I have been a Mets fan for over 50 years and long time "lurker"(but not in your bushes) and I would like to present some of my ideas for making this off-season productive. I do come from a business owner perspective, so you must be aware before we begin I am looking at long term sustainability here. Hopefully, you will find my essay both informative and funny.
We all know that this off season presents an opportunity, as several contracts come off the books. Should the money be spent on free agents? While its fun to bandy about names and imagine certain players in Met's Uniforms, that seems like a dubious proposition at best. Sin Soo Choo had a career season but in a small ballpark and with a potent line up; we posses neither. Jacoby(and Myers) Elsbury has been inconsistent/injured in recent seasons. Not a great long term prospect. Beltran? Really? Do we have to go through all that foolishness again? If we are spending millions, lets spend it on someone who will swing the bat. That's what life's about, whether in a business or in baseball. Cruz and Peralta are both former Steroid Users. Not in this house. We might not have many wins, but we have pride in being a drug free organization. Drew, Napoli, Byrd, Stevenson, and Morales, are all middling at best, and frankly, offering players of that caliber those millions of dollars is abhorrent.
So what to do then? Well, it seems like there are easy options at most positions. Lets start with the starting pitching. This is our greatest strength. Despite Matt Harvey's interesting decision to take a year off to heal his tired 24 year-old arm, we still have a balanced staff in Wheeler, Gee, Mejia, and our big-contract player John Niese. Filled out with sensible major league minimum options Aaron Harrang and Dice-K, this makes for the start of a capable rotation that will keep us in many games. Although, if the opportunity arises to move John Niese and his salary(plus his giant nose) to another team for low cost options to fill the bullpen, it should be aggressively pursued.
Sandy Alderson's greatest accomplishment this year was finding players that make major league minimum to pitch effectively in the bullpen. I would love to see this trend continue, and have every confidence this is the course that should be pursued. Possible targets for the bullpen should include rehabilitation projects and maybe players from the lesser known Asian and European baseball leagues. People talk all about Moneyball and finding players in unusual places. Israel, Greece, New Zealand have have professional leagues and with the internet there is no need to send scouts.
Now for position players. 3rd base is already locked up, obviously. First base should go to Ike Davis. Although he had somewhat of a down season last campaign, he potentially provides power at a lower cost than can be acquired in the open market. Additionally, he provides leadership in the clubhouse, has many important charities he works with, and provides a shared cultural connection to many die-hard fans. All are invaluable. Shortstop should go to either Ruben Tejada or the rookie Wilfredo Tovar. The battle for supremacy between these two fine athletes will make for an exciting spring training in beautiful Port St Lucie. Again, both play at reasonable cost. Second base, unfortunately, should go to Wilmer Flores. While I certainly admire Murphy's passion and zeal for the game, he is becoming too expensive. I feel that a healthy Flores should provide approximate production at the major league minimum. Trade Murphy for high potential rookie league ball players, who will be ready to take the field when Harvey, Wheeler, Lagares, Et Al become cost prohibitive.
Outfield is easier still. Lagares is the best defensive center-fielder on the eastern seaboard. His salary is also very low cost. He should be paired with the stunning Mat Den Dekker, a defensive outfield wizard who also comes at major league minimum. He also provides power, important in a corner outfield spot. Left field again, should be handled by the spark plug of our offense, Eric Young. The won/loss record after his insertion into the lineup tells you all you need to know about his value to this organization. He is our Rickey Henderson, and hopefully we can retain his services for many years to come. I propose to avoid any acrimony in future contract negotiations by offering him a $75,000 raise, which we can easily afford with moving Murphy and is millionaire salary somewhere else.
So what to do with the remaining cash on hand? Lets be honest with each other: the most important attribute to the long term prospects of this franchise is the financial health of ownership. As a result of the villainous ponzi scheme that the Wilpon's were victims of, they have endured, but it has not been easy. I personally feel terrible for the Wilpons, as they were swindled by a low -life criminal. Loans on the stadium and their stake in SNY have put them in a most unfortunate position. With these factors in mind, the prudent course is to reinvest the 50 or so million dollars saved through salary attrition towards paying down Mr. Wilpon's various debts. Lets face facts: besides Jeff's appearance in the profane and confusing "Harlem Shuffle," internet video, the father and son team have been model owners, especially when you consider the constant sieges from the uneducated. Lets pay off the money thats owned, and we can begin to move on from there. This is the responsible and honest thing to do. No, its not as exciting as signing Robinson Cano or listening to a Madonna CD, but its better for everyone this way.
The other issue is the fickle and petulant fan base. judging by the yearly attendance figures the seats only get filled when records are in our favor. With injuries and inconsistent performances, this is too big a gamble to take on a yearly basis; especially when doing so may put ownership in a worse financial position. By adopting an austerity model, it maximizes the resources we have ( an attendance of approximately 2 million a year regardless of record) while building sensibly towards the future with younger players that won't break the bank. It pains me to say this, but the fan support is middling at best and hoping a few big signings will lure people to park is foolhardy. There's serval instances where low cost teams have arisen to the occasion, and this should be the plan going forward. Once this happens, and the attendance numbers swell with fair weather fans, we can invest in talent acquisition. Before then its chasing rainbows.
Additionally, $500,000 seems a lot to pay for players with very little or no major league experience. That's one of the reason the franchise is struggling! Perhaps we can negotiate a lower rate, or convince some of the more fair-minded players to leave their union. Successful attempts across the country are made every day against union members who are over-compensated. It would be great if the franchise takes this opportunity to rein in the crazy spending in the game. At the height of the New York Mets supremacy in 1986, the Major League Minimum salary was just north of $60,000 a year. That was good enough to win a championship: there's no valid reason todays ballplayers can't prosper on a similar figure.
The Mets are there for us 162 games per year, every year, so now its time for us to be there for them. I am doing my part by buying another two season tickets to my usual 4, and donating them to my favorite charity. I invite others to do the same. When at the ballpark, spend generously and know that with each soft drink you purchase, you are moving closer to better times ahead. Remember always that being a Mets fan means being something greater than the on field performance. In time, yes, we will win some games. More importantly, we will always have something special and lots of pride. Thank you for your time, and if you have other further inquiries please comment below. I'll try to respond to as many as I can!