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Sunday, February 16, 2014

WSJ: Mets’ Spending Spree May Not Be a Spree at All (Team Vowed a Winter of Investing, but Payroll Remains More or Less the Same)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—In the wake of their fifth consecutive losing season, years of financial insecurity and a payroll that has plummeted at a historic rate, the Mets vowed to invest in the team this winter. They’d spent more than $140 million on players as recently as 2011, but since then their budget had fallen into the bottom half of the major leagues, tens of millions below those of their big-market competitors.

So the Mets went shopping this winter, and on the surface it appeared that they kept their promise: General manager Sandy Alderson committed $87.25 million to new contracts for pitcher Bartolo Colon and outfielders Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, the largest expenditure this off-season by a National League franchise on the free-agent market.

But is the Mets’ effort to spend their way back to relevance a mere illusion?

A closer look at the organization’s transactions suggests that the Mets haven’t added much money at all to acquire new talent. Instead, they reallocated the funds made available by departing players. In fact, their overall payroll will remain mostly unchanged from a year ago—“somewhere in excess of $85 million,” Alderson said. ...

No matter how the Mets account for Bay’s deferred payments internally, it seems clear that, rather than spend major-market money to build a winner, they did little else but replace the money that came off last season’s books.

“We’d always like to have more players,” Alderson said. “But that doesn’t always make you a better team.”

Alderson makes a fair point. Teams with smaller payrolls than the Mets win consistently, namely the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics. How a franchise spends usually matters more than how much.

In the Mets’ case, they should get more out of their money. Last season, Santana and Bay never took the field in Queens. Barring injury, the players replacing them will contribute rather than simply cash checks. ...

Ironically, the improvement will likely need to come from within, rather than from the newcomers. Colon, who posted a 2.65 ERA for Oakland last season, essentially replaces ace Matt Harvey, who will miss all of 2014 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Granderson, who slugged 84 home runs for the Yankees in 2011 and 2012, essentially replaces departed outfielder Marlon Byrd, who hit 21 homers for the Mets in 425 at bats last season.

In other words, the money the Mets spent primarily replaces the production they lost. So how do they get better? The Mets’ heralded pitching prospects, highlighted by Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, must come to the majors and take steps forward. Travis d’Arnaud, arguably the sport’s best catching prospect, must begin to produce.

But most important, the Mets’ other players, their underachievers, must rebound from disappointing showings in 2013—young players Alderson said “have the capacity to improve.”

JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: February 16, 2014 at 08:35 AM | 22 comment(s)
  Beats: new york mets, salaries, small market

 

 

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