The Mets' agreement with Jason Bay saves them $15 million this season, but deferring that money only makes sense if they spend it now.
With the way the finances have gone for the Mets and their owners lately, it's understandable to want to take a wait-and-see approach to whether or not they're going to spend money you expect them to. But it doesn't make much sense for the Mets to increase their payroll obligations in 2014 and 2015 by deferring Jason Bay's contract if the team doesn't take advantage of the the extra available payroll this season. If the number is correct and the Mets will only pay Jason Bay $6 million in 2013, it's for a reason.
We should take everything general managers say, Sandy Alderson included, with a grain of salt. Everything he says publicly is calculated and veiled, but his comments on 2013 are fairly bold, no matter what the reasoning is behind them. He's suggested he doesn't expect the same team back and that the Mets need to get better, and not just incrementally better. Perhaps he's tired of watching this bunch, too.
This doesn't mean he's going to go all-in on 2013 with no regard for the future, a future that looks like it might be bright. Even if Sandy Alderson makes high-percentage moves for 2013, the chances that they all pay off are not high enough to sacrifice some of that future potential for short-term success. Still, refusing to leverage the future for the present does not mean there isn't a path to success for the Mets next year.
The deferral of Jason Bay's contract is a sign of recognition that the Mets aren't going to get more than incrementally better with the budget and resources available to them. Ridding the payroll of that money opens up a vast array of options that otherwise would not have been available, but it makes no sense to open that door and not go through it. I can't tell you what Sandy Alderson has in mind, but I'd be willing to bet the roster on Opening Day is going to surprise most of us.
I'm looking forward to this offseason and seeing what Alderson can do with this team. The Mets have some clearly valuable pieces as well as some prospects that have shown potential. That's value, and even if the Mets don't cash those chips for others, it speaks well of the overall potential of the roster. The 2013 Mets roster might actually be one of the easiest to address. They clearly have star power, both batters and pitchers. They've got young break-out potential in Matt Harvey and others. They have veteran presence both of the homegrown variety and the journeyman type. Maybe most importantly, the team has clearly defined holes.
While there are some other weaker areas, the biggest spots that need improvement are pretty obvious. Knowing that signing an outfielder is at the top of the list and you're not replacing someone that might turn out to have a better year than you expected is a welcome relief. No matter which outfielders the Mets bring in, there will likely be enough playing time for anyone that can contribute to shine through. Specifically, the Mets are very left-handed and need a solid all-around outfielder, particularly one with power. They've got guys that could play center field already so a corner guy is probably acceptable. I would think finding a right-handed corner outfielder is one of the easier acquisitions in baseball. The right-handed flawed catchers that can share some time with Josh Thole and the hundreds of relief pitching candidates who may or may not be due for a good season also make up a fairly large selection pool to choose form.
There's no guarantee that extra flexibility from deferring the money owed to Jason Bay in the Mets budget means they'll field a competitive team in 2013, but it should at least make it possible. Sandy Alderson's quotes suggest he's at least looking for the opportunity to make it so. The players needed to do so should be attainable, the budget should be high enough to fit them, and Alderson should be smart enough to choose the players with a high probability of succeeding with the Mets. All in all, this should be the most interesting offseason in a while.