OK I'm so bummed at the Johan news that I'm going to look right past opening day to next off-season.
It's hardly news that teams are increasingly locking up young high-end talents before they have a chance to test free agency but is that trend, virtually becoming a rule?
As spring training winds down there's an additional flurry of "young star retentions." Look at some of the names that in years past would have likely set off fierce free agent bidding wars and one lesser talent:
- Joey Votto (28) 10/$225m
- Justin Verlander (30) $180m
- Felix Hernandez (26) $175m
- Buster Posey (26) $167m
- Matt Kemp (28) $160m
- Cole Hamels (28 @ signing) $153m
- David Wright (30) $138m
- Matt Cain (27 @ signing) $127.5m
- Evan Longoria (27) $100m
- Adam Wainwright (31) $97.5m
- Carlos Gomez $24m
In years past a chunk of the free-agent market was driven by clubs that felt they were a player away from making or going deep in the playoffs. The shrinking FA pool is going to force those clubs to turn elsewhere for the oft-mythical "missing link" - namely the trade market. If the law of supply and demand holds true then the cost of quality talent on the trade market could spike. Those two top 15 prospects you would have had to give up might soon become two top 10's + a top 15.
Sandy's proven adept at spinning elite veterans into high-ceiling prospects (Beltran for Wheeler/Dickey for d'Arnaud/Syndergaard) but hopefully he's going to soon be on the other end of that equation. His most recent foray - seeking Justin Upton - didn't work out as he'd hoped. If the plan pans out, today's prospects will provide tomorrow's core and it will be time to find some "missing links."
- Will the Mets have enough additional prospects (after graduating our current crop) to land what we need?
- Will Sandy be as adept at landing veteran talent as he is at dealing it? As already stated he couldn't pay his preferred price when it came to Upton.
- Will he be forced to overpay for non-elite FA's like we did for Jay Bay, K-Rod etc.?
- The assumption is that the Mets will have money to spend after this season's contracts are purged. Should he put that asset to work and go after one of the few elite FA's - even if it's a (potentially) violent overpay?
Let's kick around the last idea. Next seasons FA class is awfully thin. Tim Dierkes' latest "FA Power Ranking " lists them as:
- Robinson Cano
- Adam Wainwright (since extended)
- Josh Johnson
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Shin-Soo Choo
- Roy Halladay
- Hunter Pence
- Brian McCann
- Tim Lincecum
- Matt Garza
Not exactly an abundance of riches - though they'll all be rich this time next year. After Cano you've got guys who have shown flashes of brilliance with either big performance or health issues (Johnson, Ellsbury, Halladay, Garza, McCann, Lincecum), or guys who will get lot's of dough for non-star production (Choo, Pence). Cano aside none of these guys is a question-free star quality player. And as we all know even the guys seemingly without questions can still crap the bed.
So should Sandy consider spending crazy-mad money on Cano despite the fact that we've got Murphy & possibly Flores to man 2b? He's also the best bet to be the type of impact bat that might be needed to cover for the outfield if it proves as bad as seems possible especially if Sandy doesn't have the trade chips needed to land a dynamic young outfielder. Cano's acquisition would also free up Daniel Murphy as a trade chip - and/or Wilmer Flores. A package with Flores & Murphy could deliver a much better OFer/Pitcher than our second tier minor leaguers. I know many will be shocked to hear this - but some of them are going to fall flat on their faces this year.
What about paying Josh Johnson or Lincecum if one returns to form in 2013? Sure, the Mets strength is young pitching. But a) nothing is less predictable than young pitching and b) even if Wheeler, Syndergaard & Harvey develop as hoped adding a pitcher is using dollars to create a tradeable asset. Put Niese on the block. Or Syndergaard. Add in Murphy if Flores proves a competent 2Ber. Get an OFer. Does it matter if you spend $100m on a FA pitcher if that frees up a trade chip to get the OFer you need rather than spending that $100m on directly on the OFer?
I don't mean to suggest Sandy spend money just to spend it. But it is entirely possible that a) next years FA crop of outfielders will suck AND b) he may not have enough trade chips to land the type of OFer he needs. Again, see Justin Upton.
So if your biggest resource is money rather than talent then he's got an obligation to at least explore "buying surplus inventory" and then unloading some of it to get what he really needs. Doesn't he?