The Winter Meetings are in full swing. This is the time of year when teams are built, and the Mets haven’t been especially active this offseason with respect to their roster. In fact, the division-rival Nationals, of all teams, have made the biggest splash to date this Hot Stove season, forking over seven years and $126MM to outfielder Jayson Werth, formerly of the Phillies.
But the stand-pat approach is the right one for the Amazin’s at this juncture, and I invoke a quip from my friend Will, who noted via Twitter that the relatively quiet offseason has been the ideal prescription for a fan base whose team is buried beneath one bad contract after another.
Will said, “The names Fred Lewis, Ronny Paulino and Jerry Hairston Jr. may not sound sexy to you, but they’re surely sexy to me.”
The Mets are pursuing these guys who are not marquee players, as Will alluded, but they are cheap and competent, and with the Mets having so little financial flexibility these days, a few short-term, low-cost contracts will be the perfect bridge to moving beyond what is shaping up to be another .500-ish season in 2011.
Throughout Omar Minaya’s ill-fated tenure as general manager, the Mets repeatedly dipped into the free-agent market to compensate for what was an otherwise top-heavy organization.
A couple of cost-controlled stars were in place in David Wright and Jose Reyes, but after that, there wasn’t much. Whomever you blame for it — Minaya, deposed farm head Tony Bernazard, the Wilpons’ cheapness in the Draft — the Minor League affiliates weren’t producing many useful Major League players, and so the Mets continued to acquire veterans at perilous costs — Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Jason Bay, Luis Castillo, Carlos Delgado and Oliver Perez, to name a few.
It held up until injuries, unmovable contracts and a weak farm conspired to topple the operation like a flimsy house of cards.
It was the easy — and ultimately futile — way of doing things. Good, sustainable teams are rarely built overnight, a concession the Mets, the Wilpons and Minaya were never willing to make.
Whether by necessity or choice, the new regime, under Sandy Alderson and J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta, seems to be abstaining from such a shortsighted plan so far into its brief tenure, which is not such a surprise considering those individuals’ respective histories as so-called Moneyballers and the Mets’ considerable financial constraints.
While the Mets seem to be heading in the right direction, the Nationals are now beginning to show the earmarks of a club that the Mets once were — one that disregards the fact that it’s not really ready to win and takes unnecessary risks by showering heaps of cash on overpriced veterans. Washington first signed Werth and has been rumored to be interested in making an offer to Cliff Lee, the prized pitcher on the free-agent market. That Werth is a good player is fine and all in a vacuum, but relative to the terms of his new deal, the Nationals have consigned themselves to a pretty bad albatross.
Meanwhile, the best that Mets fans can hope for in the immediate short-term is that the organization continues to rebuild itself the right way — from the inside out. That means implementing an efficient, effective infrastructure, building up the farm and allowing the dead weight on the big league payroll to come off the books so that the money can be reallocated to deserving players.
The Lewises and Paulinos and Hairstons and perhaps even the Chris Youngs and Jeff Francises won’t be here especially long, so, for me, they are the sexy names — the ones that represent that the old way of doing things is long gone.