Mets Matters: The Path To Sustainability

Just over 18 months ago, the Mets hired Sandy Alderson in hopes that he could turn around an overpaid and underachieving franchise. In his first season as General Manager, Alderson hired Terry Collins, signed Chris Capuano and Chris Young to small, incentive-laden deals, and plugged some holes on the roster with veterans such as Scott Hairston and Willie Harris. The season turned out to be a tough one to watch, but the Mets’ wallets were strapped and there wasn’t any space in the payroll for big moves. Alderson did trade Francisco Rodriguez for low ceiling prospects, simply to rid the Mets of a terrible contract. He also moved veteran OF Carlos Beltran, in a trade that brought back arguably the Mets current best prospect, Zack Wheeler.

The 2011-2012 offseason had a lot of noise, even though the Mets dropped about $50 million in payroll. Contracts of Jose Reyes, Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, and Luis Castillo were finally off the books and the Mets saw their payroll shrink to about $91 million. This provided invaluable financial relief to a team that clearly needed to rebuild. The offseason brought in a few notable players, mostly in the bullpen. The Mets traded Angel Pagan for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres. Through free agency, they signed Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Finally, they added Ronny Cedeno and Omar Quintanilla in order to provide some middle infield depth.

Two and a half months have passed in this season and the Mets somehow are still in the playoff hunt. Led by All-Star Starter candidate R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, the pitching rotation has taken form, despite the loss of Mike Pelfrey to Tommy John surgery. David Wright is a surefire All-Star as he’s hitting over .350. The Mets lead the MLB in 2-out runs which has fueled this team to improbable heights in the first half of the season. So now the question is, what do the Mets need to do to sustain this success?

Sustainability is not a word you hear much in baseball, but it’s one that is endearing to a General Manager. His goal will always be to field a winning team year after year. The Mets were able to accomplish that for a small stretch between 2006 and 2008, but to put together a team that can be successful for a longer period of time is crucial for a team that needs more revenue. The simple fix would be to go and get star talent, like the Mets did in 2005 with Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran; however, the Mets are not in position where they can add a ton of payroll. The Mets must build through their farm system and fill holes through free agency before they can afford the Albert Pujols’ and Prince Fielder’s of the world.

Sandy Alderson has done a tremendous job of staying patient and intelligent, without putting the future of this franchise in jeopardy. With Mejia, Familia, Wheeler, and Harvey down in AA and AAA, the Mets have four good to great pitching prospects that should be ready to help the Mets in the next two years. After the 2013 season, the Mets will likely recoup $40 million off their payroll (Santana and Bay). This is a HUGE amount of money that will allow the team to offer David Wright, Ike Davis, R.A. Dickey, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, and Josh Thole some formidable offers to remain on the team. The Mets’ are clearly rebuilding, but they are winning. It’s the best of both worlds.

The Mets need bullpen help and that is a position which should come fairly cheap in today’s market. Alderson will not give up any of his Tier 1 or 2 prospects, because he values the farm system as much as any other GM in the MLB. He knows that the chances of the Mets reaching the postseason this year are low, but he does want to make sure that he gives the team a chance. If this team plays meaningful games in September, the stadium will be packed and his Owner will be happy. It’s as simple as that. The only problem is that he wants to keep winning and making a crazy trade with some of his prospects will not make it easier to achieve that goal.

So what should the Mets do this trade deadline? Here is what I think:

  • Move Reese Havens for a Reliever – this is somewhat contradictory to what I said Alderson is thinking, but Havens simply has not been the player that the Mets envisioned him to be. He has struggled to stay healthy and he’s hitting .204 as a 25 year old in AA. He’s also taking up a valuable spot on the 40 man roster.
  • Move Daniel Murphy to a strict platoon with Ronny Cedeno. This is basically already happening, but Murphy is just in a funk. He hasn’t hit well in a month and it’s time to take a step back and let him get comfortable again. Cedeno has hit better as of late and is a much better defensive player.
  • Bring back Manny Acosta – before you scream at the possibility, Acosta has a 1.54 ERA in AAA, with 11 K’s in 11 2/3 innings with 0 BB. He’s doing something right down there and it might be time to give him another chance.
  • Give Jason Bay one more opportunity as Full-Time LF- This would create a platoon in CF with Torres and Kirk, but Bay looks to be on his way back from the concussion. He is symptom free and could be back in the next couple weeks, which would be very encouraging for his long-term health. Bay has one thing working for him that others on the team can’t really offer: right handedness. He simply has to be that bat in between Duda and Davis that poses a threat to left-handed pitchers.

These are just a few of my thoughts, what would you do to try and fix this team?