Let’s Play Final Jeopardy: And The Answer Is, Cliff Lee!

An article by posted on July 3, 2010

Throughout my time writing for Mets Merized, I’ve always been one who preaches the rare virtue of patience.  The formula is straightforward.  Keep and develop your minor leaguers, complement them with a few key free agents, and over time you will have built a long lasting winning team.  It’s a simple theory but of course doesn’t always work.  Nor does significantly increasing payroll and having a roster of stars at every position.

Especially after a slow start, it is a pleasant surprise that the Mets are competing for first place in the NL East.  The question now is do the Mets add on players through trades in order to take a real shot at going deep into the playoffs.  The risk, of course, is that the Mets don’t even make the playoffs and the farm system is depleted through trades made at the deadline.

To my fellow Met Merized readers, even I say that it’s time to make the moves to make a serious run.  I have my doubts as to whether the Mets can make it to the World Series.  But in analyzing the situation, it is clear that the rewards significantly outweigh the risks.  Doing nothing is the biggest risk; that the Mets lose out on a star who can help them this year and possibly for years to come.

Let’s say the Mets give up two solid prospects in a trade for Cliff Lee.  I would include Jenrry Mejia as the cornerstone of this trade.  I know he is injured.  But the injury doesn’t seem to be serious and might not be a deal killer.  Or Fernando Martinez would be included in addition to one or two solid but lesser prospects.  There, you have a trade.

So the Mets would have at least rented Cliff Lee to propel them towards the playoffs.  They’ve given up some real prospects that at least fans of Mets Merized believe in.  But here’s the thing.  If type A free agent Cliff Lee bolts after the season, the Mets will most likely receive two draft picks:  The first round draft pick of the team that signs Lee, plus a supplemental first round pick.  Those two high draft picks restocks the farm system and softens the blow of this year’s roster losses.

On the other hand, the Mets could offer Lee a four year deal totaling $80 million.  If it was a back loaded contract it would accomplish a few important things.  What if the Mets paid Lee $10 million in 2011, and $23.3 million in each of 2012, 2013, and 2014.  The Mets 2011 payroll would still fiscally, be under control.  Then remember, in 2012, the contracts of Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, and Oliver Perez all come off the payroll.  That would be $38 million off the books starting in 2012.  That’s when the $23.3 million to Cliff Lee would start kicking in.

Hmm. a payroll that still is under control.  Just what the Wilpons desire.

I’ve changed my tune on this matter.  Giving up some top, solid prospects is not a big deal when replaced with high draft picks or a long term signing of Cliff Lee.

This move would make good financial sense for the long term while at the same time improving the team this year and without long term stress on the farm system.

It’s a no brainer; even for me!

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