As financial events surrounding the Mets continue to evolve, it is becoming clear that the team is not getting new owners any time soon. Without ownership change it’s hard to envision any meaningful upward change in payroll levels. That does not guarantee the team cannot win, but to do so we will need to be smart, aggressive, and innovative. As an example let’s look at the Oakland A’s. Oakland has been to the playoffs the last two years with lower payrolls than the Mets project for 2014.
The GM of the A’s, Billy Beane, knows he cannot count on spending money to fill organizational holes. With a smaller budget, he also knows tough choices have to be made, and that it is important to acquire as many “undervalued” players as possible. And because markets constantly change it is paramount to never get locked into any one type of player. Flexibility in thinking, always searching for new ideas, is needed. And most importantly, the importance of being aggressive. With the courage of his convictions Beane is always active. As an example, here is a list of trades that Beane has made this offseason.
- 11/25 – Oakland trades John Wooten to Washington for Fernando Abad
- 12/3 – Oakland trades Jemile Weeks and a PTBNL to Baltimore for Jim Johnson
- 12/3 – Oakland trades Michael Choice and Chris Bostick to Texas for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom
- 12/3 – Oakland trades Seth Smith for to San Diego for Luke Gregorson
- 12/10 – Oakland trades Brett Anderson to Colorado for Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen
- 12/11 – Oakland trades Terry Blevins to Washington for Billy Burns
- 12/12 – Oakland trades David Freitas to Baltimore for cash
- 12/19 – Oakland trades cash to Washington for Corey Brown
- 1/7 – Oakland trades Hiram Martinez to Miami for cash
Nine deals in all, compared to zero for the Mets GM, Sandy Alderson.
Hey, you try to trade Ike Davis! It’s a full-time job.
But seriously, folks.
A while back I looked at the Mets, ahem, untested bullpen and suggested that a veteran reliever would be an asset. Somebody who could not only get outs, but also — perhaps more importantly, or more reliably — serve as a steady example of how to handle the season’s long grind.
Sandy seemed to agree with that thesis when he made an offer on Balfour and entered discussions with Rodney, as well as showing interest in Boggs. The Farnsworth signing demonstrates his usual, tepid approach. That’s sound policy, so long as it is in the context of other moves.
What troubles me is that he’s falling into the free agency trap, where relievers are either wildly overpaid or failed veterans looking for a minor league deal. Free agent relievers seem exceptionally ill-considered for a small market team like the Mets.
Yet he won’t, or can’t, make a trade. It’s strange.
Yes, and in the same offseason Beane used the trade market to remake his bullpen. Billy also filled outfield needs via deals. When I looked at them I found it interesting that twice Beane targeted speed and defense. Beane traded a power hitting outfield prospect in Michael Choice for Craig Gentry. Later in the offseason he traded an established relief pitcher, Jerry Blevins, for Washington prospect Billy Burns. Both Gentry and Burns have limited to no power, but both have great speed and are considered excellent defensive players. These moves have nothing in common with playing a Giambi brother in the outfield. Beane looks forward and is not afraid to change direction. With Beane I see a GM here who is pragmatic, looking for value anyway it can be found. It’s difficult to be a hard-headed ideologue on a small budget.
In the outfield, Sandy went shopping, that was his response. And at this point, it’s pretty clear that defense is secondary. He’s very worried about offense, to the point where they are now talking about Lagares starting in Vegas. My sense is that anybody with a OPS that’s .020 higher will get the innings. Or, at least, the best opportunity to succeed.
Sandy is an extremely rigid thinker. Put generously, he could be described as disciplined. I don’t know. Up top you state that the Mets need to be “aggressive.” I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Sandy’s approach is all about being risk-adverse. He’s Bill Parcells, where avoiding the big turnover was nearly a religion. Of course, I’m comparing two wildly different things: Game management vs. roster building.
Sandy has said:
“The last three years, the strategy I have tried to articulate is threefold: acquire talent and develop talent, create more payroll flexibility and, third, try to win as many games as you can without compromising one and two.”
Okay, acquiring talent has been the FIRST PRIORITY, even at the expense of fielding a watchable team (read: even at the expense of revenue). So he is claiming that it’s been a super high priority. Yet he refuses to trade anyone except for established veterans he can’t afford to retain, and the one great outlier: Colin McHugh for Eric Young.
The second goal, by the way, amounts to letting time pass. That’s been the #2 goal — letting time pass! And by God, he did it! Bay, Santana, Francisco all off the books!
The third, trying to win games, is just a joke, a gag, not really goal at all. It’s comparable to saying, “First, I’m not going to exercise; second, I’m not going to eat right; but third, please trust that I’ll try to do as well as I can in the neighborhood fun run! When I’m out there slogging away, trust me, I’ll be giving my best effort!”
As we know, most of the time the battle is won and lost before it’s even begun.
Certainly I agree that Sandy cannot tolerate risk. Zero trades is a pretty passive approach. I think this is a problem for the small market Mets. We will never have the financial muscle to use free agency alone to fill holes and balance our roster. The successful small market GM trades to accomplish this balance.
An aggressive GM also makes decisive hard choices and moves forward. Nobody is perfect, and mistakes are made, but action can create progress. Sitting idly by causes missed opportunities and ensures mediocrity.
Look, I’m not a guy who thinks payroll does not matter. I recognize that a lot of things will need to go right for any Mets GM to succeed in this environment. It’s hard for a lot of things to go right when you do very little. Someday the pace has to quicken.
We know we cannot operate like the Yankees right now, yet all we have done is sign free agents.
Exactly. He’s very reluctant to discard. The lack of turnover is the strangest feature to this losing regime.
We need a different approach. We should be looking at how teams like the A’s and Rays operate. Those teams have never been afraid to transact.
That used to be true. It’s certainly true in organizations that aspire to win. But since winning has never been a goal during his tenure, Terry Collins’ job performance has been based on something that’s difficult to assess.
In the poker game of life, Sandy only seems to make moves when he’s forced to make them. Instead he just holds and holds and, eventually, folds. Usually sometime in August.