With Sandy Alderson as general manager, along with Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi in the front office, the New York Mets nearly year-old regime can be classified as a breath of fresh air. Granted, the 2011 season was, in typical Mets fashion, crazy, but without the cool presence and systematic approach of Alderson, this season could have been truly a nightmare.
Entering this season, nobody thought the Mets were contenders in the National League. It would take time for the front office to shed bad contracts -- Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Francisco Rodriguez -- and shift the focus of the roster competition (aided partially by lower payroll limitations) to building from within and restocking the farm system.
With a 68-70 record, the Mets have shown that even without Ike Davis for much of the season, David Wright for two months, Jose Reyes to two disabled-list stints and now Carlos Beltran, too, they can hit with the best of clubs. But what's held them back is their pitching. Alderson has his work cut out for him this offseason in reshaping the bullpen and the rotation with a "more with less attitude" because the payroll will be pared down by at least $20 million to $120 million next year.
It's a tough task for management because the Mets are a team located in New York and every year you're expected to vie for the pennant.
But as the New York Post's Joel Sherman reported Sunday, 2012 is looking like more of the same for the Mets:
And actually for the first time this week, a top Mets official said to me what none had been willing to before, either for the record or for background: That one serious discussion being had at the upper reaches of the franchise is whether it would be wise to cut back greatly next year and make 2012 a rebuilding season in which club officials do not go through the annual game of trying to convince fans, if everything breaks right, they can be a playoff team.
Sherman notes that if the Mets can re-sign Reyes, they'd essentially have $30 million to sign another 19 players (with only Johan Santana, Jason Bay, David Wright, R.A. Dickey and D.J. Carrasco signed past 2011).
Honestly, I cannot agree with Sherman more in this column. It doesn't take a man of Alderson's ilk to realize that the Phillies and Braves are more talented, and that the Nationals are up-and-coming. Throwing away money for ill-advised contracts just isn't a smart way to do business.
The Mets need to build from within, and allow young players time to develop -- and furthermore, see if they have what it takes at the major league level to be viable long-term roster candidates.
The Mets' best strategy very well could be to continue to: 1) Give youngsters such as Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee experience. 2) Allow key prospects such as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler time to grow closer to the majors while Jenrry Mejia returns to the mound after Tommy John surgery. 3) Have a second high-risk, high-reward draft in the Alderson regime with the potential of having two more high compensation picks if Jose Reyes leaves. 4) Get one year closer to running out bad contracts to Jason Bay and Johan Santana - both can expire after 2013. 5) Avoid spending on an ordinary free-agent group and save toward what is setting up as a blockbuster crop after the 2012 season - think Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain.
For the last several years, foresight has not been a characteristic of the Mets front office. Everybody wants to win, but there comes a time where long-term success need to be accounted for.