It has been no surprise that after five straight losing seasons, any optimism that coincided with the arrival of Sandy Alderson and team Moneyball has now subsided into a cynicism and even a resentment of the current power brokers at the helm.
Second and Third guessing any decisions made by the current front office reflect the dismay which the current fandom, including many of us in the blogosphere, who are sick to death of the losing, the lack of spending, and the seeming lack of concern by the team charged with fixing it.
Of course, this is all understandable, fans have the right to complain when their teams lose. But sometimes, the odds just seem as though they have been stacked against this franchise for the past five years. Changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011, and the surplus of media revenue available this year are two factors that have either already contributed to the Mets current milieu or will continue to affect their attempts to build a competitive team in 2014.
Lets take a closer look at how each of these external factors have affected the rebuilding of the farm and team via free agency.
The new front office took charge in November 2010, with a vow to bring the same principles employed (with some success) when they were in charge in Oakland and San Diego. That meant using money more effectively in the draft, and possibly go “overslot” on some high draft picks, something the previous regime (often thought to be at the request of ownership) were criticized for not doing. Then, in 2011, a new CBA agreement between the owners and players put an end to teams who used the largest percentage of their revenues on their youth. The Mets new front office had only one year under the old rules. Additionally, the fixed money pool also applied to international amateur players, although with the caveat that this money could be “traded.” From the 2011 draft on, teams were “forced” into a cap on their draft spending, with severe penalties for any team that went overslot.
Although the new draft rules, which one report alleged that the players; “threw the youngsters under the bus,” were impediments to the speed of the Mets rebuilding process, the changes in the amount of money teams have to spend this year in the free agent market could have the biggest affect on the Mets attempt to build a contender.
We’ve all heard the story many times over now, the $40M that was taking up space in the form of Johan Santana and Jason Bay has now been freed and the Mets can spend, spend, spend, and when they’re done, spend some more. It seems it will be as easy as just splashing some green, and watch the instant playoff team take roots and show shoots of hope (too corny? Nah). Easy? Hmmm, not so fast. First, consider that the Mets payroll last year was approximately $90M; and (it is estimated) that the franchise lost $10M last year. If you can do math, and read tea leaves, one can come up with the theory that the Mets payroll in 2014 will be somewhere around $85M.
Ok, so thats not so bad, it means that the team can add $30M to the payroll this year. They can add a premier free agent, perhaps a Shin-Soo Choo at an affordable $70M over 5 years. Perfect, right?
This is where the new media money comes into play, all teams now have an increased revenue stream, and all indications are that they are willing to spend to improve this year. Now whether they are going into debt to supply this spending, is not known. But early reports, and the extensions that have already been done, point to a wild free agent signing period, and you can guarantee that some of these players will be overpaid. The San Francisco Giants just doled out $120M on Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum, who would’ve thought that a few months ago? No one, that’s who. There are also reports that the Astros, who’s entire team payroll was a notch above Johan’s, will be big players for Choo this year.
For a front office that has made all indications that 2014 was the year they were going to start competing and spending again, fate has stepped in to temper the Mets fan expectations. I am optimistic and believe that Alderson and co. will use a combination of trades and free agent signings to build a contender in 2014, or at least a team that plays meaningful games in September.