The Mets are in an Unenviable Spot

By Danny Abriano

No one should be surprised anymore when outlandish free agent deals are announced.  When one deal of the absurd variety is handed out, it’s a shock.  When pretty much every deal that’s handed out can be described as an absurd deal, absurd becomes the norm.

Sep 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jason Vargas (60) throws a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon, the Royals informed the media that they had a “major baseball announcement” coming.  That “major” announcement?  The club had signed Jason Vargas, a 30 year old (he’ll be 31 before next season) left handed starting pitcher whose fastball sits around 87 MPH to a four year deal worth $32 million dollars.  Jason Vargas, who has a career ERA of 4.30 and a 1.32 career WHIP.

There’s nothing wrong with 31 year old left handers who have career ERA’s of 4.30.  They’re valuable – and the average annual value Vargas got isn’t crazy.  However, pitchers like Vargas shouldn’t be getting four year deals.  In this market, though, players are “worth” what they’re getting simply due to the fact that general managers continue to hand out ridiculous deals while driving the market to insane levels.

Earlier this offseason, Marlon Byrd, a 36 year old who was close to retirement a year ago, got a two year, $16 million dollar deal from the Phillies.  Byrd’s deal also includes a third year vesting option.

Carlos Ruiz, a catcher who’s coming off a PED suspension and will be 35 prior to 2014 (and whose offensive skills have already deteriorated), got a three year deal worth $26 million from the Phillies.

Before he could hit free agency, starting pitcher Tim Lincecum signed a two year deal with the Giants worth $35 million.  That would’ve been a great deal for the 2011 version of Lincecum, but he doesn’t exist anymore.  He’s been replaced by a guy with diminished velocity who posted a 5.18 ERA in 2012 and a 4.37 ERA in 2013.

Simply put, the market is pure madness, and it leaves the Mets in an extremely unenviable spot.

This offseason has long been pegged as the one when the Mets would re-emerge and become serious bidders in the free agent market  – perhaps not for the best of the best, but for pretty much anyone else.

What this market is doing, is giving the Mets two options.  The first, is to vastly overpay like everyone else.  The second, is to run like hell away from the free agent market and attempt to make the majority of their impact moves via trade.

There are fans out there who will say that the Mets should hand Curtis Granderson a blank check, or hand Jhonny Peralta a three year deal worth $15 million dollars annually.  I’m not one of them.  The Mets need to be smart about the deals they hand out, or they’ll fall right back into the mess they just emerged from.

The Mets have to spend – Sandy Alderson vowed a few days ago that the 2014 payroll would not be lower than last year’s payroll.  By making that statement, Alderson has committed to spending at least $30 million dollars on external players this offseason.

If I were Sandy Alderson, I’d be holding firm as far as the free agent market is concerned.  Alderson should make serious bids for the free agents he’s interested in, but should turn his attention to the trade market if those players are asking for insane deals.

The market is starting to heat up, and I want to see the Mets do something big.  What I don’t want to see, is a headline that reads “Mets sign Jhonny Peralta to a four year deal worth $60 million.”

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