Don't misunderstand my tone when I say that 2011 will be difficult for the Mets.
I have every faith that the Mets will be able to compete in the National League next year, but they just don't have the kind of flexibility within the payroll that they will do when they clear out contracts in 2012.
I keep reading that fans want to bring in a whole bunch of Type A free agents like Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, and Ted Lilly, but the fact remains that there may be very few pieces the Mets can add this offseason.
Think about the dead weight on the books.
Carlos Beltran will sting the team for $20 million, Oliver Perez for $12 million, and K-Rod for $12.2 million. No team is going to take those contracts off our hands and COO Jeff Wilpon even laughed at the thought of any GM wanting a piece of Perez this week.
I'm not sure what to expect from Jason Bay next year, but 2011 represents the first of three $18-million seasons.
Jose Reyes is at the end of his contract but it is believed the team will pick up his option for 2011. And John Maine and Angel Pagan will be eligible for arbitration.
Out of those who are free agents, I would expect to see the club extend offers to Hisanori Takahashi and R.A Dickey, and I also see Ike Davis earning a handsome wage after his successful first year in the majors.
The bad contracts, particularly those of Perez and Luis Castillo, will not be off the books until 2012, but the Mets will have a lot of money to play with when they do.
Beltran, Perez and Castillo are all free agents in 2012 and I would love to see them pass on the option for Rodriguez. That's an extra $50 million right there, before you even consider the contracts of lesser-paid men like Maine and Ryota Igarashi.
The 2012 free agent class looks like it could be one of the biggest ever, with All-Stars at every position.
People will say that the Yankees can't afford to lose Robinson Cano or that the Cards would be crazy not to offer Albert Pujols a new deal, but these are the type of players that right now are set to join the likes of Prince Fielder, Brandon Phillips, Jose Bautista, Yadier Molina, Nate McLouth, Scott Kazmir, Paul Maholm, and Ian Snell.
In addition, youngsters such as Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores, and Fernando Martinez will be in a much better position and there should be more depth in the minor leagues.
Mike Hessman is 32 years old, Valentino Pascucci is an overweight 31-year-old, and both Mike Jacobs—now in the Pacific Coast League with Las Vegas—and Russ Adams are 30.
Yes, all four of them had a strong season at Triple-A, but none of them were ever considered the future of the franchise in 2010. It's not inaccurate to say that the three guys still with the Bisons have little to offer long term. Infielders Tejada, Flores, and Reese Havens, and pitchers Mejia and Holt are the guys who can make immediate impacts.
Further down the line, look for Sean Ratliff, Kirk Neuwenhuis, James Fuller, Chris Hilliard, and Darrell Ceciliani to step up to the mark. Hilliard and Ceciliani are still several years away, but the early indication is that they both have the tools to succeed.
That's why 2012 is where the real future lies. Next year may bring a new front office in the form of an incoming GM and manager, but if they are shackled by the remnants of the Minaya/Manuel era expectations should be somewhat muted.
If people think quick fixes are imminent, think again. The team's 2010 payroll won't offer significant wiggle room in '11 and inherent problems from this past season offer tangible limitations.
David Wright will carry the team next season and hopefully Johan Santana and Reyes will be able to put full healthy seasons together. If Pagan, Davis, and R.A Dickey have anything like their 2010 seasons, too, then there's no reason the team can't put together a winning season.
They're still a couple pieces away from challenging for a National League crown, but maybe a couple years away from looking like they might be able to win it all.
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