A friend recently asked me if I thought the New York Mets were going to be possible contenders anytime in the near future. After thinking about it, my answer was yes. Before everyone tells me how crazy I am, here’s my take on the future of the Mets.
By now, the stories of the Wilpons’ dealings with Bernie Madoff and the Mets' epic collapses of 2007 and 2008 are old news. The promising team of 2006 that was assembled by former general manager Omar Minaya was long forgotten once Minaya left the organization following the 2010 season.
That’s when current GM Sandy Alderson stepped in. It definitely took guts to accept the GM position at that time. Alderson basically inherited a mess. He had to come in and dig through the wreckage in order to even think about rebuilding the Mets.
With the Wilpons’ financial problems, Alderson was not going to be given a budget to bring in big-name free agents. The era of giving out superstar contracts to names such as Pedro Martinez, K-Rod and Carlos Beltran was over.
Complicating Alderson’s task was the fact that Minaya’s big-name signings and trades had left the team's farm system short on prospects. The Mets were also still on the books for ludicrous contracts given to former players such as Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. Then there’s the four-year, $66 million deal given to Jason Bay.
The Mets have been non-contenders for the past few years, and expectations are for more of the same this season. There is, however, a hint of optimism as the Mets start spring training in Port St. Lucie. That feeling comes from the promise of youth.
Alderson came in and accepted that he had a big job ahead of him. He has quietly gone about replenishing the Mets farm system with prospects in return for big-ticket players.
Most Mets fans were sorry to see R.A. Dickey go. However, in terms of pure business, it was something that Alderson had to do. The Mets have had very few bargaining chips, so a 38-year-old Cy Young winner had to be offered. Alderson held out for the deal he wanted and got it. Dickey is now with a contender, and the Mets received their future catcher Travis d’Arnaud, veteran catcher John Buck and top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard.
The Mets have barely made any noise this offseason other than locking down franchise third baseman David Wright.
It’s frustrating for fans to see other teams improving while the Mets stand still. The fact is, Alderson is doing the right thing. Alderson is building a team for the future that will contend for many years to come rather than just one flash-in-the-pan season.
Look at the Washington Nationals as an example of what building toward the future can do. Once the laughingstock of the National League East, the Nationals are now one of the most feared teams in all of baseball.
The 2013 Mets outfield is a huge question mark. Though names such as Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, apparently off to the Cleveland Indians per FOX Sport's Ken Rosenthal, were available, Alderson did not budge. He is unwilling to part with young players in order for an immediate but temporary fix.
One area where I might say Alderson made a mistake was with Jose Reyes. If the Mets knew they were not going to sign Reyes as a free agent, they should have traded him at the deadline in 2011. Instead, they got nothing. I will admit that as much as Reyes was a true Met, he was due a large contract. By not signing Reyes, Alderson freed up significant money to keep the rebuilding process moving.
The Mets have invited several players without contracts to spring training. While not big stars, LaTroy Hawkins, Pedro Feliciano and Marlon Byrd are cheap options who could work out for the time being.
Alderson’s rebuilding project is not done yet. Following the 2013 season, the Mets will be able to remove $24 million from their books when Johan Santana’s contract expires.
As most kids are taught when going down the candy aisle at the supermarket with their mother, sometimes gratification is better when delayed.
Alderson is showing he has a smart baseball mind and he has a plan for the not too distant future of the Mets.
As much as Mets fans want a successful team right now, I believe that Alderson’s disciplined rebuilding plan will have the Mets contending soon.