With the offseason less than a week old, the New York Mets wasted little time in trying to temper the expectations of Mets fans for this winter. With as much as $50 million to spend and a variety of talent throughout the minor leagues, the Mets appeared poised to have a big winter. However in recent days, the Mets have instead floated the notion of following the models employed by the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.
What do those two franchises have in common? Well first and foremost they find themselves in the post-season right now, but more importantly its the way they've gotten there. Instead of dealing out large contracts to premiere players, each has chosen to add multiple mid-level free agents to round out its roster.
On the surface this is the obvious route Sandy Alderson would take in building a better baseball team. Hesitant to allocate significant money via long-term contracts, mid-level acquisitions provide him to opportunity to rebuild the team and maintain his business model. It makes sense, and in all reality could work. Lord knows there is far more than one way to build a successful franchise, but its not without its risks.
This will undoubtedly be spun by fans and the media as yet another excuse to spend money. Those who make that claim could be correct. After all, the Mets still play baseball in New York. A big market city with big market expectations. Long term contracts rarely work out for the better (See: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, etc.), but those are the type of players that will draw fans to the ballpark. The Mets often reference attendance numbers impacting their payroll. The only way mid-level free agent signing increase those numbers is if the team starts winning, and that is a big if.
Referencing the Red Sox and Indians is a bit of a cop-out because it cites a very small sample size. There are plenty of teams who live in the mid-level free agent range. The majority don't excel. Whats to say the Mets will? For three years now the team's front office has played a risky game of chicken with its fan base. If this is the route they chose to travel this winter, both could be on a nasty collision course. We've sat through the bad contracts that have resulted in bad baseball, now its time for our patience to be rewarded. A half dozen mediocre signings certainly aren't the reward we've been looking for.