Addressing a Misguided Narrative
After the 2012 season ended, there were questions regarding what direction the Mets would go in as far as retaining David Wright and R.A. Dickey were concerned. Sandy Alderson made it clear that he was interested in extending both players, but it seemed as if he was determined to sell high with Dickey if given the chance.
Now that Wright has been signed long-term and Dickey is in Toronto, there seems to be a narrative developing. It goes something like this:
The Mets don’t have a plan because they aren’t being consistent. This inconsistency has revealed itself in the fact that the team signed David Wright to a seven year contract extension, but traded R.A. Dickey. This lack of a plan first came to light in 2011 when the Mets failed to trade Jose Reyes at the deadline, before allowing him to walk via free agency.
I don’t agree with the above narrative, and here’s why: Even in this World we live in, where Fred and Jeff Wilpon could hand deliver puppies to orphans and still be vilified for it, there’s room for common sense. Using common sense, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that it’s OK to sign a 30 year old middle of the order hitter/third baseman while at the same time trading a 38 year old Cy Young Award winning starting pitcher.
Dec 5, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright addresses the media at a press conference during the Major League Baseball winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
What makes the above understandable? While it’s accurate that the Mets are attempting to assemble a lights out starting rotation (and R.A. Dickey would certainly have helped the Mets reach that goal), one area where the Mets should be fine is with their starting pitching. Going into the 2013 season, the Mets’ rotation will consist of Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, and a fifth starter who has yet to be determined. Some time in June or July, top prospect Zack Wheeler will most likely join the rotation.
In addition to the current Major League starting pitchers and the ultra close Wheeler, the Mets are top heavy in the minors as far as their starting pitching is concerned. They have Michael Fulmer, Rafael Montero, Domingo Tapia, Noah Syndergaard, and many others who are rising through the system. Unlike their starting pitching depth in the minors, the Mets have no impact bats that are close to contributing (unless you count Wilmer Flores, who would have to prove he can play second base). This lack of impact bats made retaining Wright exceptionally important.
Prospects could certainly flame out, but so could established Major Leaguers. By dealing R.A. Dickey, the Mets took a gamble while selling high from an area of strength. Contrary to what some are suggesting, the Mets didn’t deal R.A. Dickey because they couldn’t or wouldn’t meet his modest contract demands. They dealt R.A. Dickey because they came to the conclusion that they weren’t likely to contend in 2013 with or without him, and that obtaining Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra was the right move for the long-term health of the ballclub. The Mets did nothing to disrespect R.A. Dickey. They gave him a chance in 2010 when no one else would, and then decided to use the asset they had in him to secure multiple potential high end pieces via trade. Baseball is a business, and the Dickey trade was a business decision.
Let’s go back and discuss the Jose Reyes situation, which is being lumped in with the “Mets don’t have a plan” narrative. Sandy Alderson rarely tips his hand, so no one knows for certain if the Mets were entertaining offers for Reyes near the trade deadline in 2011. What many are forgetting, is that Reyes injured his hamstring and landed on the disabled list in early July, putting a crimp in any potential deal. It’s also important to note that Reyes left via free agency before the Bernard Madoff litigation was settled. The Mets were still in a precarious financial position, so the Reyes issue must be viewed through a different lens than that of the recent Wright and Dickey transactions.
It’s more than fair to criticize Sandy Alderson and the rest of the front office for inactivity. It’s fine to question their motives. However, viewing the extension of David Wright coupled with the trade of R.A. Dickey as a sign of internal discombobulation is foolish.
The Mets clearly have a plan, albeit one that is taking a long time to bear fruit. They’re shedding old bad contracts while refraining from handing out new bad contracts. They’re in the midst of rebuilding their minor league system, both through the draft and via trades. They’re hanging onto young, cost controlled pieces they believe can contribute to their next contending club.
Where Wright and Dickey were concerned, the Mets’ thinking was rational and in line with their current plan. They felt Wright would still be productive when the Mets next contended, and thought that the players they received in exchange for Dickey would bolster their long-term plan. It remains to be seen if Wright will produce at a high level over the course of his contract or if the players obtained for Dickey will reach their potential. Nothing in baseball is certain from year to year, and only time will tell if the decisions the Mets made regarding Wright and Dickey were the right ones. The reasoning they used to reach those decisions and the plan they have in place, though, both appear to be solid.