This offseason, Sandy Alderon’s number one priority will be attempting to re-sign Jose Reyes. Even with his two stints on the disabled list, Reyes figures to receive substantial offers this winter and the Mets will likely have to pay a hefty sum to keep him around. Signing Reyes should be a priority for the front office, since he is arguably the most important player on the team in a multitude of ways. However, if the Mets are unable to sign the talented shortstop, how would Alderson and company allocate their resources instead?
Consider this: Alderson entered this past offseason with limited payroll flexibility, and yet still managed to sign a group of players who have contributed in some way to the team in 2011. The follow lists the player signed, his 2011 salary (performance bonuses not included), and WAR, according to FanGraphs:
Scott Hairston: $1.1 million, 0.7 WAR
Chris Capuano: $1.5 million, 1.2 WAR
Willie Harris: $0.8 million, -0.5 WAR
Ronny Paulino: $1.35 million, 0.6 WAR
D.J. Carrasco: $1.2 million, 0.0 WAR,
Tim Byrdak: $0.9 million, 0.2 WAR
Chris Young: $1.1 million, 0.1 WAR
The total cost of these players was $7.95 million, and their combined WAR was 2.3. Not that a WAR of 2.3 among seven players is that great, but these are role players, some of whom are relievers and one who only pitched for about a month. Obviously there were also some failures (Blaine Boyer to name one), but for the most part, Alderson’s thrifty spending has paid off.
This coming offseason, Alderson will have more money to play with. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Mets have $66.830 million committed to players. Even after dealing with arbitration eligible players (the Mets will have five), that should only bring the total payroll to around $85 or so million. Depending on what the payroll is, the Mets would then have somewhere between $15 million and $25 million to spend. Let’s assume it’s somewhere on the lower end of the spectrum. If the Mets re-sign Reyes, nearly all of that money would be allocated to him. However, if for some reason the Mets don’t sign him, that would leave Alderson $15 million to spend on multiple players.
Where would that money go? Hard to say, but the Mets do have some needs they could address via free agency. The Mets will probably keep the status quo at first base, third base (unless Wright is traded, which I don’t see happening), left field and catcher, while right field looks like it will be manned by Lucas Duda. Other positions could be up for grabs. There have been some rumblings that the front office isn’t thrilled with Angel Pagan, and he certainly hasn’t lived up to his breakout campaign from last season, but with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out of the rest of this season, it’d be hard to just give Captain Kirk the starting job. Shortstop would likely be played by Ruben Tejada, while second base could be Daniel Murphy. All three of these positions could be filled by one-year stopgaps, but that seems unlikely, as Alderson would probably rather save money and fill the positions internally. Likely, money would be spent on the bullpen.
Adding more talent to the bullpen would be a wise move by Alderson, since there have been times when the relief corps just haven’t been up to snuff. However, the problem with signing top-tier relievers is that they are expensive, want multi-year deals, and could cost one or two draft picks. I can’t see Alderson signing a type-A free agent (one that would cost the Mets two draft picks), which eliminates guys like Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Matt Capps and Jonathan Papelbon.
Instead, the Mets could opt to sign guys like Joe Nathan (assuming the Twins don’t exercise his $12.5 million option), Kerry Wood or Fernando Rodney, all guys with closing experience who wouldn’t cost more than a few million each or require loss of a draft pick. There are plenty of other relievers out there who could be used to plug other holes as well.
In the end, however, allocating this offseason’s financial resources towards re-signing Jose Reyes is for the best. The Mets won’t be able to replace his production, and even after spending money on him, Alderson could dumper-dive and find cheap relievers to round out the bullpen. It seems like the front office’s philosophy is to not spend inordinate amounts of money on free agents, and instead to build talent from within and hold onto players from within the organization. With some young talent coming up in the next couple of years, it is unlikely Alderson would give a multi-year deal of any significance to any free agent other than Reyes.