What If Pedro Martinez Didn’t Sign with the Mets?

So, last night I was watching Bob Costas’ “Studio 42” interview with Pedro Martinez. One of the discussion points was Pedro’s leaving Boston for the Mets, and Martinez made very clear that he wanted very much to stay in Boston, and would have passed on Omar Minaya’s 4-year offer for a 3-year deal from the Red Sox, had Larry Lucchino not “waited till the last minute” / presented the contract so late in the process (according to Pedro, it was within 15 minutes before the deadline).

I vaguely remembered this turn of events, but hearing it again — and now with the benefit of hindsight — I really have to wonder: what if Lucchino had made that 3-year offer earlier, and Pedro re-signed with the Bosox? How might that have changed the course of history for the New York Mets?

This is a significant question, because had Pedro not signed, there’s a pretty good chance that Carlos Beltran would not have signed, either (perhaps, Beltran would have signed with the Yankees, which opens up a whole new can of worms). And if neither Martinez nor Beltran signed with the Mets during that 2004-2005 offseason, Minaya most likely would have continued following the course of rebuilding the organization from the inside — i.e., through drafting and development.

Certainly, the magic of 2006 would not have occurred, but maybe — just maybe — the pain and suffering Mets fans are enduring now would have occurred from 2005-2009, when instead of signing people like Billy Wagner, Moises Alou, and Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets would have been stocking up on #1 picks. For those who remember that far back, that WAS the original plan when Minaya was hired — to scout, draft, and develop, per the Wilpons’ public announcement of a pledge to get “younger and more athletic” the day they fired Steve Phillips. (Yes, I’m aware there was a year+ of Jim Duquette before Minaya was hired, but the plan was essentially the same; it all changed when Pedro was signed.)

What do you think? Do you agree that Pedro was the first domino to fall that changed the course of the organization? What do you think might have happened had Pedro returned to Boston instead of signing with the Mets? Pose your thoughts in the comments.

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. Reese November 6, 2012 at 11:38 am
    While signing Pedro made a statement to the rest of the league that the team was indeed serious about starting on the road to respectability, the situation then was far different than it is now. Back then there was money to spend and we all know that most players simply follow the dollar signs. If we didn’t get Pedro or Beltran there would surely have been others we could have overpaid to lure them to Queens.

    The problem with that era was that the Mets tried to be the Yankees, spending themselves into competition like during George’s heyday, rather than developing from within and complementing that approach with key FA acquisitions.

    Now we’re in a parody of that era, looking to fill in the gaps with FA “talent” like Juan Pierre rather than an in-his-prime Juan Gonzalez. We were all fed that line about the Moneyball approach to things, yet precious is being done to reshape the team for sustained long-term growth.

    Instead, we’re repeating the mistakes of the past by floating 9 figure contracts at a declining David Wright. Look, you’re never going to sell enough jerseys with his name on them to pay his $18 million or more annual salary. What a smart GM would do is trade him (and Dickey) now while they have good value to other teams, restock the barren offensive ranks of the farm system and gain an immediate $21 million of salary flexibility to obtain young, talented players and lock them in as you did last year with Niese.

    • Joe Janish November 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm
      Agreed on most of your points, but disagree with two.

      First, I don’t believe Omar would have, or could have, signed any other “big ticket” free agent had he lost on Pedro. Minaya more or less put all of his eggs into the Pedro basket, and there wasn’t any other big-name FA who was interesting in signing in with the disaster that the Mets were back then. Beltran would have gone to the Bronx, almost assuredly. Roger Clemens wasn’t signing with the Mets. Carlos Delgado was offended by Tony Bernazard’s aggressiveness, so he wasn’t coming. Maybe Magglio Ordonez? Nomar Garciaparra? Moises Alou? JD Drew? Carl Pavano? Even if the Mets signed any of those players, I don’t think it would’ve been enough to a.) also convince Beltran to sign; b.) change the direction from youth to “win-now.”

      Second, I think you underestimate David Wright’s value in terms of generating revenue. The typical, average Mets fan doesn’t read MetsToday, AmazinAvenue, MetsBlog, nor any other Mets blog – he/she barely knows what’s happening with the team and watches maybe two dozen games a year on TV, while visiting Citi Field 2-3 times. That average fan connects with the biggest “star” and that’s currently David Wright (I know some supposed “diehard” Mets fans who have no idea who R.A. Dickey is). His salary may not be paid for via jerseys sales but it will be paid for via all the residual revenues that result due to the team connecting with the average fan, which cause the average fan to come out to the ballpark (as well as spend stupid amounts of money on crap like Mets-emblazoned chef’s aprons, car magnets, onesies, etc.).

  2. Mike November 6, 2012 at 11:38 am
    That is certainly how it all happened (i.e. Pedro signalling a change in strategy). Part of that was that Omar never had the wherewithal to execute and stick to a plan to build from within. He caved too easily. Not that signing Pedro and building from within are mutually exclusive. It was more like once the excitement of Pedro infected the fan base it was too tempting for everyone (Wilpons/Omar) to be aggressive and go for broke.

    I do hate revisionist history though. If Pedro doesn’t sign then how much would be different? There’s too many variables, but yes it would be a good bet that Beltran doesn’t sign. But maybe the Mets sign someone else, because they did have money to spend. Maybe that would have been an awful decision. Maybe Delgado gets more money with the Mets than Florida and he’s with them from day 1 of his contract. Maybe the team signs Carl Pavano to a huge deal and not the Yankees. It’s too hard to say one way or another what the Mets would have done but I do know that Omar’s regime did not have the best draft strategies and very likely would not have been able to complete the goal of building entirely from within. Bad/big free agent contracts would have eventually been handed out by the Mets. Maybe for better, maybe for worse.

  3. John Fitzgerald November 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm
    If you recall, Pedro was signed because the Mets felt they needed a marquee pitcher to coincide with their new TV network.

    If Pedro doesn’t sign, I think it’s safe to say the Wilpons would’ve done something even dumber to bring in a big ticket player via free agency or trade.

    The mentality of spending just enough on players that fit a PR niche to sell tickets has continued unabated. And when the Wilpons finally ran out of money, they brought in three marquee GMs and announced that they would finally focus on building the team from within. And all they have really done is cut payroll while insisting that they focused on youth, and yet they still have a higher payroll than most teams. How else do you explain keeping Jason Bay and bringing in guys like Torres, Rauch, Chris Young, etc? Cheap.

    • Joe Janish November 6, 2012 at 10:39 pm

      Also, I have to think there was internal need to build some kind of momentum as they moved into their new ballpark.

  4. Mike B November 6, 2012 at 5:42 pm
    I am not sure what would have happened if the Pedro didnt sign with the Mets(it certianly couldnt be much worse). But I am glad they did,that 06 team was a great team that fell just a little short. The “what if” I think about often is what if the Mets front office actually gave some support to this team in 07 and 08? Actually now that I think about it if the Mets didnt sign Pedro they would be exactly where they are now they just would have gotten there a lot faster.
    • Joe Janish November 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm
      Completely agree on 07 and 08, and if you followed MetsToday back then you know we hammered that perspective at the time.

      The Wilpons spent just enough to keep the carrot at the end of the stick fresh enough for we donkeys to keep chasing it.

  5. Izzy November 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm
    I believe it is totally bogus idea that the big signings led to this mess. The Wilpons were rolling in free dough because of the ponzi scheme. That free check is gone forever and the Wilpons don’t know how to deal with it. it doesn’t matter what the payroll was. If the ponzi scheme were still going Fred would still have Omar buying to his heart’s content. Now the money’s gone and the Wilpons don’t have a clue how to build a team that generates solid revenue.
    • Joe Janish November 6, 2012 at 10:41 pm
      True. Here’s an extended question: if that Madoff money weren’t falling off the tree, do you think the Mets build Citi Field? Create a cable network? I’m not so sure, and I wonder if there would have been big FA signings without a network and new park on the horizon. In fact, I wonder if the Wilpons would have had to sell the club.
      • Izzy November 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm
        If it weren’t for the ponzii money, would the Wilpons have ever taken 100% ownership of the club?
    • Dan B November 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm
      Izzy, you are so right. There are only positives about having money to spend. Not spending money correctly was the Met’s problem five years ago and it is their problem right now and I hate to say it, I fear it will be their problem in 2014 after Santana and Bay are gone. Specifically, they a) made payroll decissions assuming the Madoff money would never end rather then on revenue coming in. b) failed to reserve payroll to spend midseason for repairs c) didn’t cut bait on high payed non-performing players ( I never understood the financial reasoning to keep non-performing players just because they are paid a lot. Hey, that money is already spent. Bring in someone who can play which will generate more wins and revenue) d) failed to honestly invest, intellectually and financially, in the development of young players. There is nothing exclusive about signing or trading for high salary players that prevents also developing the farm system. You might give up an asset or two, but it doesn;t mean you stopped all development.
  6. ray sadecki November 6, 2012 at 7:11 pm
    So pedro didnt want to be a met?
    neither did beltran. he was willing to take less to go crosstown. Delgado rejected them as a FA and had to come as part of a trade. Is it any wonder those teams had terrible clubhouse chemistry? then there was glavine and billy wagner. In hindsight it would have been much better if none of them were brought in. mercenaries all. the mets followed the steinbrenner plan of the 80s and got the same result.
    • Izzy November 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm
      Hey, Sadecki……. This is your old “buddy” from LoHud days. This is the best Met site. You will love it here. Not the number of psots of some others but allgood stuff.
  7. DaveSchneck November 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    Had the Mets not signed Pedro the Wilpons might be willing to spend $102 million on the 2013 payroll. Or not.
  8. Howard Huang November 7, 2012 at 7:44 am
    I think a more updated event between Red Sox and the Mets would be “What if Jason Bay had taken the deal from the Red Sox?” During his last season at Boston, Bay rejected a Sox offer to become free agent. If he had accepted, he would not have been our problem right now!

    Then again, perhaps the Mets would have dumped the money on John Lackey…

    • Mike November 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm
      If I remember correctly, the 2 big FA that off-season were Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. The Mets had interersted in both but sign Bay. I was really hoping they’d sign Holliday over Bay. The concern with Holliday was that his numbers would decrease by not playing at Coors Field. They did decrease some, but still would have been a far better signing than Bay.
      • Tom November 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm
        It wasn’t so much that. But I think there was a mutual interest of Holliday remaining in St. Louis. Had Holliday even been given an extra 10 million to be a Met, he still might’ve stayed in St. Louis. The Mets were reluctant to giving out extremely long deals after having being burnt by Castillo and Perez. I’m surprised they didn’t feel the same way about Bay (especially given that he wasn’t offered more than 2 years by any other team). But this is nonetheless what got Minaya fired.
  9. argonbunnies November 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm
    The 2004 Mets were unwatchable. Nobody was going to tune in to SNY unless there was someone fun to watch, and few players can compete with an ace on that front. If Boston offers Pedro 4 years, I bet Minaya goes to 5. If Pedro stays in Boston anyway, then I dunno, whoever the next most exciting free agent starter out there was, we get that guy.

    I think we get Beltran either way. Pedro didn’t suddenly turn the Mets into a team that could promise Beltran winning; Carlos simply went to the highest bidder.

  10. Jeff November 7, 2012 at 9:52 pm
    Come on, Joe….You know that Beltran coming here had nothing to do with Pedro already being here (as much as Omar liked to say that it did). Beltran came here for money, money, money. He even had his agent go back to the Yankees after the Mets offered 7 years $119 million because he really wanted to be a Yankee. He had his agent offer Beltran’s services for $100 million – but the Yankees couldn’t do it because they were over the salary cap, so the $100 million would have actually cost them $140 million. Then, and ONLY THEN, did Beltran take the Wilpon’s money. Had zero to do with Pedro being here. And that’s why I never cared much for Beltran. He didn’t even want to be a Met.
  11. Tom November 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm
    I constantly hear about how the signing of Pedro supposedly “put the Mets back on the map again”. While this is somewhat true, I think this is a view which is thought more after Pedro was a Met for a few years. If anything, it was used as a justification for giving him a big contract he really didn’t live up to because of injuries.

    While the plan might have been to continue rebuilding, I don’t think this was Minaya’s vision of the team and that was why he did spend a lot on players. While it was evident the Braves were declining, the emergence of the Phillies was not entirely predictable. Minaya knew this was a chance for the Mets to compete again, if they had the right players.

    Who knows if Beltran would have gotten that same deal from the Yankees or another team? The Mets actually lost out on Delgado because of Minaya’s poor communication skills. They just got lucky he was signed by the team that quickly firesales. Just wait till that is Jose Reyes too.

    The point is, had it not been Pedro, they would have likely eventually signed another high-end starting pitcher. The vision was centered around developing a team of stars. Pedro might’ve been the first player to start the trend, but it would have even if didn’t. It might have taken an extra year, but it was going to happen.

  12. Tom November 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm
    Also take note that it was obvious Piazza’s tenure was ending and in order to get people to come to the stadium, starpower helps attract that. Prior to the ’05 season, the futures of Wright and Reyes were still unclear.

    In some ways, we can relate that today. While it would be better to trade Dickey for pieces that would help our future similar to having traded Beltran, the lack of a potential Cy Young may draw even less people from next year’s crowd. The question will be will they be willing to take the financial short term hit for a stronger long term goal. Alderson seems like the kind of GM that would.

  13. Cosmic Charlie November 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm
    1. I must have gone to 6 or 7 Pedro starts in Shea/2005. He changed the entire feel of the stadium. Priceless.
    2. Would we view the Omar era a failure if the results were identical, except they won it all in 2006?
    • 7up17togo November 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm
      You saw 6 or 7 of the 15 or so ‘good” starts Pedro had as a Met. The signing was disasterous, maybe on par with the Saberhagen trade/signing in the mid-90’s.
  14. bdollarsign November 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm
    Perhaps without Beltran, we would’ve had more of a long term need for a center fielder in the 2005 draft, and would’ve picked a young Andrew McCutchen over Big Pelf in the first round.