Saturday, March 20, 2010

2010 Year in Preview: New York Mets

Let me start out by giving you a number: $145,000,000; that’s the Mets payroll last year, good for 2nd in MLB. Here's another number: 22; that’s the number of games BELOW .500 the Mets were last year. Let's break that down, that's about $2.07M per win. Here's how much the five best teams from last year paid per win:

1. New York Yankees (103-59) ~ $1.955M/win
2. Los Angeles Angels (97-65) ~ $1.172M/win
3. Boston Red Sox (95-67) ~ $1.291M/win
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) ~ $1.057M/win
5. Philadelphia Phillies (93-69) ~ $1.215M/win

After that brief analysis, The Mets organization is truly embarrassing. Yes, there were injuries, but you have some of the marquee players from MLB on your team (Santana, Reyes, Beltran, etc) and not only that, you have the 2nd highest payroll in all of baseball, and you manage a pathetic 70 wins. I want to know how Omar Minaya still has a job with that kind of ROI...let's dive into the mediocrity...

2009 Record: (70-92), 4th place, 23GB the 1st place Philadelphia Phillies, NL East

Key Additions:
As far as impact players go, the Mets didn't do much this off-season. The players of note include Gary Matthews Jr. who really is in the twilight of his career. He's never been all that productive offensively and to be honest, aside from a spectacular catch or two, he's not very special defensively either (.981 career F%).

The Mets major acquisition of this past off-season was Jason Bay who was acquired via free agency from the Red Sox. The Mets signed Bay to a 4-year, $66M contract with an option for a 5th year. He will play left field for the Mets and should be a nice fit in the lineup as well coming off a career-year offensively. At 30 years old, the Mets should get their money's worth from Bay.

Here's the round-up of the rest of the additions the Mets made this off-season:
Journeyman catcher Chris Coste (free agent from the Astros); Henry Blanco C (free agent from the Padres); Ryota Igarashi RHP (free agent from Japan); Kelvim Escobar RHP (free agent from the Angels); Frank Catalanotto (MiL free agent from the Brewers); Jason Pridie OF (waiver claim from the Twins); Mike Jacobs 1B (MiL free agent from the Royals); Shawn Riggans C (MiL free agent from the Rays); Rod Barajas C (free agent from the Blue Jays)

Key Departures:
The Mets lost some names over the off-season, but none of them are good anymore or important cogs for a team that hopes to bounce back from a disappointing decade. Here's the list:

Brian Schneider C (free agent, signed with the Phillies); J.J. Putz RP (free agent, signed with the White Sox); Carlos Delgado 1B (free agent, unsigned...told ya); Gary Sheffield OF (free agent, unsigned); Ramon Martinez INF (free agent, unsigned); Cory Sullivan OF (non-tendered); Jeremy Reed OF (non-tendered); Tim Redding RHP (non-tendered)

Talent En Route:
There are three prospects that deserve mention within a relatively deep New York Met farm-system.

Jenrry Mejia - RHP
Mejia is a flame-throwing youngster who has so-far impressed, throwing as high as Double-A ball last season. According to Baseball Prospectus (love those guys), Mejia features a plus-plus fastball with great velocity (93-95) and a plus change-up, both of which have a “heavy, hard sink which generate as many grounders as they do swings and misses.” A Double-A last year, Mejia wasn’t particularly spectacular, but he did induce a great number more groundballs than flyballs. Mejia projects as a top-of-the-rotation starter and it could be just a year or two before he makes his major –league debut. Ranked 5-stars by Baseball Prospectus.

Fernando Martinez - CF
All throughout his minor league career, Martinez has shown he can hit, and hit for power. At age 20, Martinez had a .282/.338/.540 triple-slash with 29 extra-base hits in 190 PAs.  He was underwhelming in his major-league debut last year (29Gms) until he suffered a season-ending knee injury, but still projects as a solid hitter going forward. With the off-season signing of Jason Bay, Martinez looks destined to start this season at Triple-A, but looking forward to the 2011 season, it’s probably that we could be seeing him as a starter in right field. Ranked 4-stars by Baseball Prospectus.

Ike Davis – 1B
The last guy I’m mentioning here isn’t ranked especially high in the Mets farm-system, but he has shown some sweet hitting skills since being drafted in the 1st round in 2008. Last year he split time between High-A and Double-A and performed well at both stops, hitting for a combined .298BA along with 20HRs and 71RBI in 429ABs. As it stands now, his competition is David Murphy, but Davis looks to get a late season call-up this season and could be a starter by 2011.

2011 Free Agency and Salary Outlook:
Aside from the players that the Mets signed during this past off-season, there are no core pieces of the current team that will be free agents come 2011. Free-agency wise, 2012 will be a much more interesting year for the Mets, with Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Oliver Perez and Jeff Francoeur all being free-agents. As far as the salary outlook for the Mets goes, they are pretty well locked in to some very high-priced contracts for several of their top players, for instance:

Johan Santana: $21.5M this year, and $22.5M, $24M, $25.5M in the following years
Carlos Beltran: $20M this year, $20M next year
David Wright: $10.25M this year, $14.25M and $15.25M in the following years
Jason Bay: $8.625M this year, $18.125M the next three years following
K-Rod: $12.167M this year, $12.167M next year
Oliver Perez: $12M this year, $12M next year
Gary Matthews Jr.: $11.9M this year, $12.4M next year

As the above highlights, the Mets payroll ain’t goin’ down anytime soon. Between Santana, Wright, and Bay alone, the Mets have more money locked up than some entire small-market team payrolls and with starting pitching a significant need for this team, that overall payroll is likely to rise. I wouldn’t be looking for the Mets to be big players come trade deadline, but if they have another season or two like the last 3, we could be looking at a MAJOR fire-sale.

The Future of the New York Mets:
Ah, the red-headed step child of New York baseball teams. Does anyone even remember the ‘Subway-Series’ World Series that happened just a mere 10 years ago (oh, btw, that the Yankees swept 4-0)? In the last five years, the Mets have had two of the most epic down-the-stretch collapses in baseball history, they’ve managed to waste a seemingly limitless payroll that most other teams would covet and they’ve managed to do it with some of the most recognizable players in the Major Leagues. Through all of this, one Omar Minaya has managed, against all odds, to hold onto his job. The only GM in baseball that I can think of in baseball who has had a similar level of failure despite vast financial resource is Jim Hendry of the Chicago Cubs. In order for the Mets to realize some of the excellent potential they have on the field, they need to have a GM who a) understands baseball and b) is willing to try every possible avenue to ensure that his team on the field is a competitive one. As a fan of a small market team, it kills me to see this kind of wealth go to waste because I would love for my team to be able to spend as much money as the Mets can knowing that they would put together a World Series-caliber team. The Mets, having the resources they do, should take a deep breath, put the pride aside, and take a page out of the Yankees book on how to win Championships. With competent baseball minds running the show on all levels, this Mets team could be contenders for at least the next 5 years.

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