We had fun yesterday dipping our toe in the water of the most important pond of the Mets’ offseason: whether the Mets should extend R.A. Dickey and David Wright. Today, let’s explore the situation in further depth.
The reasons for extending Dickey and Wright are obvious. First, they are the two most marketable Mets, and ownership is still struggling financially. Attendance dropped again in 2012 — to its lowest point since 2003. If Wright and/or Dickey are not around, the only face average Mets fans (“average” meaning the hundreds of thousands of people who generally do NOT read Mets blogs) will recognize is Johan Santana — and we don’t know for sure how often he’ll be around in 2013. Second, without Dickey and Wright, the Mets have very little chance at 2013 won-loss record that is similar to, or better than, the 74-88 season accomplished in 2012. Imagine the 2012 season without either one of those men; my guess is that 100 losses would not be out of the question. Of course, if either or both of those players are traded this offseason, it would stand to reason that the Mets would receive players in return who could improve the club; however, my guess is that those players would be younger and unlikely to make a Dickey- or Wright-like impact until a few years down the road.
As Dan B. said in the comments section:
Signing Wright and Dickey is not a baseball decision, it is a revenue decision. I don’t think they could afford another major drop in attendance while negotiating with the banks. But they also can’t afford to sign other players who would raise attendance. None of their decisions seem to be about long term benefit of the team or their business. It is all short term survival.
I have to agree with Dan — if the Mets do extend their top two stars, it’s more in the name of short-term survival than long-term success.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching R.A. Dickey and David Wright play baseball. But the Mets will struggle mightily to finish higher than fourth place in 2013, with them or without them. If everything breaks perfectly for the Mets, Dickey and Wright have seasons like they did in 2012, and the Phillies and Marlins both continue to recede, the Mets MIGHT finish third. Looking at the teams in the Central and West, I don’t believe two Wild Cards will come out of the NL East. Unless the Mets acquire several near-MLB-ready talent, and/or at least three of their minor league prospects become stars, we’re looking at a similar outlook in 2014. Maybe in 2015, with a little (lot of?) luck, the Mets will have enough pieces to contend, at which point Dickey will be 40 and Wright, 33. Does it make sense to keep the stars around until their performance is below their salary level, and hope that every one of the prospects pan out? Or is it a better plan to trade the most valuable assets — at a time when their value may never be higher — in return for several youngsters who can accelerate the rebuilding project?
Again, I thoroughly enjoy seeing Dickey and Wright play baseball, so I would not be happy to see them leave. But, when Sandy Alderson came on board, he said he’d be making “unpopular moves” — moves like trading Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez when the Mets were on the fringe of the Wild Card race, and letting Jose Reyes walk away. Those decisions were financially motivated, but they also established that the Mets were in a rebuilding mode — regardless of whether or not they are willing to admit it publicly. Continuing in that rebuild, the next logical step is to jettison Dickey, Wright, and anyone else with a modicum of value to the external world, in return for as many young prospects as can be acquired.
Interestingly, extending both Dickey and Wright on manageable contracts (read: hometown discounts) may be the Mets’ best move toward moving those players for a bag of prospects. Right now, the Mets would be dealing the two stars as one-year rentals, and as such, the return package(s) would be appropriately limited. However, if a team knows they have control of Dickey for two or three more years (or Wright for 4-5) — and at a bargain rate — that team likely would be more willing to part with top prospects.
I wouldn’t expect the Mets to extend the two within the next two weeks, and then trade them before spring training. More likely, both are extended, everyone smiles at the press conference, season tickets are sold, and the players are dealt next July at the deadline. At least, that’s the way Billy Beane would play it.
In truth, I don’t believe that’s the way Sandy will play it. My feeling is that Dan’s comment above is spot-on: due to short-term financial / business circumstances, the Mets can’t afford not to extend Dickey and Wright and keep them around. It’s an interesting turn of events, don’t you think? From 2004-2009, the Mets’ plan was short-term, with the end goal of a championship. Now, the Mets still have a short-term plan, but the end goal is merely to ensure enough ticket sales to keep the lights on. Oh, sure, the PR slant is that there is a long-term plan in place, and many Mets fans are eating it up as they watch below-replacement-level, but homegrown favorites such as Josh Thole, Lucas Duda, and Collin McHugh grace their big-screen TVs.
Maybe there’s a way to extend Dickey and Wright, keep them, stay within the $90M – $100M budget, and develop a winning team within the next three years. If so, it will be interesting to watch, and likely, worthy of documenting in both book and Hollywood movie forms.
What’s your thought? Can the Mets extend R.A. Dickey and David Wright, keep them over the long-term, and build a postseason-bound club within the next few years? Or must the Mets trade their few tradeable assets now to accelerate the rebuilding plan? Post your thoughts in the comments.
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.