Mets Holiday Shopping - Part 5 - Team Chemistry
Minyana Closing in on Molina and Surveying Pitching Options

The Mets Must Resist the Temptation to Overpay for Players

The team is coming off a woeful season in which they lost more games than they had in any year since Omar Minaya took over the baseball operations of the club. The fans are screaming on the airwaves to spend, spend, spend and the team needs something to jumpstart ticket sales. But the Mets must be very careful not to overreact to these factors.

Both their general manager and field manager will be under the microscope early in the 2010 season but the problem is the free agent market is razor thin and so signing a John Lackey will cost big money and will preclude the team from improving in other areas. Throw in the fact that the Mets might be looking at a much better crop of free agents next year--Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee, Joe Mauer, and Roy Halladay for starters--and restraint might be the better course of action this off-season.

Running the Mets in this town is a slippery slope because you are constantly compared to the Yankees who have no budget but when you look at what the Wilpons spend, they always have committed serious dollars to their payroll and last year no National League team invested more in their team than the Mets. Still, the public perception is the organization does not spend enough and I have always thought that was an unfair criticism.

I honestly believe if the Mets core players return to health 80-90% of the team's problems are solved from a year ago. Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are star players in this league and losing hitters of that type for an extended period of time would send any team down the chute. It also had a spillover effect on David Wright who was asked to do more than any one batter should be asked to. So, I expect all 3 hitters to put up serious numbers in 2010.

So what does all this mean for Omar Minaya and his off-season plans? It means that the changes need to be more subtle than dramatic but that course of action will not be easy. The fans and sports talk show hosts will have a field day criticizing the Mets as being too passive and it could have an impact on ticket sales. But overpaying for talent will have a more debilitating effect on this organization because next year's free agent crop could be the best group in years. It will also give the Met lower level prospects like Ike Davis and Josh Thole one more year of seasoning before they are ready to contribute.

Does this mean I think the Mets can not win next year? Absolutely not and I think they will make additions that will help them and more specifically, be tailored to the spacious confines of CitiField. Signing Bengie Molina, re-upping Carlos Delgado, and having a full year from Jeff Francoeur will all help the offense rebound and adding an outfielder can be done under their current payroll benchmarks as well. It will not be Matt Holliday or Jason Bay but there are plenty of other serviceable outfielders who will put a lot less economic strain on the team and will provide similar, if not exact numbers to those 2 high-priced bats.

They could also add a pitcher but likely not John Lackey whom I think will cost at least AJ Burnett type numbers and that's just too costly at this point in time. I think a Rich Harden or Ben Sheets could provide the same numbers as Lackey at far less money. Now the rub here is they are both coming off injuries but they both have enough pedigree in their right arms to take a chance on. At the same time, you monitor the Roy Halladay talks because the Yanks and Red Sox could get cold feet as they did 2 years ago when Johan Santana became available.

I know these are not the off-season moves Met fans are clamoring for but it is a very sound strategy to employ in a down free agent year. The public perception will be the Mets would not be spending but in reality it is the way to go. Re-Tool a team that many felt would win by getting healthy and making minor changes without disturbing your low-level prospects who might be ready in a year or so. Then, you can operate from strength on adding free agents next year because unlike this year, the supply could be higher than the actual demand.

It won't be a popular choice but as the late Howard Cosell once said, "What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular."
If you are beginning to think about Christmas gifts, why not something from your favorite team? For Mets fans out there, check out these New York Mets Holiday Gift Ideas


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