The Mets are not built to win right now. They are in the process of building a winner for the future.
General manager Sandy Alderson inherited a team with some brutal contracts. Jason Bay, anybody?
Alderson stepped into an organization with tremendous financial issues, a handful of albatross contracts and a depleted minor league system. But now, Alderson has the future looking much, much brighter.
The minor leagues are stocked with young pitching talent. The two future top-end starters, Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler, are Alderson additions. Harvey was the Mets' first-round pick in the 2010 draft, Wheeler was acquired—stolen, really—from the San Francisco Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade.
Alderson took over for the outgoing Omar Minaya after the 2010 season. He inherited a 79-83 team with a payroll of $126.5 million.
In 2011, Alderson's first full season, the payroll ballooned to over $142 million, and the team finished with a record of 77-85. Keep in mind, though, that the bump in payroll was no fault of Alderson's. That was due to the enormous free agent contract given to Bay by Minaya.
To start 2012, the Mets payroll has been slashed to about $94.5 million. It's the first time the Mets have had a sub-$100 million payroll since 2004.
The team is off to a 16-13 start, and while it's tempting to call this team a contender right now, it's still entirely too early to say they are over the hump. But they are certainly in the right direction. The youth movement is underway.
The roster is comprised of several players on one-year deals: Mike Pelfrey, Jon Rauch, Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez, Ronny Cedeno, Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, Manny Acosta, Miguel Batista, Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner, Pedro Beato, Mike Nickeas and Mike Baxter.
Alderson will be a busy man this offseason deciding who to retain and who to let go. Additionally, Johan Santana and Jason Bay could become free agents after 2013, potentially lifting over $40 million off the Mets' payroll.
The elephant in the room remains David Wright. What will Alderson do with Wright, who becomes a free agent after this season? It's hard to imagine him not returning, but if the Mets were to completely fall out of the race by July, Alderson may shop the unofficial captain.
To date, Alderson has done a tremendous job, considering the financial restraints he has had to deal with. The next two offseasons will paint a clearer picture as to what Alderson's legacy will be. Money will be more available, and the kids will have grown up a bit.
It's the perfect storm, and Alderson appears to be the perfect skipper.