For all the talk we hear about the Mets looking forward and being proactive towards building a better, sustainable baseball team, they certainly are reactive when it comes to the free agent market. Its never been much of a secret that the Mets would be operating on a fixed budget of sorts this winter, so why not set the market, rather than react to it.
Free agent prices sent skyward starting with San Francisco's extension of Hunter Pence to the tune of 5 year/$90 million dollars. That deal set the market price on the higher end of the outfield market. Marlon Bryd's deal, which could be as much at 3 years/$24 million dollars, set the market price on the lower end. Each deal greatly impacted what the Mets could accomplish this winter.
The same can be said for the pitching market, which saw Latroy Hawkins exit for a mere $2.5 million guarantee from the Rockies. More recently, it was Phil Hughes' 3 year/$24 million dollar deal in Minnesota that may eventually impact the Mets pursuit of Bronson Arroyo. These guys aren't getting cheaper, and the Mets are getting increasingly likely to be left out in the cold.
The notion here isn't to argue whether or not free agents are worth the contracts they're getting. In many cases they are not, but it remains apparent that team's always overpay for quality talent. That is especially true when teams are looking to rebuild a franchise on questionable financial grounds in a stadium that players are less than thrilled to play in. The Mets have a variety of hurdles they must clear when they enter the market.
And yes, I realize its not as simple as saying the Mets need to act first. Players wait out the market in an effort to see if their value will increase. They may have desires of playing for a contender and see the Mets as their backup plan. However, the Mets need to make things happen. They cannot afford to "see whats left" later on in the winter, as Sandy Alderson has now alluded to.
The Mets may have had genuine interest in being active this winter, but by not getting out in front of the market they have allowed things to spiral out of control. Misreading the market several years ago cost Sandy Alderson a chance to resign Jose Reyes. This winter it may cost Alderson the offseason renovation the Mets have been promising their fans for years.