The local rags are absolutely killing Omar Minaya and the Mets for their failure to attract any big names to Queens so far this offseason. The story goes like this: the Mets were terrible last season and the Phillies have appeared in back-to-back World Series, so the Mets have no choice but to jerk at the knees and spend big-time money as quickly as possible. Look- the Red Sox already signed two key free agents and are itching to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres! Check it out- the Phillies went out and traded for one of the best pitchers in baseball! Dang- even the Nationals are drawing interest from free agent pitchers. If the Mets don't do something irrational soon they'll be doomed to finish fourth again in 2010!
I'd like to see the Mets be a bit more aggressive in pursuing some of the more attractive free agents -- Matt Holliday in particular -- but there's no need to act like a crazy person waving a fistful of cash around a used car lot. The Mets have been mostly quiet since the free agency doors swung open last month, and now that John Lackey has landed in Boston and Roy Halladay has been traded to Philadelphia, outside forces are putting even more pressure on the Mets to step up and do something and, what's more, they're slamming the Mets for failing to acquire either of those players. I guess it makes good copy, but I'd personally be underwhelmed if the Mets had made either of those two deals..
John Lackey - Lackey signed with the Red Sox for five years and $82.5 million. That's an average annual value of $16.5 million for a pitcher who hasn't posted a sub-4.00 tRA or thrown 180 innings since 2007. Lackey turned 31 in October and his strikeout rate has declined steadily from a high of 8.57 in 2005 to a barely-league-average 7.09 last year. He still has very good control and he doesn't allow too many homeruns, but he has missed time due to injury in each of the past two seasons and there's a very good chance that his best years are behind him. The bottom line is that Lackey is a good, not great, pitcher, and Boston has just committed almost $17 million a year to him for the next half-decade. I suspect that if he had any interest in coming to the Mets that it would have cost them even more than the Sox paid.
Roy Halladay - Halladay is a terrific pitcher, but it's just not clear that the Phillies have improved themselves much for 2010, and it's quite possible that they've put themselves in a far worse position for 2011 and beyond. Halladay will make $15.75 million next year -- $6 million paid by the Blue Jays -- in the final year of the deal he signed with Toronto. Cliff Lee will make $9 million next year, so the cost difference to the Phillies is negligible. The Phillies then signed Halladay to a three-year extension at $20 million per season that will carry him through age 36, and there's a vesting option worth another $20 million for 2014. If Halladay is healthy enough to reach the innings-pitched threshold for the option to vest, we're talking about a five-year, $90 million deal in total, which is a lot of money for a pitcher -- an admittedly great one -- who is already in his mid-thirties. Nevermind that the Phillies had to trade Lee just to get Halladay to the table to sign the extension. Add in the fact that the Mets didn't have anyone like Lee to trade for Halladay in the first place and I just don't get how you can denigrate them for failing to make a similar deal.
I guess that's it, really, and because the Mets didn't make either of those two iffy deals we have to live with the insufferable moanings of local columnists disparaging the Mets for their relative inactivity. There are plenty of things to dislike about Omar Minaya and the Mets' approach to, well, everything, but not overpaying for Lackey or Halladay shouldn't be counted among them. I would also urge Minaya not to acquiesce to the pitchfork-mob ramblings of the New York scribes, who care only about the next day's column (or the next minute's inane Tweet) and would be all-too-happy if the Mets went out and signed Jason Bay to a six-year, $100 million deal, just so they could rag on them for that one, too.
I don't think the Mets are merely sitting back and waiting for the action to come to them, but I do believe they are taking a measured approach to free agency -- and the trade market, I suppose -- and are certainly in a good position right now to land either Bay or Holliday. Teams like the Red Sox, Angels, and Yankees, who might otherwise compete with the Mets for those players' services, have already committed their money and open outfield spots to other players, so the Mets are in no way obligated to overpay for any of the remaining free agents. Since the Red Sox's four-year, $60 million offer is probably off the table, unless some other team has come along and expressed interest in Bay there's no sense in the Mets guaranteeing five years -- let alone six -- to bring Bay into the fold when there is nobody else against whom they are bidding. To that end, I sincerely hope that the Mets' reported interest in Holliday is legitimate, because there's no better way to get Bay to come around to your line of thinking than by making a comparable offer to Bay's free-agent rival (so to speak).
At all events, the Mets aren't actually in the inescapable morass of woe into which everyone has seemingly cast them. They have money, they have options, and, goodness willing, they have some kind of plan. We're as critical of them here as anyone, but I think it's probably time to lighten up just a bit.