The hot stove in Queens isn't lit this year. For the Mets fan this serves at the very least as our short-term reality. After years of personnel mismanagement and ownership’s dalliance with the worst Ponzi scheme in modern history, there isn’t much left in the cupboard as a means to augment the roster.
Which is why this slideshow’s premise may appear predictable.
But let me take you on a journey to see what we could have had in Queens for the next several seasons.
Apathy has no place in a Mets fan’s vocabulary; we’re skilled at punishing ourselves.
I might change my name to Captain Obvious.
Pujols is a once-in-a-generation hitter. By the time I’m old and gray, he will have been the greatest right-handed hitter I’ve ever seen play.
The Mets were, once upon a time, major players in the free-agent market. Before Alex Rodriguez inked his ridiculous $250 million deal with Texas, they were both his preferred and widely expected destination.
They were considered players again during Omar Minaya’s reign—adding big money pieces like Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Jason Bay and Johan Santana. While the results vary, the Mets were always a possible free-agent destination.
Not now. Pujols will cost at least $250 million to a team not named the Cardinals. His Hall of Fame bat will only be hitting home runs in Citi in a visiting uni.
Buehrle isn’t your quintessential ace, but he’s the model of consistency. His repertoire could be even more effective if he's given the opportunity to feast on National League lineups.
He’s not going to pass 90 mph on the gun, but Buehrle will give you 200 innings-plus with respectable statistics. He’s a veteran pitcher who could provide guidance to what is becoming a decidedly younger Mets rotation.
Unfortunately, Buehrle is at least a $10 million a year pitcher. The Mets simply don’t have the funds to offer him a deal.
This one stings.
The Mets never truly gave Bell a chance to earn a consistent spot in the bullpen. While his ERA was bloated, it appears they just didn’t see what they had in the fiery, hard-throwing right-hander. His role was rarely defined, and he was shipped to and from the minors on what seemed like a daily basis.
Bell was unceremoniously shipped to San Diego for a used glove and some gum before he went on to become a dominant closer.
The Mets currently have no closer, but as is the trend with this team, the money just isn’t there. Nor (as I haven’t mentioned) does the team wish to give up draft picks for type-A free agents.
This one stings just a little bit more.
If the Mets were business-as-usual, Reyes would have been locked up to a long-term deal paying him fair market value long before he ever reached free agency.
But this isn’t business as usual.
Reyes’ situation is further complicated by his perilous injury history. While the Mets would perhaps pony up the dough (think $20 million annually for six years) if he didn’t miss significant time, there’s virtually no chance they do so now unless he decides he wants to stay at a huge discount.
Paying a player—even one as beloved as Reyes—$20 million in his mid 30’s? Especially considering his game his based on his legs? No dice.
Yes, I’m well aware Ike Davis exists. First base isn’t a needed position for the Mets despite last year’s rotating door at the position while Davis sat out.
But if business was being conducted as it would be were the Mets solvent, it’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t at least flirt with Fielder. He’s likely to make less than Pujols (think $23 million annually, give or take) and despite his weight he manages to stay on the field regularly.
On a team planning to contend for a title in the next three years and a team flush with cash—two things the Mets wish they were—Fielder is your prototypical cleanup hitter.
Cuddyer’s name doesn't jump off the page, but he’s a solid veteran with a good bat and versatility in the field. Cuddyer has split time over the course of his career at first base, right field and second base—though he’s had the least experience at the latter.
He could have been a solution for right field and/or at second, depending on the team’s final makeup. As for judging his defense at second, he could be lacking, but I haven't seen him play every day at the position.
Of course, Cuddyer is priced out of the Mets' range and will likely make at least $10 million annually going forward.
Even though he doesn’t carry a superstar price tag, just about anyone that isn’t a cheap vet isn’t being considered currently by Mets GM Sandy Alderson.
Darvish is considered the best pitching prospect to ever get posted by a Japanese team.
I’ll give you a moment to collect nickels for every time you’ve heard that expression.
Darvish has impressed most major league scouts that have seen him pitch. One of these days, a pitcher from Japan who is highly-touted will end up performing up to expectations (no offense to the Hiroki Kurodas of the world).
His posting fee is expected to be outrageous, but this is where it’s bothersome. There are a lot of mid-market teams expected to bid. His multi-year contract after that won’t be a $100 million bunker-buster.
So theoretically, if he pans out, he could be had for tens of millions cheaper than lesser star pitchers.
The Mets, of course, aren’t even in position to bid as a mid-market franchise. They’re too busy paying Bobby Bonilla compounded interest.
Cespedes is another interesting case. Much like Darvish, he's an unproven commodity but has significant upside. While he's a risk, there should be many teams beyond the usual Yankees/Sox/Phillies bidding for his services.
His performance in the WBC left scouts unimpressed, but there's no doubting the tools.Tools of course don't translate over to performance. Sometimes it's about how the player responds mentally & emotionally.
By now this theme has made you ill (try writing it), but this is a player the Mets could have capitalized on. While they were never really in the ballpark of the aforementioned payroll leaders, the Mets were huge spenders, often finishing with a top-three or top-five payroll.
Cespedes is a risk worth taking. He's just not a risk worth taking for a team slashing payroll massively.
My own words would appear to haunt me on Wilson. I’ve been rather critical of the lefty considering he’s been a playoff bust, hasn’t been a top performer very long and seems to have a rather outgoing personality that could either be boom or bust in a Northeast pressure-cooker.
But he is what he is: an in-his-prime lefty who managed a sub-3.00 ERA and set career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts. (For perspective, his ERA+—which adjusts for ballpark—was 152 and good for 6th best in the majors).
Wilson has only gotten better year after year in limited time as a starter.
Unfortunately (for whomever gets him) Wilson will be overpriced in a rather dry pitching market. He’s the top commodity, so it should come as no surprise that the Mets won’t even call his agent.
First let’s set the record straight. Beltran will be forever known for watching Strike 3 cross the plate in 2006. But his career as a Met—he might be the best straight free-agent signing in the history of the franchise—was very good.
During his three most productive seasons, Carlos hit 101 homers and drove in 340, playing stellar Gold Glove defense throughout. While he later succumbed to knee injuries, 2011 was something of a renaissance.
Some may call it a contract-year anomaly, but for the first time he was no longer depended on to man center field. And he was two years removed from major knee issues that had him sidelined.
To answer the inevitable: Why include Beltran as a player the Mets wish they could have when they traded him away to begin with?
Well, this slideshow is something of a hypothetical. In a perfect world, the Mets own a mid- to mega-market payroll and are contending. Beltran offers a major upgrade to their current roster composition.
In summary, there are probably 80 to a 100 players the Mets would like to have. This ranges from top-flight starting pitchers and sluggers on down to bench players and bullpen specialists.
The Mets' economic situation—the key issue throughout—dictates that they'll be dealing in a secondary market taking chances on injured veterans. That worked out partially last year when they brought in Chris Young and Chris Capuano.
It also means that much of their depth will be provided by their minor league system. The idea is to have depth as a means to offset short-term dilemmas, not man key positions day to day (a la Nick Evans).
We've entered a new era that's sure to last at least the next few years—one in which this team will nickel and dime until they're in a situation where cash flow no longer stifles player acquisitions.