This time last year rumors of the Mets’ losses due to Bernie Madoff were cited as a possible reason why the team didn’t make a run for any big-time free agents other than K-Rod. After all, they had more issues other than finding a closer, but watched players such as Manny Ramirez, C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Orlando Hudson, Bobby Abreu, Raul Ibanez, and Derek Lowe sign with other clubs.
This year, Jeff Wilpon promised that the Mets would be aggressive players in the free-agent market, and that Omar Minaya had no specific budget constraints.
Wilpon has plenty of time to make good on that promise, but the early signs suggest that there is indeed a budget, and the top-tier free agent targets likely will go untouched by the Mets.
Bill Madden of the Daily News says the Mets have only $20M to spend this winter, so they’ll focus on “second-tier” free agents. Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are looking at Jose Guillen as a bargain basement alternative to Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (wow, that’s some drop off!). Recent rumblings are that the Mets will look past the high-priced John Lackey and toward less expensive (and less reliable) options such as Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf. Further, there suddenly is talk that they are considering bringing back Carlos Delgado on an inexpensive, incentive-laden deal.
This could be posturing by the Mets, in order to keep their leverage in negotiations. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense if they publicly announced “hey, the wallet is open, and we’re spending freely this winter!”. Except, that’s basically what Jeff Wilpon said in October.
In the end, I might agree (gasp!) with Wallace Matthews, who believes the “Wilpons should be honest and look toward 2011“. The Mets have several holes to fill this winter, and have almost no trading chips they can afford to let go. That said, the free agent market is the quickest and easiest way to rebuild the roster, and the Mets have the added bonus of having their #1 draft pick protected (if they sign a “Type A” free agent). But Matthews is right on when he says:
The problem is, this year he will be spending thoroughbred money on a crop of dogs.
This year’s free agent class has two top players (Matt Holliday and Jason Bay), one top pitcher (John Lackey), and then everyone else is a few rungs below. Further, it can be argued that Lackey isn’t an “ace”, and is a question mark due to health concerns.
Holliday and Bay would probably get top dollar in any free agent year, though not Teixeira-type money. Lackey likely would not get top dollar if he were a free agent last year; my guess is he’d get something along the lines of a Derek Lowe deal (which is still pretty decent). But the rest of the class is sketchy, and they’ll all benefit from the trickle-down effect of these three “top dogs”.
What do you think? Should the Mets continue their habit of overpaying for talent — even if it’s the only way to build a contender — or is it time to tighten the budget, at the cost of possibly being also-rans in 2010?