Browsing Archive November, 2013

Wilpons Apparently Limit Budget to $25-30 Million

According to John Harper of the New York Daily News, Mets ownership is changing their tune about the team’s budget.

Following the season, Jeff Wilpon stated that finances were no longer a problem for the team.

“It’s all in the rear view mirror,” Wilpon said about past financial woes.

If that were actually the case, then the high cost of free agents wouldn’t matter, right? What am I missing? In this article from October 29th, Wilpon was paraphrased as saying:

…the Mets will have the financial wherewithal to address those needs. After years of working with a bloated payroll thanks to big contract to Johan Santana and Jason Bay, and the financial burden of pending legal matters from the Bernie Madoff scandal, Mets Sandy Alderson will be unencumbered when the Mets hit the market, Wilpon said.

Fred Wilpon has made similar assertions, even as far back as February. And in every case, they seem to present GM Sandy Alderson as the only roadblock to spending. From Fred:

Asked if the team payroll, which is now about $90 million, will soon enough return to the $140 million level it stood at several years ago, Wilpon said: “I asked Sandy about that. He said he couldn’t invest that much money.”

From Jeff:

“Depending on how it all presents itself, that has always been part of the plan, to use the money coming off the books and improve the team,” Wilpon said.  I can’t tell you exactly how it’s going to happen, as we get further into the offseason, we’ll know a little better.

It’s the Wilpons’ money, and now, according to Harper, they are dictating to Alderson how much to spend. That was the case all along. They told previous GMs Omar Minaya and Steve Phillips how much to spend (and when to spend it) as well. The GMs proceeded according to their marching orders.

Having a lavish budget doesn’t guarantee a contender, but it certainly gives a team more flexibility to acquire the pieces it needs. If what Harper says is true, Alderson once again has to get creative on a relatively limited budget dictated by an ownership group that is still financially limited, no matter what they’ve said publicly.


What the Robinson Cano Meeting Meant

No doubt you heard the news that Jay-Z — who I understand is some kind of a pop star turned baseball agent — had dinner with Jeff Wilpon and, at some point between the shrimp cocktail and Fernet Branca (who are we kidding? they probably ordered some crappy single-malt bourbon), discussed a young man named Robinson Cano. Did this dinner and discussion mean anything?


LaTroy Hawkins Climbs to Rockies

If you haven’t already heard, LaTroy Hawkins has moved on to Colorado, signing a one-year, $2.5M contract with the Rockies, including a 2015 option.

According to various reports, the Rockies will pencil in Hawkins as their 2014 closer.

Sandy Alderson responded to the news by stating the following:

LaTroy had a great season for us last year. He stepped in and did a very nice job for us as a closer. He’s 41 years old. We weren’t necessarily counting on him to fulfill the same role for us next year. We certainly would have liked to have had him in the pen. But going into spring, I think given the vagaries of relief pitching anyway, and his age, and what we have coming — it wasn’t clear what his role would be — I think we made an offer consistent with that.

I hate to keep emphasizing he’s 41, but at that age, in this game, I think the financial issue becomes not paramount in every case, but I think important. Because Colorado saw him in a particular role, they went to that level that they did.

These statements make cause human resource professionals in the audience to cringe. But in MLB, it’s OK to refuse employment to someone due to age. Go figure.

Would I have bent over backward to bring back Hawkins? I’m not sure — from my perspective, Hawkins seemed to over-achieve. I can’t figure out how/where that 95-MPH fastball reappeared from. Further, it still looked as straight as an arrow as it always did, and I wonder how much of the surprise / unexpected velocity had to do with retiring hitters. Can he do it again? Maybe?

What did appeal to me about Hawkins were his mechanics, which were simple, solid, and seemed to me to be clean and safe — as they’ve always been. Which is why I take issue with Alderson’s comments regarding Hawkins’ age — it doesn’t matter that he’s 41, so long as he continues to pitch with safe mechanics. Hawkins has been in MLB for 19 years in part because he’s been able to remain relatively healthy. His most recent health issue was in 2010, when he suffered a shoulder injury that resulted in labrum and rotator cuff surgery. I haven’t done enough before and after analysis to know whether Hawkins made corrective mechanical adjustments after the surgery; if he did, then there’s every reason to believe he has at least another 2-3+ years of MLB service time. If he didn’t, his shoulder may well give out very soon. The increased velocity as the season progressed is a sign that MIGHT suggest he made a positive correction — though not a guarantee. Only a scientist’s qualitative analysis would know for sure.

What’s more baffling to me beyond the age issue is the price point. Paying $2.5M in this day and age for a middle reliever coming off of a fairly decent, injury-free season seems to me to be pretty damn cheap. Adding to the amazement is that Alderson suggested that Hawkins received that much money because the Rockies envision him as a potential closer. Um … what? So, in other words, because the Mets didn’t see Hawkins as a closer (despite his finishing 28 games and notching 13 saves in 2013), he wasn’t worth $2.5M? If someone can please show me another closer on the market who will sign for as little as one year and $2.5M — other than a completely washed-up Jose Valverde or Frank Francisco type — I’d love to see him.

What say you? Should the Mets have tried a little harder to retain Hawkins, who — like Marlon Byrd — had mentioned many times that he’d like to return to Flushing? Or are you happy to see him moving on, perhaps to make room for younger pitchers? (Personally, I think every MLB team needs to stockpile as many pitchers as possible, regardless of where they are in terms of rebuilding / development.) Sound off in the comments.