The ongoing saga that is the Mets' team finances took another lurch forward today Michael Salfino tweeted that he'd heard from a source that the Mets' owners are broke and are on a path to lose the team shortly.
Source who would DEF know tells me Wilpon/Mets are broke, can't extend R.A. or Wright and have maybe two years left before they lose team.— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) November 11, 2012
If you've been following along here at Amazin Avenue, you know that this is a distinct possibility. The Mets hired a bankruptcy consulting firm in the offseason to perform an audit, they had difficulty selling shares despite giving the results of those audits to the banks, and even with a huge infusion of cash, barely broke even this season. Thanks to the story stream, you can follow along with us on the timeline on the right.
The major distinction -- not really made here -- is between the owners and the team. The team seems like it has all the hallmarks of a cash cow. Big market, own network, own new stadium. But the owners have leveraged all three entities heavily and ran into a buzzsaw named Madoff since they bought the team. If they are broke, the Mets lack the benefit of the short-term infusions of cash that come from a financially competent major league owner, and a sale (possibly forced by bankruptcy) is in the team's future.
There is still the matter of the new television money on the horizon. In 2014, teams will receive upwards of $50 million a year from deals just signed with multiple major networks. Of course, that doesn't help them competitively, since everyone will get the same amount of cash, but it would help them plug some leaks. Now the question with Salfino's news is if the team can make it to 2014, and if that $50 million would be enough.
It didn't really look like David Wright and R.A. Dickey were getting extended this offseason anyway, did it? They're both under contract at surplus value next year, and if the team is non-competitive and hemorrhaging cash, they will be major candidates for mid-season trades. There's also the chance that the writing will be on the wall for the owners and the Commisioner's office -- which has been cozy with the Wilpon family to date -- may step in to protect the team's assets (read: help them extend Wright a la Matt Kemp in Los Angeles, with the understanding that the team is for sale and needs to be attractive).
If the team manages to stay competitive -- perhaps based on the exciting new starting rotation -- and the Mets stay afloat, the owners may still survive to 2014 and find a way to refinance all the debt that is on the way, as bad as it looks now. That still seems like a possibility even set against the opinion of Salfino's source.
Another piece of news that Salfino offered was that the Jason Bay release was just about penny-pinching and not a baseball decision. No baseball decision is purely about talent, however, and money saved -- especially when it concerns a player that may not offer any value above replacement -- is still money that could be used to improve the team elsewhere.
Update: Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal just tweeted: Writer tweeted about Mets' finances is not a WSJ employee. That did not go through us, nor is it in our paper. And also: That's not an attempt to discredit what he wrote. Just clarifying some apparent confusion as to whether it's something we reported.
And the cherry on top. Michael Salfino retracted his comments with a series of tweets, most damnably the one that said "I have no knowledge of the Mets financial situation other than hearsay."