"Look, I don't have any understanding about what the payroll will be or can't be going forward," Alderson said. "Let's say arguably we have $50 million or $60 million coming off next year. Do I think it would even be prudent to invest that full $50 million or $60 million again in a situation which binds us going forward so that we're only in the market every three years when this lump sum comes off our books? No."
The Peter Finch-in-Network fan reads that quote and envisions Sandy Alderson handing back $20 million to the Wilpons to satisfy some Moneyball small market fetish. I read that quote and think it's just about the smartest thing to come out of the Mets front office in years.
Alderson isn't talking about being a small market GM in a big market; he's talking about spending money wisely. Using up an entire budget simply because you can makes about as much sense as trading Jose Reyes or David Wright for the sake of it. Which is preferable:
a) Paying Scott Schoeneweis $3.6 million a year for 3 years
b) Saving that $10.8 million to take on salary at the trade deadline or for the following offseason when the free agent crop might be better
Spending wisely is hardly a breakthrough concept. In fact, it's downright common sense. Yet the majority of the fanbase, or so it seems, still doesn't get it.
I read a post today by an outraged Mets blogger. He was predictably annoyed at Sandy's quotes and demanded spending, spending, spending. This blogger also supported Ollie 3:36, extending Jeff Francoeur and the Jason Bay signing, so the response was consistent but also a little disappointing. You'd think people would learn by now. Throwing money around without discretion gets you a 31 year-old overrated corner outfielder for a flexibility destroying 4 years, $66 million (plus vesting option!). It hamstrings future activity, evidenced by the paucity of funds available to Alderson and co. this offseason.
If the Mets front office has $50 million available next offseason and only spends $30 million, you know what? No big deal. As long as wise moves are the norm, I couldn't care less if the payroll isn't at full blast. The Mets will have plenty of opportunities to play big market bully in future offseasons. Expecting the budget to be tapped regardless of the market and available players is misguided. And this philosophy is a welcome change from the prior regime. Whereas Omar Minaya only seemed to consider if he could flex his spending muscles, Alderson seems primed to consider if he should.*
* - Last sentence via one of my fictional heroes