Let’s get the caveats out of the way early on this one.
It’s December 2, not even officially winter. The hot stove is barely beginning to glow. And Greg and I have long been proud to think that we don’t overreact to things. As the timing of the Johan Santana trade made clear, you don’t know anything about the offseason until it’s completed, and no club tips its hand about its plan.
But after a comically dysfunctional season that can’t be revisited for fear of violating the Geneva Convention, we’re all a bit on edge. And two recent transactions related to the Mets leave you wondering: Is there a plan here?
1. Alex Cora gets a one-year, $2 million deal with a $2 million vesting option for 2011 that kicks in if he starts 80 games.
Alex Cora played gamely with two busted thumbs for a good chunk of a lost season. By all accounts he was a leader in the clubhouse, mentoring several younger players through a horrifying season. By all accounts he’s also a wonderful guy. I have no reason to doubt any of this, and I’m glad that it’s so.
Alex Cora is also 34 years old and has a career on-base percentage of .313. And for that, he gets $2 million?
The vesting option doesn’t particularly bother me because it sounds like the kind of laudatory chrome that’s just there to make someone feel better about themselves — if Alex Cora starts his 81st game, I bet Omar Minaya’s watching it from his couch while Wayne Krivsky or someone else telegraphs his I-gotta-fix-this concern for the SNY cameras. But the $2 million bothers the hell out of me. Alex Cora couldn’t be had for close to the league minimum and incentives? A non-roster invite to camp? A ticket to Florida and free hot dogs?
What mystery team out there was bidding Alex Cora’s price up? Who, exactly, were the Mets competing with? Was it the same team that bid them up on Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez?
I really don’t understand it. Perhaps Omar isn’t aware that mirrors reflect, and spends his winters madly competing with Ramo, the GM of the mysterious Stems, who somehow always covets the same players poor Omar wants.
“JEFF! NO MATTER WHAT I DO, THIS RAMO GOES HIGHER! HE LOVES ALEX CORA, YOUKNOWWHATIMSAYIN? LOVES HIM! AND I HEAR RAMO WANTS TATIS BACK! TATIS IS STILL OURS, RIGHT? RIGHT? MY GOD! JEFF, WE NEED TO GIVE TATIS A 2-YEAR, $10 MILLION DEAL BEFORE RAMO CAN STRIKE! WAIT! JEFF! I HEAR RAMO IS ALSO OFFERING TATIS 2 YEARS AND $10 MILLION! THREE YEARS! THREE!”
2. Billy Wagner signs a one-year, $7 million deal with the Braves. As compensation, the Red Sox get the Braves’ first-round pick (20th overall) in next year’s draft and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.
The Mets traded Wagner to the Red Sox late last season and got back Chris Carter, a decent left-handed bat who’s shown no real ability to play any position, and someone named Eddie Lora. Carter could platoon with Nick Evans, I suppose, except Jerry Manuel’s never heard of Nick Evans. (Jerry’s never having heard of Eddie Lora is more forgiveable.)
So the team shed $3.5 million for someone’s 2011 DH and a roster filler? Wouldn’t the draft picks have been more useful, considering the sorry state of the farm system? Oh, that’s right, though — the Mets treat the amateur draft like Bud Selig’s laughable slotting guidelines are the law of the land and they have the budget of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Except the Mets spent just $3.1 million in the 2009 draft, last in the majors, and the PIrates spent the most in MLB, so never mind that.
$3.1 million, by the way, will pay for one and a half on-base machines like Alex Cora.
It isn’t accurate to call the Mets cheap, because they give Alex Cora $2 million to be nice to Kevin Burkhardt and ground out. It isn’t accurate to call them profligate, because their plan for restocking the farm system seems to involve experiments with binary fission. The only thing I can say with any certainty is that nothing the Mets do seems to reflect a coherent plan.
I’d like to be proved wrong. I really would. I would like to be told as the World Series parade rolls by that I can’t shred this blog post and throw it up the air, because I promised I’d eat it.
You know what? I will eat it. Hell, let’s make it easier than that. If on Opening Day anyone can give me a plausible argument that the Mets’ offseason plan was put together according to a sound overarching strategy that should leave us feeling optimistic about 2010, I will print out and eat this blog post. On Opening Day. I will eat it to celebrate a 0-0 record. I will eat it before Alex Cora refuses to take his first walk and before the first Met disappears to the limbo of the Eventually To Be Disabled List.
C’mon, Omar. Prove me wrong. Before Ramo does.