Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Mets and Risk

When it comes to the Mets and free agents, there is one idea which gets parroted over and over again:

They are not in a position to take risks. Because of what happened to them last year, they are better off with a "sure thing" or a "proven mediocrity."

I couldn't disagree more. Now, I am not necessarily going to advocate for Ben Sheets over Jon Garland, or Carlos Delgado over Ryan Garko... but the idea that the Mets are particularly unsuited to risk is not a wise one.

An idea is either good or bad -- it doesn't matter which team it is. Ben Sheets is a good risk or a bad one, depending on the price -- not depending on which team he signs with.

The Mets, and all teams, should look at players as investments. Sure, some people (or teams) may, as a general policy, be more risk-loving or risk-averse than others. Everyone has their own preference, either to gamble or be safe. But such a preference is personal -- it does not affect the OBJECTIVE truth of whether an investment is smart or not.

Take, for instance, a stock. Let's say Stock X has a 50% likelihood of going up $10 and a 50% likelihood of going down $1. A person with a neutral position on risk would look at that stock and probably buy it, as its value is inherently positive. Someone who is risk-loving would definitely invest. Someone who is risk-averse might not.

The same thing goes for Ben Sheets. A team might evaluate Ben Sheets and determine he has a 25% chance of being an ace, a 50% chance that he is middle of the road, and 25% chance of being injured all year. That gives him a value which is OBJECTIVELY measurable. You can put a dollar sign on that value, depending on how you value each added win in terms of dollars.

Some teams might find that a worthy investment. Some teams might want to stay away. This depends on their a) prediction of his value, b) their tendencies toward risk, and c) the amount of money it will take to sign him. But in listening to the blogosphere, you'd get the impression that signing a risk is a bad idea:

It would be completely irresponsible for the Mets to sign someone as risky as Sheets — who may not even throw a pitch in 2010. -

However, as one person with the team told me, and like Joel Sherman said at his blog for the New York Post yesterday, the Mets now seem to be leaning toward bringing in a more ‘stable, more reliable pitcher,’ someone who, though he might not win a Cy Young, can be counted on every fifth day… which is important since Maine, Perez and Pelfrey can all be considered ‘question marks,’ and since Santana will be returning from elbow surgery. -

But the idea that a team should not sign someone just because he is risky is far too simple. I hope that the Mets listen to all the options and do the best thing that they can with their money, no matter which players they sign.

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