Mets Farm System: If You Build It They (Wins) Will Come?

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Much is made these days about the Mets payroll and lack of spending. Clearly there has been a shift in focus from being big spenders in free agency to building depth within the farm system to feed the major league club. Perhaps the biggest reason is Fred Wilpon’s financial woes, but it’s easy to forget the recent past says Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal.

With all the grumbling about the Mets’ diminishing payroll, it is easy to forget what happened with this team from 2007 through 2011.

During that span, the Mets spent between $115 million and $149 million on players, yet they missed the playoffs in each of those seasons, proving that money only buys wins if invested well.

It’s an important point that Diamond makes and not only was it proven during those years, but it continues to hold true in more recent seasons. A lack of spending in the past few years has put a spotlight on the few players they have opened their wallets for– namely Frank Francisco, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. These moves appeared to be an attempt to quell the fans who were screaming for the team to spend, so spend the Mets did, but on flawed players or one’s with diminishing skills or on the wrong side of thirty.

The one thing the Mets have done well since their organizational reset that began with the hiring of Sandy Alderson has been to build a top farm system. The Mets are deep in pitching, something that can fuel a rebuild whether it comes in the form of value on the field or as trade chips.

With the abundance of pitching already in the system the front office has turned it’s eye to offense. Over the past few seasons they’ve drafted players like outfielder Brandon Nimmo and catcher Kevin Plawecki who have had breakout 2014 campaigns. They’ve also added Dominic Smith who is holding his own as a teenager in A-ball, and his teammate Gavin Cecchini who could become an everyday shortstop. Last night the Mets added another piece to the puzzle in Oregon State’s sweet swinging lefty Michael Conforto. The 6’1 outfielder could eventually provide the Mets with the power bat they’ve been craving.

And the rebuild isn’t some pipe dream that is years away. It’s happening now. Just look at the Mets current roster that is lingering around .500 and just a handful of games out of first place in the NL East. It’s comprised of mostly young players, many of them groomed in the Mets system, as Diamond points out:

The Mets have already used 21 different homegrown players, the most of any team besides the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been perhaps the most successful franchise in baseball over the past decade. That figure doesn’t include key contributors like catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitcher Zack Wheeler, whom the Mets didn’t sign originally but developed to their major-league debuts.

Mets captain David Wright, who grew up a Mets fan and was drafted and developed by the Mets, gets it. He played for those high-payroll teams that didn’t make the playoffs.

“You look in history at the teams that have had those epic four-, five-, six-year runs, and it seems like the common thing is they’re somewhat built around a core group that has been developed by that organization,” Wright told WSJ.

As Diamond wraps up his piece he points out that “minor-league depth only matters if the players produce in the majors.”– and he’s absolutely right.

The only way to win in baseball is by making the right decisions. Whether it be which free agents to sign or which players to draft. The Mets have signed the wrong free agents in recent years. Have they made the right draft choices? Time will tell, but there’s more reason for optimism today than there was immediately after the Beltran/Reyes/Wright/Delgado era came to an end.

To read the rest of Jared Diamond’s excellent article, click here.