Sandy Alderson should be commended for what he's achieved in his four-month tenure with the New York Mets.
He inherited a team with a payroll in excess of $142 million, a team rotten to the core with a lack of clubhouse chemistry where the overpriced superstars played second fiddle only to their bigger egos and delusions of self worth.
A lot will happen between now and next April, but it's a very real possibility that the Mets will have an Opening Day payroll under $100 million.
New York will not be big spenders this offseason. The No. 1 priority will be to re-sign Jose Reyes and the rest of the talk will be about pitchers eligible for arbitration and role players looking for another one-year deal. Consider what Alderson has done so far:- He dropped the 35-year-old Luis Castillo, an ill-advised free agent signed who was already past his peak when he was brought on in 2007.
- He had no problem eating the $12 million contract of Oliver Perez after the left-hander failed to replicate the form that prompted his eight-figure salary.
He moved Francisco Rodriguez—a man who got his big payday on the back of a monster '08 season in Anaheim—to Milwaukee in exchange for two prospects when he was on pace to cost the Mets another $17.5 million in 2012.
- And most recently he got the defending champion San Francisco Giants' No. 1 pitching prospect Zack Wheeler for a two-month loan of Carlos Beltran when nobody thought the Mets would get someone that well-regarded.
All of this is against the backdrop of a new manager and new front office leading the team to a .500 record and outside shot of a wildcard spot.
To put it another way, Alderson is building a contender through subtraction.
The Mets don't have a bat to replace Beltran and they don't have an arm to replace K-Rod, but that doesn't meaning they're tanking the season or selling their shot at a championship. They're not simply "sellers" at the deadline by process of elimination just because they're not "buyers."
New York was never a serious World Series threat at the start of the year, but despite the injuries they have had to deal with, they're still performing well. Not amazingly and probably not good enough to upset the Braves and Phillies, but above expectation.
Terry Collins, too, should receive as much credit as Alderson for the job he's done. Sure, he's gotten the best out of Reyes, but he's also squeezed value from Daniel Murphy and solid contributions from Jason Isringhausen, all while utilizing 76 different batting orders in 104 games. The Mets have only used the same lineup in consecutive games nine times this year!
You really can't over-emphasise what he means to the team.
Between Alderson and Collins, the Mets are setting the foundations of a once-again proud franchise. They're not mortgaging the team, they're fixing the mistakes of those who came before them and building the club back from the bottom up around a core nucleus.
Jose Reyes can anchor the top of this lineup for years to come, and a healthy Ike Davis can grow into one of the premiere homegrown middle-of-the-order bats in the game. Add in a young outfield and a future pitching staff that includes Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia and the future is suddenly quite bright.
By 2013 you could have Johan Santana, Wheeler and Harvey as your top three in the rotation, Reyes and Wilmer Flores in the middle infield, Wright and Davis in the corner infield spots and Jason Bay and Cesar Puello filling two of the three outside positions. That is with what they have right now.
While they won't be big players in the coming offseason, it doesn't mean they won't make any moves. Based on the first four months of 2011, I trust Alderson, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi to get it done, and not necessarily by chasing the top free agents out there. They know they won't be in a position to.
The Mets are building for the future by setting the foundation today.