The New York Mets are no strangers to throwing around exorbitant amounts of money to undeserving players.
The recent contract extension of Jon Niese is yet another example. While Niese has proven to be a pitcher that displays an above-average big league arsenal of pitches, he is not yet worth a contract extension of $25.5 million with team options that can make it $46 million. The timing of the extension is a bit curious.
In early December, Mets GM Sandy Alderson announced to the media that the Mets lost $70 million in 2011 which contributed to their "financial parameters" involving any potential re-signing of Jose Reyes. Aside from Reyes, they did not pursue any other top-tier free agents. Rather, they settled for middle reliever Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco on short-term contracts.
Naturally, most fans were upset that the Mets were opting to spend frugally in a division that features four other teams that at least appear superior on paper.
Entering the season, the 25-year-old left-hander was the owner of a 22-23 record with a 4.39 earned run average, and had yet to top 196 innings or 148 strikeouts.
At that point, despite his youth and promising future, he was virtually the definition of an average pitcher.
What did the Mets do? They committed long-term to a pitcher that may or may not become what they envisioned.
The idea of signing a pitcher that has yet to reach free agency is a common practice in Major League Baseball. In fact, the Tampa Bay Rays locked up Matt Moore to a five-year deal worth $14 million after ONE START!
The difference between the Rays financial decision and that of the Mets lies in the track record of the organizations, the average annual salary and the development of the pitcher to that point.
With the three starts in 2012 thus far notwithstanding, Jon Niese has not showed that he is durable or dynamic enough to warrant a long-term contract.
Sandy Alderson announced at the press conference that the "Mets are trying to build a core of players that will make the team competitive for years to come."
With the trio of talented pitching prospects currently honing their skills in the upper levels of the minor leagues, the future rotation should be based on the most talented and deserving group of pitchers. In 2013 or 2014, Niese may not be one of the best five starters on the club.
For argument's sake, let's assume the Mets will begin the 2013 season with at least two of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia on the big-league staff.
After all, these players have been constantly mentioned by Alderson and other members of the Mets brass as a dynamic trio of pitchers. That leaves open three other spots.
Johan Santana is signed through 2013, and he will certainly be anchoring the staff, unless there is an unforeseen event.
R.A. Dickey has a $5 million team option with a $300,000 buyout. If he continues to pitch like he did in 2010 and 2011, it would seem logical for the Mets to pick up his option. Dickey has provided an ERA+ of 123 over 383 innings of work.
Dillon Gee, despite having a very rough start against Atlanta, won 13 games as a rookie in 2011, and does not become arbitration eligible until 2014. He was never ranked as top-10 Mets prospect prior to his promotion.
He is young, effective, under control for another year and without a high value? Can't trade him.
This leaves Pelfrey, who is currently on the disabled list with the possibility of Tommy John surgery, lurking. He has no value if he is injured, and has appeared to turned a corner as a big-league pitcher. He will be a free agent after the 2014 season. The Mets will be forced to hope his health returns to 100 percent.
What does this all mean? The Mets committed long-term to a pitcher who has not experienced any sort of substantial success in the big leagues, and he may not even be one of their five best starting pitchers entering the 2013 season.
With the Mets struggling financially, it seems curious to make this sort of transaction after allowing one of their best shortstops in franchise history depart due to monetary values.
Basically, this did not need to be addressed until after the season if Niese is able to show he is deserving of this money.
Hopefully for the Mets sake, this does not backfire for them the way Brett Anderson did for the Oakland Athletics.