Heading into the off-season, the team’s list of needs was well established, among them, a slugging outfielder, a starting pitcher, a shortstop, and per the GM, a back-up catcher.
A full month remains before we usher in the new year. The free agency period is in full swing, the Winter Meetings are soon coming, and will conclude with the Rule-V Draft. So, on several fronts, there still exists the potential for much off-season activity before December expires.
Patience, however, already appears to be wearing thin.
I feel a disproportionate number of Mets fans are not at all happy. I understand their angst, because I am one of them. Correct me if I’m off-base, but, are we struggling to reconcile a battle of perception regarding how we perceive the Mets, and how the Mets want to be perceived? I’d say the answer is an unqualified, yes, and that the general manager additionally seems to only be compounding the problem. On that front, I feel we are also engaged in a battle of semantics.
For months, Sandy Alderson’s off-season preamble declared the Mets were going to be competitive participants in the free agent market. Upon arrival at the GM/Owners meetings, Alderson even quipped about spending time in his hotel room and counting his stacks of cash. That was another ill-conceived mistake on the GM’s part, just as his Spring Training jokes did not go over well with a perturbed fan base. I can appreciate humility, or hubris, as it relates to humor, and even attempts to make light of a murky situation. By doing so however, he only flamed fan’s frustrations. Or, did Sandy Alderson overlook the simple fact that we were here before he entered the picture?
The joke is on him. Since the onset of the off-season, the mission statement has devolved, and we’re on to it. What fans originally interpreted as spending representative money on free agents to address some of their needs, was then revised when Alderson intimated the club would not be signing anyone for $100+ million dollars. Another downgrade to the plan was handed down when he again stated the Mets were unlikely to sign two outfielders. Concurrently, Jeff Wilpon dropped a bomb on overall November optimism when he admitted to finding the going rates for free agents “scary.” At that rate, I feared the club will next report they lost the company check book.
To be fair, I think everyone is in agreement that this year’s free agent pool is shallow, and that prices are largely out of whack, which somewhat justifies the club’s apprehension – just not all clubs.
Jeff Wilpon told no lies. After expressing interest, and even meeting with shortstop Jhonny Peralta, the Mets veered away from, what was then, an initial three year, $45 million dollar asking price. Peralta subsequently signed a four year, $53 million dollar contract with the St. Louis Cardinals – the same Cardinals heralded during the most recent post-season, as being a model franchise.
In addressing the outfield, instead of mining directly into the main vein of free agency, the Mets opted to pan for grains of gold along the riverbed, and came up with outfielder Chris Young, whom they signed for one year, at $7.25 million. This puts Young in a class with Coco Crisp, who will play for $7.5 million next year, Marlon Byrd, and David Murphy. The higher priced Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, and Nelson Cruz remain available on the market.
Most recently, the Mets were reported to have requested a meeting with free agent pitcher Bronson Arroyo, although, Newsday’s David Lennon disputes that report. Meanwhile, free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco, Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Phil Hughes, and most notably, Tim Hudson, have all signed on with new teams. Still available are names like Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda, and pitchers of similar ilk.
Arroyo earned $16,445,535 in 2013, and earned $12 million for the 2012 season. As a matter of reference, the Twins just signed Ricky Nolasco to a four year, $49 million dollar deal, with a vesting option for the 2018 season. Tim Hudson signed for two years at $23 million with the San Francisco Giants. And on the low end, Phil Hughes accepted an average annual rate of $8 million from the Twins. Somewhere in between, lies Bronson Arroyo’s true rate.
To me, signing Chris Young sent a mixed message. Now let’s see what happens with Bronson Arroyo. Beyond that, the Winter Meetings may yet still provide us with a few redeeming transactions. Until then, it should not get lost on Mets management that anxiety is building. The fan base is growing increasingly uneasy with the message, and not necessarily with acquisitions, or lack there of.