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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Megdal: Bargain-basement Mets miss out on Michael Bourn

And what did the Cleveland Indians, in one of the smallest markets and rebuilding, do while the Wilpons cannibalized their television network to stave off a financial reckoning? They went out and got Nick Swisher, then Michael Bourn. And they can thank the money they got when Indians ownership purchased Fox Sports Ohio. It allows them, like virtually every successful rebuilding team, to improve the major league roster and the farm system at the same time.

That’s the real problem for the New York Mets. In this era of massive television money and league-limited draft spending, the options are to spend $12 million per year for a center fielder, or go without a center fielder until your scouts come up with one.

At the moment, there isn’t any such player in the Mets’ system. Perhaps the Mets can draft one with their eleventh pick, but if so, it probably won’t be a player to help them until 2016 at the earliest.

In the meantime, the Mets still have the outfield they had when Sandy Alderson joked about it back in November. Helpfully, the incumbents are already forced to answer questions about why their own team’s general manager believes they aren’t legitimate major leaguers. Maybe they’ll use it as motivation, but the problem is that Alderson was probably right.

Repoz Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:55 PM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. thetailor Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:06 PM (#4368281)
Howard, you used to be my favorite Mets blogger. But since the dust-up with the team, I cannot recall the last article linked here that wasn't a complete hit-piece on the Mets. We know their financial situation sucks. You don't have to copy and paste their debt obligations into every article.
   2. thetailor Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:11 PM (#4368285)
More to the point, the linked Adam Rubin article does not make the Mets decision to hesitate to engage the arbitrator an unreasonable one. Further, you know that the fangraphs value for Bourn is tied up in his defense (unreliable) and that he'll be in his mid-30's by the time this deal is done. Not going after Bourn more aggressively is entirely defensible.

Edit: I'd take Bourn at 4/48, but that's not really what we're taking about.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:19 PM (#4368293)
And of course they don't have to wait until their scouts come up with one. They can sign the next FA CF or trade for a CF.

What I don't understand is why the draft pick question wasn't cleared up ages ago. The Mets must have recognized this at the end of the season if not before and taken it to the league for clarification. There's no reason the matter couldn't have been clarified in a week or two. Here we are in mid-Feb and it's still not clear. I don't know how much of that is on the Mets, how much on MLB but it shouldn't have been this hard.
   4. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:37 PM (#4368302)
@3: you're assuming good faith on the part of the Mets, I imagine, which would involve them forgoing having dust to throw into the air.
The Wilpons also invert the usual way of looking at things, where we learn early not to assign nefarious motives when simple incompetence will explain matters. It certainly shouldn't have been this hard, particularly for a FO headed by an experienced, intelligent GM.

It does seem to me that everyone watching the team undergoes some form of traumatic, partial amnesia every three months or so, where it's too painful to reall that this is still the worst run team in the major leagues; where Jeff Wilpon keeps Alderson on a very short leash and forces him to run any move costing a few bucks past him; where last offseason the vaunted GM, clearly fed up, said lousy relief had cost the team at least nine games (there was a thread on this site about it) then threw fifteen million dollars, most of his offseason buget, at a bunch of relievers. This for a team with little chance at contending. It wasn't a GM move; it was either performance art, or a "fuck this". This is the team whose sole function is to keep the Wilpons' holdings from collapsing. If the Wilpons could swap with Jim Crane, who would take over the Mets, I'd probably go with Crane, and I probably wouldn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. If the Wilpons can get through the next three years, we'll never be done with them.

It's also easy to pick on Howard for appearing to be negative, but there's a whole lot of bad news that anyone covering the team has to impart. It's a case of shooting the messenger, and it's what anyone covering a bad team horribly run goes through when they don't bother lipsticking the pig.

edit: I've read a few other bloggers whose steady diet is imagining the Mets with a $120 million payroll. It's a pleasant change of pace, but I don't want the equivalent of USA Today or Readers Digest on any kind of regular basis when it comes to coverage of the teams I follow.
   5. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:45 PM (#4368308)
Howard--if you're around, any guesses on the team's payroll over the next three years?

Particularly in light of,

The $320 million owed against the team, due in 2014, still looms, as does the even larger debt, which had been $450 million prior to the additional borrowing against S.N.Y., due in 2015. These are the numbers that will dictate whether ownership can spend on players, or even hold onto the team. Nothing else.


Btw, if I'm reading that right, it means the Wilpons have to come up with some combination of cash and loans in the amount of $770m by some time in 2015. Any idea how much equity they have left (I assume they're all but out of cash)?

   6. NJ in DC (Now unemployed!) Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:50 PM (#4368312)
Howard, when did you start covering the Knicks for LoHud? Recently found your twitter page and was really enjoying the coverage.
   7. KT's Pot Arb Posted: February 12, 2013 at 11:00 PM (#4368447)
Howard, you used to be my favorite Mets blogger. But since the dust-up with the team, I cannot recall the last article linked here that wasn't a complete hit-piece on the Mets. We know their financial situation sucks. You don't have to copy and paste their debt obligations into every article.


In other words Howard stopped writing positive articles when the Mets stopped having positive news. You want him to write fantasy articles so you don't have to dwell on that.

More to the point, the linked Adam Rubin article does not make the Mets decision to hesitate to engage the arbitrator an unreasonable one. Further, you know that the fangraphs value for Bourn is tied up in his defense (unreliable) and that he'll be in his mid-30's by the time this deal is done. Not going after Bourn more aggressively is entirely defensible.

Edit: I'd take Bourn at 4/48, but that's not really what we're taking about.


So in other words the Mets were perfectly willing to give up a high draft pick and pay fair market to get Bourne, then suddenly they decided they couldn't give up the pick while paying that much, far too late to get the arbiters ruling they'd need to keep their pick. Then they decided not to gamble a little and offer the $48m without the ruling, knowing that they were likely to win it as most ndependent analysts think.

So they are either incompetent morons who can't plan their offseason needs 2 weeks in advance, or outright liars using the arbiter delay as a fig leave to hide the fact they never wanted to sign Bourne and planned all along to keep send out the super cheap, super bad outfield they have now in 2013.

The Mets failure to engage an arbitrator was clearly either incompetent, or calculated to further a lie they were selling their fans, both are clearly unreasonable to the fans, but obviously not to the Wilpons.
   8. Bob Tufts Posted: February 12, 2013 at 11:19 PM (#4368455)
or outright liars using the arbiter delay as a fig leave to hide the fact they never wanted to sign Bourne and planned all along to keep send out the super cheap, super bad outfield they have now in 2013.


This. A great game of saying and/or teasing the fans that the Mets management wanted to act - but they truly had no intention of doing so.
   9. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: February 12, 2013 at 11:49 PM (#4368468)
Thought I read on here that they offered him the 48, but Cleveland kicked in a vesting option. Not true?
   10. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: February 13, 2013 at 12:45 AM (#4368486)
Thought I read on here that they offered him the 48, but Cleveland kicked in a vesting option. Not true?

That was me posting what I read on Rotoworld, whose source on that matter was Joel Sherman.
   11. Benji Posted: February 13, 2013 at 06:19 AM (#4368528)
I think they are outright liars and incompetent morons.
   12. Bug Selig Posted: February 13, 2013 at 08:05 AM (#4368537)
I think they are outright liars and incompetent morons.


But, could they also be considered outright morons and incompetent liars?
   13. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 13, 2013 at 08:45 AM (#4368542)
Btw, if I'm reading that right, it means the Wilpons have to come up with some combination of cash and loans in the amount of $770m by some time in 2015. Any idea how much equity they have left (I assume they're all but out of cash)?

It's phrased a bit clumsily, but I am pretty sure that reads as 320m in 2014 and another 130m in 2015.
   14. HowardMegdal Posted: February 13, 2013 at 10:33 AM (#4368589)
13. Neither of you are correct, it is much more than that. $320 million against the team in 2014. It was $450 million additional against SNY, but is now MORE, because they borrowed $160 million additionally against their SNY stake, and the due date wasn't pushed back. What isn't clear is precisely how much more they now owe in 2015; Rich Sandomir at the Times had a total loan of $250 million, with $160 million in cash going to the Mets. If responsible for all, that's $700 million in 2014 on top of the $320 on the team in 2014; regardless, the total is well beyond $770 million over 2014-15, unless they can convince their lenders to roll debt over.

5. Honestly, no idea what that portends for salary. Obviously, survival, at all costs, will come first, as it has. But I wouldn't hold my breath for Curtis Granderson.

1. Sorry this isn't a happier story. The context of where they are financially is central to decision-making. Failing to inform about that when writing about what the Mets do, particularly in terms of paying money (or not) for ballplayers, would be journalistic malpractice. I look forward to writing happy stories for a ton of reasons, not least of which so I don't have to answer for nonsense critiques like this one, where I'm somehow to blame for reporting on the road ownership has taken this team.

6. Thanks, really appreciate that! Started on media day, October 1.
   15. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 13, 2013 at 10:44 AM (#4368599)
Just RTFA, really good article.

The key passage hasn't been quoted here, and I think it's pretty much determinative:
Bourn was no different. The Mets worked overtime the moment he signed elsewhere to declare that they, too, had offered four years, $48 million to Bourn.

Ah, but. The Mets offer was conditional upon an independent arbitrator interpreting the collective bargaining agreement to mean that the Mets could keep their first-round draft pick.

That process could have taken weeks. Spring training has begun. Bourn needed a team. And he certainly didn't need to wait weeks to find out if the Mets' offer really was an offer.
The Mets offer was not a real one. At this stage of the offseason, it is entirely unreasonable to make an offer that can't become guaranteed before March.
   16. Depressoteric Posted: February 13, 2013 at 11:27 AM (#4368647)
The Mets offer was not a real one. At this stage of the offseason, it is entirely unreasonable to make an offer that can't become guaranteed before March.
MCoA has nailed it. I too think Howard goes over the top too often recently -- not with the negativity, which is justified, but with silly stunts like the whole "appoint me GM" campaign -- but it's hard to fault him on this one. The Mets' offer to Bourn, as Howard and MCoA both note, is no offer at all if it's contingent on a decision from an independent arbitrator that in all actually seemed likely to go against the Mets.

Smoke and mirrors.

EDIT: After R'ingTFA, it's actually much fairer to the Mets than the excerpt (and some of the carping here) might have you believe. MCoA's right -- great read, worth clicking.
   17. The District Attorney Posted: February 13, 2013 at 12:21 PM (#4368715)
I certainly don't deny that the Wilpons are no longer financially solvent enough to run a Major League Baseball team in New York City, and that they have been spewing around endless BS for years now in an attempt to keep kicking the can down the road. That said, I think Howard is generally too quick to assume that everything the Mets do is an (inevitably ill-fated) attempt to convince the fans that the Mets are big spenders. They made (or were reported to be willing to make, I forget which) Reyes a reasonable offer -- he probably wasn't going to take it, but it wasn't an insult. Same thing with Dickey (and in that case, they at least got pretty good talent back for him). And in this case, I don't buy that Alderson is sitting there thinking "I know that we'd have to give up a draft pick to sign Bourn, so I'll say we made an offer contingent on not having to give up the pick, and that way I'll look like I made an offer when I actually never did." I think Occam's Razor makes sense here: they evaluated Bourn as being worth $48M over four years, but if it involved a vesting option and/or giving up a draft pick, they didn't think he was worth that much.

I'm sure the Brewers and Pirates make plenty of free agent offers that get rejected because they're not the highest bidders. That doesn't mean that those offers are all publicity ploys. It means that they're the Brewers and Pirates. And that, sadly, is the Mets' current state.

Probably the best argument against Alderson conspiracy theory in this case is that no casual fan on the planet gives a crap whether or not the Mets are making offers to Michael Bourn.
   18. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 12:24 PM (#4368719)
When you stink like the Mets with a farm system that's not terribly deep, it doesn't seem to make much sense to forfeit the #11 overall pick on Bourn or Swisher to win 72 games. Doesn't sound like MLB was going to bend the rules to allow them to get around that.

If the Mets did have that kind of money though, makes you wonder why they didn't use it to pursue other players without draft pick compensation attached to them. Cody Ross, Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Shane Victorino could all have been had for similar money without forfeiture of a draft pick.
   19. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: February 13, 2013 at 01:23 PM (#4368787)
The Mets' offer to Bourn, as Howard and MCoA both note, is no offer at all if it's contingent on a decision from an independent arbitrator that in all actually seemed likely to go against the Mets.


For that reason, if you were intent on not giving up your draft pick, wouldn't you have to make the offer contingent?
   20. KT's Pot Arb Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4368863)
Probably the best argument against Alderson conspiracy theory in this case is that no casual fan on the planet gives a crap whether or not the Mets are making offers to Michael Bourn.


Exactly. If not signing Bourn is a mistake, it's not a large one.

There is nothing wrong with the Mets saying, hey fans, we are going to work within a tight budget for a few years until we work out our debt issues. We will try to be creative on building good teams on the cheap but our focus is going to be building our farm system and talent levels so we are ready to field championship level teams once our debt problems are resolved.

But the Wilpons can't say or admit that. So they deserve to be heckled for trying to spin their off-season to blow smoke up the fans a**es.

Fans aren't dumb. Well, most are, but not so dumb that they don't see how constrained the Mets are, and how sour their short term future is. Honesty might go a long way without hurting them at all at the box office.

If this years team pulls one over Pythag and fights for a playoff spot until the last day of the season, the fans are going to show up and root them on. If it stinks from April on, they ain't. Nothing the Wilpons or Sandy can say to change that, so why not keep your dignity and honor and just tell it like it is.

I think Occam's Razor makes sense here: they evaluated Bourn as being worth $48M over four years, but if it involved a vesting option and/or giving up a draft pick, they didn't think he was worth that much.


I mostly agree with the Occams Razor part, but clearly to make that offer work for Bourne they needed a ruling. The the weird part is still why wasn't the abitrator tasked with working on a ruling weeks ago? The obvious answer is that it didn't occur to baseball management that it was an option until recently, but it still doesn't seem like they engaged an arbitrator last week when they obviously knew it was necessary.

So applying Occam's Razor to the arbitrator decision as well tells me that Sandy didn't think he could even make an offer even close to what Bourne wanted. So Sandy's team didn't do the extra work and incur the extra cost for an arb ruling to make their best possible offer. Suddenly Bourne becomes the last man standing as all the seats fill, available at a price the Mets like, but now they are behind the ball in doing the legwork to make their best offer and the clock expires before they can even get started.

Of course, it's also possible Sandy's team told ownership earlier on the offseason they wanted to spend money getting an arb ruling so they could offer Bourne nearly $50M, and the Wilpons said no on both counts. Then as criticism of the team grew over the off-season, suddenly the Wilpons tell Sandy he needs to sign Bourne, and again too late.

I like the last theory because it fits to a T with all public knowledge of the Wilpon's standard managerial and planning methods.
   21. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: February 13, 2013 at 04:30 PM (#4368996)
Wilpon states that the Mets financial woes are over.

"It's all in the rearview mirror," Wilpon said about past financial woes Wednesday after arriving at the team's spring training complex. "... The family is in great shape. The family really is in great shape. Sometimes luck is the residue of design."

I don't know about you guys but I am convinced.
   22. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 13, 2013 at 04:38 PM (#4369002)
"It's all in the rearview mirror," Wilpon said about past financial woes Wednesday after arriving at the team's spring training complex. "... The family is in great shape. The family really is in great shape. Sometimes luck is the residue of design."
Wilpon was then struck by lightning and a falling meteorite in almost immediate succession.
   23. Conor Posted: February 13, 2013 at 04:40 PM (#4369005)
. They made (or were reported to be willing to make, I forget which) Reyes a reasonable offer -- he probably wasn't going to take it, but it wasn't an insult. Same thing with Dickey (and in that case, they at least got pretty good talent back for him)


Don't remember on Reyes, but didn't they offer Dickey something like 2/16? I don't think that's reasonable.
   24. formerly dp Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:18 PM (#4369040)
I'm not buying it either.

A 2013 Met team with Dickey, Reyes, Bourn, and Marcum would porbably win enough games to have a shot at the WC, I'd think. That's around $45 M in payroll.
   25. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:32 PM (#4369051)
didn't they offer Dickey something like 2/16? I don't think that's reasonable.

They reportedly offered Dickey a 2/$20 extension. He signed with Toronto for 2/$24 plus a $12 M team option ($1 M buyout). 2/$20 and 2/$25 are not so far apart as to make 2/$20 "unreasonable."

I'm not buying the charade claims either. You concoct a clever, complicated lie about draft picks (which the casual fan doesn't care about) to maintain a lie that you are making a serious attempt to sign Michael Bourn (who the casual fan doesn't care about).

Clear incompetence around the draft pick issue.

Wilpon states that the Mets financial woes are over.

That's not what that quote says. That quote says the Wilpon family is in great shape. I see no reason to think that's a lie.



   26. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4369060)
The idea that Alderson and his experienced FO would miss the draft picks issue is unlikely. The Wilpons backing and filling resulting in the FO running late makes sense. The FO prevaricating in order to cover never really wanting Bourn makes sense (has anyone saying otherwise every worked in a high stakes office? That #### happens daily).

The Mets never made an offer to Reyes anyone thought there was any chance he'd take. They went cheap on dollars, but especially on years. Not only were they never in it, they weren't risking an offer anywhere near what he might accept, even with a big hometown discount.
   27. Conor Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:58 PM (#4369073)
They reportedly offered Dickey a 2/$20 extension. He signed with Toronto for 2/$24 plus a $12 M team option ($1 M buyout). 2/$20 and 2/$25 are not so far apart as to make 2/$20 "unreasonable."


I'm trying to remember the details, if I remember, Dickey said he was willing to sign 2/26, give or take, and the Mets originally came back with 2/16 before upping the offer.

I dunno, Dickey was already offering them a good deal, and they come back with an offer that was $5 million per year less? But it was a different scenario, since in that case they probably figured if Dickey was willing to sign a super cheap extension they'd do it, otherwise they'd move him for good prospects. In the case of Reyes, they just lost him for a draft pick

I assume what happened with the draft pick issue is the Mets went into the off-season not expecting to be in play for any FA who would cost a pick. And then once they realized they had a chance with Bourn, they realized the problem.
   28. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 07:24 PM (#4369144)
Hang on, the Mets didn't even bother to make an offer to Jose last offseason. Or am I misremembering?

Also, I am unclear about the draft pick issue. Did the team even have standing to contest the loss of the no. 11 pick? Isn't that the MLBPA's job?
   29. JJ1986 Posted: February 13, 2013 at 07:29 PM (#4369148)
I don't understand how no one recognized the issue when writing the CBA. 10 teams are supposed to have their picks protected. Now only 9 do.
   30. thetailor Posted: February 13, 2013 at 07:32 PM (#4369152)
#20 - The the weird part is still why wasn't the arbitrator tasked with working on a ruling weeks ago? Probably because the arbitrator cost a few hundred or thousand bucks and the cheap bastards weren't willing to pay.

#18 - If the Mets did have that kind of money though, makes you wonder why they didn't use it to pursue other players without draft pick compensation attached to them. Cody Ross, Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Shane Victorino could all have been had for similar money without forfeiture of a draft pick. Because they're the Mets.
   31. with Glavinesque control and Madduxian poise Posted: February 13, 2013 at 09:54 PM (#4369214)
I don't understand how no one recognized the issue when writing the CBA. 10 teams are supposed to have their picks protected. Now only 9 do.

The new CBA literally had the relevant language removed from the old CBA. Calcaterra does an excellent job of explaining it here. Everybody recognized the issue and made pretty much what had to've been an explicit decision to change the rules.
   32. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: February 13, 2013 at 10:09 PM (#4369219)
That quote says the Wilpon family is in great shape.

But ... are they in the best shapes of their lives?
   33. JJ1986 Posted: February 13, 2013 at 10:32 PM (#4369233)
The new CBA literally had the relevant language removed from the old CBA. Calcaterra does an excellent job of explaining it here. Everybody recognized the issue and made pretty much what had to've been an explicit decision to change the rules.


That would mean there's almost no chance the Mets could win. Yet reporters were parroting the team's claims that they thought they would almost certainly keep the pick.
   34. billyshears Posted: February 14, 2013 at 01:13 AM (#4369305)
The new CBA literally had the relevant language removed from the old CBA. Calcaterra does an excellent job of explaining it here. Everybody recognized the issue and made pretty much what had to've been an explicit decision to change the rules.


This is certainly a possibility. The other possibility is that some second year associate at some law firm changed the language based on their understanding of a term sheet and nobody else ever looked at it until now.
   35. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: February 14, 2013 at 03:27 AM (#4369325)
And of course they don't have to wait until their scouts come up with one. They can sign the next FA CF or trade for a CF.


In particular, it's borderline criminal that Peter Bourjos is still in Anaheim. Free Peter Bourjos!

Also, a little further up the coast, the A's have a spare Covelli.

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