Monday, November 23, 2009

What Should the Mets Offseason Strategy Be?

Bill Madden, a writer at the Daily News, published an article yesterday entitled "Mets offseason focus will be on tier-two free agents." Madden believes that the Mets will be cutting payroll this season, leaving them only around $20 million to spend. He concludes:

[W]hat the Mets need to be concentrating on are second-tier free agents such as Mark DeRosa, Marlon Byrd, Jason Marquis or Randy Wolf, any two of which would fit comfortably under that $20 million surplus.[1]

Is he right? Well... I don't think so.

I'll put it this way. If the Mets are operating with only $20 million in payroll space, and do not want to trade away the entire minor-league system, I don't think they have enough talent to compete with the Phillies or Braves next season. Perhaps, in this case, the wisest thing to do would be to spend the money conservatively and gear up for a serious run at the post-season in 2011.

As a Mets fan, this pains me. But it would hurt worse for me to watch the Mets squander money on second-tier free agents, leaving us nothing in future years, simply to fall short again this season. Does anyone really think that adding Marlon Byrd and Jason Marquis is going to help the Mets overcome a 20 game deficit on the Phillies? Especially now that they will have Cliff Lee all year, and that Cole Hamels is likely to bounce back this year?

The way I see it, the Mets should address their issues in the following order:

#1: Starting Pitcher -- someone near the top of the rotation (think: Lackey)
#2: Starting Pitcher -- someone near the bottom (think: Marquis)
#3: First Base
#4: Catcher
#5: Relief Pitcher -- set up guy (think: Brandon Lyon)

I don't see the Mets having a realistic chance at making the playoffs unless all of those are addressed. We can't patch them all up with $20 million dollars. Now, if the Mets have more then $20 million to spend, the question of what to do with the money they have becomes far more relevant.[2]

It will be interesting to see which approach the Mets take, with so many holes to fill - not to mention the potential enormous holes that would exist if Reyes and Beltran weren't healthy enough to play this year.

[1] This is just his conclusion. The article should actually be entitled what the Mets SHOULD focus on offseason, not what the Mets WILL focus on. There doesn't seem to be any real basis for his belief that the Mets payroll will be constrained as such.

[2] If the Mets DID want to make a serious run this season, I think we'd - at a minimum - need to do something like this:

Lackey, $17
Marquis, $6
Delgado, $6
Zaun, $2
Lyon, $4
Let Pagan play left field full time.

Obviously, guessing at what free agents will make is an inexact science -- but I'd guess that a payroll bump around $30 would be a minimum. For what it's worth, if the Mets did something like this, they would open 2010 with a payroll less than they had in 2009.

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