Offseason Outlook: New York Mets

The Mets' attempt to re-sign Jose Reyes will dominate their offseason and determine how much they can spend on other areas of need, like the bullpen.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

As expected, 2011 was a year of transition for the Mets.  New GM Sandy Alderson did fine work in escaping Francisco Rodriguez's vesting option and maximizing the return on Carlos Beltran.  Alderson's most debatable decision, though, was not trading Jose Reyes at the July deadline.  Reyes' status is now likely to shape the Mets' offseason.

Reyes missed about six weeks of the season, enduring two separate DL stints due to a hamstring injury.  The Mets must determine whether they see Reyes as a player who can be depended upon for only 130 games a year moving forward, or one capable of returning to the 150-games-played plateau.  Reyes' season was phenomenal even with the time missed, and his strong finish bodes well for him in free agency.  Still, all five to seven year, $100MM+ contracts are very risky.  So far, Alderson's biggest risk as Mets GM was keeping Reyes.  If that July decision doesn't result in an offseason discount, the Mets will have to settle for a couple of draft picks.

Wright had a disappointing season as he missed more than two months with a back injury.  Trading him now would result in a disappointing return.  Wright can void his 2013 club option if traded, meaning Alderson only would be offering one season of the third baseman.  The Beltran formula might be applied here: Alderson could hope Wright rebuilds his value in the first few months of 2012 and becomes the best bat on the trade market.  Players like Pelfrey and Pagan could also become useful trade chips.  I'd tender contracts to both despite their disappointing 2011 seasons.

If the Mets don't re-sign Reyes, another consolidation season might be in order.  Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, and Josh Thole had promising seasons, and the rotation has useful pieces.  Still, the team is facing question marks all around the diamond and in the rotation.  I think they can contend if Reyes returns and Wright, Santana, and Bay also contribute star-caliber seasons, but that's unlikely and reason to find Alderson's decision to keep Reyes confusing.  In Alderson's defense, Reyes spent half of July on the disabled list, perhaps cutting down his trade value to the point that two draft picks wasn't much worse.

A $110MM payroll would give the Mets plenty of flexibility, and the bullpen will be one focus.  I expect Alderson to make improvements, yet still exercise caution and avoid a big commitment to any one reliever.  The rotation is a similar issue, with Alderson needing to make a few more Capuano-type signings.  Hopefully if Reyes leaves there won't be an expectation to spend the entire surplus just for the sake of spending.  The team just has too many questions to make 2012 contention likely.

Plenty of questions remain in Irving Picard's lawsuit against Mets owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon, but the tide seems to be turning in the owners' favor with a judge capping their potential loss at $386MM.  Should Picard fail to prove the Mets owners were willfully blind to Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, they might have to pay out less than $100MM.

Perhaps by 2013 the Mets can have the Picard lawsuit settled and the decks mostly cleared of bad contracts.  Alderson can make determinations on the futures of Reyes and Wright, while his other big-money players, Santana and Bay, will be entering their walk years barring vesting options.  The Mets will have more clarity on players such as Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Duda, and Murphy, while Jenrry Mejia should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.  If Alderson continues laying a proper foundation, the Mets should be competitive by '13. 

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