Before I get slammed for being an apologist, allow me to make this clear: The Mets have a ton of work to do. I’m disappointed nothing came to fruition at the Winter Meetings as far as new acquisitions, and I remain skeptical of the front office. Still, allow me to put these past four days into perspective.
First, a cautionary tale. Remember what the Mets did at the meetings last year? They signed Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, and traded Angel Pagan to the Giants for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez. Aside from Rauch (who showed some flashes of usefulness), those moves were horrendous. The only player obtained during last year’s meetings who will be on the Mets in 2012 is Francisco, and that’s only because he’s signed and has no trade value.
Next, let’s look at what other clubs did this week. There were zero trades of significance (I’m not counting Yunel Escobar and Ben Revere – an outfielder who has hit zero homers over the course of his three year career), so all we have to go by are the free agent signings. Mike Napoli, who hit .227 last year and is still living off his fluky 2011 season, signed with the Red Sox for three years and $39 million. Angel Pagan re-signed with the Giants for four years and $40 million. Shane Victorino, coming off his worst year at age 32, signed for three years and $39 million with Boston. The Nationals gave Dan Haren a one year deal for $13 million. Of the contracts that were given to the “marquee” names, I wouldn’t have matched a single one of them if I was in charge of the Mets.
Of those who have yet to sign, it’s rumored that Zack Greinke‘s contract will be for seven years and $160 million. That’s absurd. Even if the Mets needed pitching, I wouldn’t want them to ponder giving Greinke that deal. Michael Bourn will be grossly overpaid. Josh Hamilton has both injury concerns and substance abuse related concerns. Aside from the popular names, there are lots of mediocre free agents still out there, and I’m glad the Mets didn’t sign a bunch of them just for the sake of it. In order for the Mets to properly address their areas of need, their best bet is to do it through trades. And that’s exactly what the front office attempted to do in Nashville.
They had discussions regarding Jonathon Niese, none of which got serious. Sandy Alderson met with 10 teams to discuss the possibility of dealing R.A. Dickey, and were offered mostly insulting packages in return. While it was reported that Alderson asked for two top prospects from the teams he spoke to, that’s a fair starting point for the reigning Cy Young award winner who is signed for dirt cheap next year (and who would’ve granted teams a window to sign him to an extension). I believe Alderson would’ve pulled the trigger for one difference maker, but other teams apparently weren’t ready to bite. After balking at the price for Dickey, Royals General Manager Dayton Moore asked the Mets for Jonathon Niese and Zack Wheeler for their top prospect Wil Myers. If that’s not hysterical, I don’t know what is. More than it being hysterical, it’s a sign that Moore was wasting Alderson’s time.
According to various reports, the Mets had discussions yesterday about dealing some of their prospects, and talked about about a deal that would’ve brought back an outfielder without Dickey being the player sent in exchange. Nothing came of the rumors. It’s plausible teams that are interested in Niese and/or Dickey won’t blink until Zack Greinke signs. The team that fails to sign Greinke may turn to the Mets, and/or other teams (the Rays, for one) in an attempt to land a pitcher. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, the Mets simply have no reason to rush the Dickey resolution. With that said, they absolutely cannot go into the season with the matter unresolved. Regardless of what Jeff Wilpon says, I don’t believe they will.
The only concrete thing the Mets did in Nashville was hold the David Wright press conference. As odd as it is, what Wright said after the press conference may be the most telling information that was uttered during the Winter Meetings. After the season ended, Wright met with Sandy Alderson in Virginia and asked for details regarding Alderson’s plan and the Mets’ finances. Alderson shared with Wright payroll projections for the coming years, details about the minor leaguers who are on the way, and potential free agent targets the Mets will attempt to secure after 2013 and beyond. After having his questions answered, Wright told his agents to hammer out a deal with the Mets. After the press conference, Jeff Wilpon told reporters the payroll would go up next year (the payroll for 2013 is expected to be between $105 million and $110 million). So, it appears Wright wasn’t sold a false bill of goods. However, actions speak louder than words.
Sandy Alderson needs to start implementing the plan he conveyed to Wright. The Mets coming home from Nashville without any shiny new toys is fine, but that sentiment will change if the rest of the offseason evaporates and the Mets do nothing of significance. Re-signing Scott Hairston and/or signing only bargain bin type players won’t qualify as significant. Alderson needs to aim higher. It’s evident that the Mets clearly have room to maneuver this offseason and next. As part of his new deal, Wright agreed to get paid only $8 million in 2013 (instead of $16 million), allowing the Mets extra flexibility. The Mets had already gained some more freedom as far as adding to the payroll after their parting of the ways with Jason Bay. Alderson needs to utlize that flexibility, and do something creative with it.
For now, the inactivity (especially considering the fact that most teams did nothing at the meetings) is acceptable. What won’t be acceptable, is if when Spring Training begins in two months, the Mets trot out Josh Thole as their starting catcher and an outfield devoid of anyone who’s qualified to enter the season as a Major League regular. It’s rash and off base to condemn Alderson and the Mets for not completing any deals at what was an overall bland Winter Meetings, but it won’t be unfair to absolutely hammer them if the rest of the winter plays out the same way.