11, 2009 at 1:19 pm
    Mike, thanks for your comments.

    I don’t necessarily believe that all of those players were mistakes. I guess my point was to show ALL of the “bit signings” so that a) people could see how quickly several million dollars can accumulate; and b) to let people draw their own conclusions as to the efficiency of the “scrap heap” spending.

    I’m with you on Sanchez and Feliciano. I’m on the fence regarding Tatis, because it seemed to me to be an emotional signing rather than a financially prudent one. It happened quickly, and even I was all for it at the time. But looking back — and hindsight is 20/20 — it now appears to be a mistake, because it’s doubtful Tatis would have gotten a larger contract elsewhere.

    As for Abreu, I’m sure that he would have played LF, not RF, since Ryan Church proved he can handle RF quite well. If you are concerned about Abreu handling the Citi Field outfield, then you must be terrified thinking about Tatis and Murphy! :-)

    BTW don’t tell Jerry Manuel that Putz can’t pitch every day …..

  5. debmc February 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm
    Joey, Joey…..JOEY! As usual, you are right on, no matter WHAT the other commenters may think *snicker.* For we all know, that it’s only your opinion, and mine, that count! hehehehehehe he! *flames are now coming out my azz*

    Anyhew, the Mets junk us to death, don’t they? They consistently think nothing of giving relatively small amounts of money (by the standards of today, anyway, anything less than $5M or so being a relatively small amount of money) to borderline talented players, or even scrubs, or even fill-ins, or even throw-ins, or even throw-ups *snicker,* and seem not to understand that mathematically, if you take the $2M thrown here, and the $1.5M thrown there, and the $3M thrown hither, and the $3.5M thrown yon…. well, then you get one decent player whose contributions quite probably would add up to more than all of these spare parts, combined. In one season. Possibly even in one at-bat.

    So, what’s the conclusion, sports fans? That Omar MInaya and the Wilpons don’t know how to add. Or how to add up. Or more like…nothing in Metsland adds up. And that addition, in the land of Mets la-la, is only done in fractions, and never in integers. And the sum of the fractions never equals the whole.

    And one more thing — Mets fans have drunk so much of the Kool Aid over the years, many of them just don’t know the difference.

  6. Mr Happy February 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm
    Joe, you need to remember that Omar and the Wilpons are very happy with “The Brand” that they have established, or believe that they have established. Omar said so in his press conference immediately following the final game. If MLB games ended after eight innings the Mets would have beaten the Phillies by eight games. This is ridiculous to the rest of us but it is obvious that by signing K-Rod and trading for J.J. Putz management believes that it has made the moves it needs to make to win the division. Re-signing Perez was the last major piece of the puzzle in their eyes. We all may think they’re playing with the wrong puzzle but Citi Field will be filled and SNY’s ratings will be high as long as we’re playing “meaningful games in September.” The other transactions have just been window dressing; granted with ugly curtains but window dressing nonetheless.
  7. eephus February 12, 2009 at 1:18 pm
    Now that Dunn has signed with the Nationals maybe Omar can think out of the box a make a few trades…

    Delgado for Figgins and a prospect (Angels won’t have to rely on Kendry Morales, and won’t block Brandon Wood,)

    Figgins,Castro, and a B prospect for Jermaine Dye (White Sox get two players they rumored to be after and shave 3 million off their payroll, plus they have alot of prospects expected to contribute and Figgins versatility will help them plug holes if prospect flounder)

    Two or three non-Martinez/Murphy/Niese prospect for Nick Johnson (the asking price can’t be ridiculous for a guy who played on 38 games last year, asked for a trade, and will be a free agent at the end of this season)

    Mets get two potentially type A/B free agents for one (possibly 4 draft picks.) Dye and Johnson combined salary is exactly the 16 million owed to Delgado so no payroll issues there. Either Dye or Johnson struggle or get hurt you can replace them with the current plan A of a Murphy/Tatis platoon. You don’t block Fernando Martinez. You are buying low on Nick Johnson who when healthy is not only an OBP machine but also a very good fielder. You shed the 2.5 million owed castro to make room for a Ohman pick up. You lose only non-impact prospects…

    The result: Reyes, JOHNSON, Wright, Beltran, DYE, Church, Schneider/Cancel, Pitcher, Castillo

    (I like the pitcher 8th lineup because Castillo’s only asset his OBP won’t be as wasted as it would be before the pitchers spot)

    Win now, win later, spend the same

  8. joe February 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm
    eephus, I like your creativity. Unfortunately, the most likely, realistic possibility of your proposal is the last part — Castillo batting AFTER the pitcher !
  9. nomenclaturist February 13, 2009 at 2:14 pm
    Joe, I have to say I support the Mets’ working to give Daniel Murphy room to play. I’d like to see more younger, hungrier, home-grown Mets in the line-up, and Murphy has done well so far. So I don’t see the point of adding Ramirez, Dunn or Abreu. In the long term, I think it’ll be better to give Murphy more of a shot in the big leagues.

    I see the point about your other cost-saving suggestions, but if it were me, I would have used the money saved to eat Castillo’s salary and go after Orlando Hudson (not sign Abreu).

  10. joe February 13, 2009 at 2:32 pm
    Nomenclaturist, thanks for the comment.

    I like Murphy too, but I’m not sure this team as currently constructed can afford to have so many hopes and wishes. If the Mets had an offensive-minded catcher, and/or we knew that Castillo could return to form, and/or that Delgado will play like he did in the second half of ’08, and/or Ryan Church is the real deal, then I’m all for giving Murphy the chance to flourish or flounder in LF. And I haven’t even addressed the question marks on the pitching staff.

    Yes, I know that’s why they play the season, and I know there aren’t any guarantees with any team. But when a front office claims their goal is a “championship”, they can’t have so many “ifs” littering the field.

    I do like your idea of saving the $ for Hudson rather than Abreu. Either way, it’s the same idea. If Abreu were to come in, and Cora wasn’t around, maybe there would’ve been more of a push to turn Murphy into a second baseman (which may be a better positional fit for his bat). If Hudson comes in, we needn’t worry so much about the LF situation. If Manny Ramirez were signed, maybe you trade Delgado and try Murphy/Johnson/Tatis at 1B. A dozen of this, 12 of that.

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