This point may be moot, due to a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme (I'm still rooting for a, "Bernie Madoff Made off with My Team's Payroll and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" promotional day) but if there is a choice for the Mets between going for it or rebuilding, they should rebuild.
In fact, the Mets should have started the rebuilding process at least a season ago, when their roster was a combination of a few expensive top level talents, backup catchers and nothing else. Instead, then GM Omar Minaya decided the best way to keep his job was to double down, sign Jason Bay and hope for the best. It didn't work. Now there's a new regime in town left to deal with a bloated payroll and the juggernaut that will be the Phillies. Here are five moves the Mets should make as soon as possible.
Consistenly terrible facial-hair to accompany consistently terrible pitching
He's useless. He's been useless for the majority of his major league career, and there's no reason to believe he will turn it around when he's about to turn 30.
Perez's K/BB ratio the last two seasons was absolutely abysmal, and his bloated ERA over that time matched his bloated FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) so it's not like he's been unlucky. Perez has stolen $24 million from the Mets the last two seasons and hasn't even been above replacement level (WAR of -1.1 in 2010); all the while his velocity has dropped and his attitude has been terrible (he refused to go to the minors to straighten himself out, preferring instead to make sure he brought the major league club down and not the single-A affiliate).
New Mets GM Sandy Alderson is delusional if he really thinks Perez can crack the rotation out of camp, and he simply won't perform well enough at the big league level to warrant any trade interest. Perez is scheduled to make another $12 million this season before his God-awful contract mercifully ends, so the Mets will try everything to avoid simply cutting him and eating the money. But in the end they won't find a taker via trade, and because keeping him around will be to the detriment of the team, they'll dump him.
Another dumb contract that never had a chance to be worthwhile, Castillo is also in the final year of a four-year deal that will pay him $6 million in 2011. He's 35, has as much pop as a Barry Manilow Album, and hasn't played above replacement level defense since 2007 (with '08 and '09 being particularly terrible defensive years).
Castillo may still swipe a few bags and he gets on base, but at some point you hit that threshold where the slugging is so inept it nullifies some of the positive OBP effect—Castillo has hit said threshold. If the Mets do move him they'll have to take on some, if not most of that salary, which is still more ideal than cutting him and taking it all on for no return. The Mets are trying Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus out at second along with Daniel Murphy, so Castillo's presence only serves to block two younger players with some upside. Dump him.
This photo shouldn't have been possible to take until roughly 2012
I don't know if you could tell by now, but in my opinion, the words "win now" should be just below the words "solid investment opportunity" on the list of things the Mets shouldn't be saying in 2011.
Mejia has No. 1 starter stuff, but he was hastily thrown onto the Major League roster last year because Jerry Manuel really needed him as a set-up man for the imaginary playoff run they were going to make. All told in 2010, Mejia threw 39 innings and kept his head above water; not bad for a 20-year-old but the potential is there for much more.
Yes, he lost a year of development to this dumb experiment, but he's still young and was hardly overworked last year. The bottom of the NL East need not require a 21-year-old floundering in the starting rotation. Send him down.
The ultimate display of rebuilding, moving Beltran is no small order; he's set to make $18.5 million this year and has a full no trade clause (Cot's Baseball Contracts is an awesome, awesome site). That being said, it's the right thing to do, even if it means eating some of the contract. Beltran has battled injuries the last two years but has performed when healthy—3.1 WAR in 2009 despite only playing in 81 games—and in his last full season of play he was downright dynamic with a .284/.376/.500 line and a 7.1 WAR.
His fielding during non-injury plagued seasons is usually average to good and his speed score, while declining with age, hasn't dropped entirely off the face of the map. There's still a lot of value here and I'd imagine, it being a contract year, he'll look to regain that MVP type form from years past before hitting free agency (yeah, I know it's a contract year for Perez and Castillo, too, but those are lost causes no matter what). In terms of the full no trade, would Beltran really refuse the chance to play for a team in contention? The Mets should pick the right moment and sell high here.
I have long advocated this move for the Mets, but the idea is generally received poorly by Met fans who still have hard-ons for years past. Let's look at this rationally and consider the facts: As they're currently constructed, the Mets are not contenders and their farm system doesn't have any top-tier talent a hop, skip or jump away from the majors to help. Their payroll is an amorphous blob of terrible, with some of the biggest contracts going to players who blow (Ollie and Louie) players who underperformed terribly last year (Bay, Reyes), players who are hurt and will miss significant time in 2011 (Santana) and players who beat their father-in-law's (K-Rod).
Wright and Reyes are, in terms of age, heading into the prime of their careers—Wright will be 29 this year, Reyes will turn 28 midseason. Both are reasonably priced for their respective values, with Wright being worth more right now in terms of production and money-owed. Both players would fetch impressive packages of prospects, especially if Reyes rebounds this season to post numbers close to his 2008 season when he was a 6.0 WAR player. On top of all that, the Mets probably aren't just a year away from the playoff hunt; this mess will take a bit longer to cleanup.
If it were up to me, I'd hope Reyes rebounds in the first few months of '11 and then shop him like there's no tomorrow. Wright's deal is a bit more cumbersome to move, but his age and productivity will make him attractive no matter what. Either way, it's time the Mets manned up and did what was best for the future, because there really isn't any present anyway.