|Mets Seeking New Direction This Offseason|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on December 02, 2009
For the Mets this offseason is about identity.
After watching the Yankees seemingly coast to another World Championship, New York's other baseball team is feeling the pain.Â Despite a new stadium and its willingness to spend money over the past few seasons, the organization has struggled to find themselves and are fighting to maintain a fan base which is becoming increasingly alienated by team decisions which have shown "a lack of class" (how the handling of the firing of Willie Randolph was done, Omar Minaya's verbal attack on reporter Adam Rubin), "disrespect/insensitivity to fans" (especially regarding ticket prices, the economy, and poor ticket equivalents in seat transfers for season ticket holders between Shea and Citi Field).*
The truth is that it's probably nothing that lower ticket prices and a winning season couldn't cure.Â But is that possible for this team, even if they break the bank in order to shore up the many weaknesses that this team showed in 2009?
That's a tough decision that ownership and management has been wrestling with since the Mets season was officially done (so sometime last June).Â To fix the current team the Mets would essentially have to spend Yankees-type money and mortgage the future by trading away the few bright spots that their largely bankrupt farm system has actually produced.
Adding pitchers John Lackey and at least either Matt Holliday or Jason Bay would only be a small part of that fix.Â This team is old, injury prone, and simply doesn't have the depth to survive serious injuries.Â Couple that with the question of just what will Jose Reyes and Johan Santana be like following their offseason surgeries and not knowing what Carlos Beltran can give the team in 2010 just adds to the shakiness of the foundation this team is built on.
No, for the Mets to be competitive next season they'll have to structure a crazy deal to either get Roy Halliday from the Blue Jays, or even more unlikely, to pry Tim Lincecum from the Giants if he wins so big in his arbitration that the Giants can't afford to keep him.Â Certainly despite the questionable offense, luring a top pitcher to what appears to be a pitcher's paradise shouldn't be too hard a sell -- at least if the Mets spend on bats too.
That means some one- or two-year rentals, possibly including Vlad Guerrero who the Mets failed to sign seven years ago, Orlando Hudson, and a slew of relievers.
But that isn't this team's only option.Â Spending big money rarely leads to success without a core of proven homegrown talent, and at the moment the Mets only claim to that is David Wright. (Jose Reyes may well be done as a base stealer and leadoff terror, which would make him a decent but not outstanding shortstop the rest of his career).Â Also spending money, without rebuilding the farm system will get more and more expensive each season as the only way to fill holes would be by free agency.
In any other situation rebuilding, by trading away veterans for prospects and dumping some salary would make perfect sense, but between the economic conditions in the game right now and a disgruntled fan base, there are questions as to just how patient the faithful would prove to be, and if the team could get enough in return for their veterans (almost all of whom are coming off injuries) to make rebuilding worth it.
Watching the Yankees win surely doesn't help in this baseball mad town where fans pay top dollar and demand immediate results.Â Mets fans don't want to be known as those who root for New York's other baseball team; they want to root for a champion.
If the Mets don't want to lose their fan base this won't be an offseason of cheap patches.Â The team will have to move decisively either towards buying a new core of high-end talent, or by committing strongly to a rebuilding process.Â Either way, it will be a step in the right direction towards creating a new identity for a struggling franchise.