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.

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About the Author

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.

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