Saturday, December 14, 2013

N.Y. Mets: Tabulating Sandy Alderson's Dollar On The Muscle

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR.  MET

Are there any more dollars on the money tree?

NEW YORK METS: Cost Effective Risk Management Was Something Lost On The Previous Regime.

Considering the Mets only really needed to rent a quality starter for one season, at $20 million for two years, Sandy Alderson may have signed the best pitcher available for the dollar.  Pending a physical, the terms of the agreement call for less years and less money, than it potentially would have taken to secure Bronson Arroyo, who was last rumored to be seeking $14 million over four seasons.

Comparatively, Hiroki Kuroda re-signed with the Yankees for one year at $16 million.  Scott Kazmir received $22 million for two years.  Tim Husdon signed for $23 million over two years.  Phil Hughes signed for three years at $24 million, and Ricky Nolaso signed a four year $49 million dollar pact.  So, it appears to me, the Mets did well to only spend $10 million a season on a much needed free agent starting pitcher.

Bartolo Colon will be 41 years old next May, which has already caused anxiety in some, and is  considered out of shape.  But to whom?  He has worn his weight well over the years.  If it works for him, then it works for me.  As for as his age, Bartolo Colon is the type who constantly pounds the strike zone with fast balls - a quality I appreciate.  He missed all of the 2010 regular season, and between 2006 and 2009 only managed 48 appearances.  So, he's not exactly worn like a 41 year old might, and his arm now seems sound.

He pitched the last two seasons for the Oakland A's, compiling a 28-15 record with a 2.99 ERA, in 342.2 innings pitched.  Last year, he made 30 starts, and posted an 18-6 record, with a 2.65 ERA.  In 190.1 innings pitched, he surrendered 193 hits, walked only 29, for a 1.166 WHiP, and struck out 117 batters.

Of course, there's an obvious dark side to this.  Colon tested positive for testosterone in 2012, and served 45 games, of a 50-game suspension.  In 2013, he served the final five games before rejoining the Oakland A's.  To naysayers, winning 18 games as an overweight 40-year old puts him squarely under the suspicion of PED usage again.  All I can say is have faith in the testing procedure, and carry on.  Should he come up hot on a test, he's done - banned for 100 games, and effectively out of baseball.  The Mets will escape with no money lost, and relatively no harm done.  After all, he was signed to be a fourth starter, and the Mets have talented pitchers on the way.

Sandy Alderson's first free agent signing this off-season was outfielder Chris Young, whom he signed to a one year, $7.25 million dollar contract.  When you consider the ridiculous amounts of money being tossed around like confetti, the initial shock of Chris Young's price tag quickly dissipates.

Among the more ludicrous deals consummated this off-season, were those underwritten by the Yankees, who gave Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million over 7 years, and Carlos Beltran $45 million for 3 years.  Here on Earth, Marlon Byrd received $16 million for 2 years, David DeJesus signed for 2 years at $10.5 million, David Murphy signed for $12 million over 2 years, and Rajai Davis will earn $10 million over 2 years.  Alderson's one year, $7.25 million investment into Chris Young almost seems below market now, as the potential return on Young seems moderate to surprisingly good.

A former Arizona Diamondback, Chris Young spent last year with Oakland where he only batted  .200 in 335 at-bats.  Unfortunately, that's only 35-points off his career .235 average, so, the initial groans heard in rapid response to his signing were justified.

But the potential for power is there - slugging average, not so much.  In his first full MLB season in 2007, he hit 32 home runs in 569 at-bats.  He then hit 22 home runs as a sophomore, and dropped to 11 home runs the following season.  Young rebounded with 27 home runs in 2010, and hit 20 home runs in 2011, before being reduced to a part time player over the last two seasons.  And therein lies where Alderson believes the cause of Chris Young's troubles exists.  The general manager promised Young the opportunity of getting 500 at-bats again, albeit, playing in any of the three outfield positions.

Price aside, Sandy Alderson is taking a big risk.  His best season came in 2010, when Chris Young batted .257, hit 27 home runs, 33 doubles, had 91 RBI, and even stole 28 bases.  He is not a notorious slugger though.  His highest mark came back in 2007, when he slugged .467 for the season.  Since then, he only slugged above .450 one other time, and only owns a career .431 mark. 

Therefore, Chris Young is a player that needs to be kept within context.  If you look at him out of context, Young easily strikes many as a fool hardy signing.  At $7.25 million, he was signed as a one year, stopgap, supplementary outfielder.  He does not project as a third slot batter, clean-up hitter, or a fifth hitter in the Mets line-up.  He seems destined to bat sixth, behind Wright, Granderson, and very likely, Lucas Duda.  If Chris Young can merely hit to his career averages next season - 24 home runs, 73 RBI, .235 average, .315 OBP, and .431 slugging, the deal will prove price worthy.  But, easier said than done.  Generally speaking, players love hitting in Arizona's park - Citi Field, not so much.

In between those two previous signings came the sandwich meat, the protein portion of the Mets off-season meal - Curtis Granderson.  At $15 million a season over four years, is Curtis Granderson a savvy signing?  Again, the answer is yes, but for many applied reasons.

Granderson is Sandy Alderson's most lucrative signing to date.  The deal is relatively short term, and straight forward.  Curtis addressed very specific needs without having to enter the realm of ultra-mega, and prohibitive contracts.

Last year, and even the previous two years, the Mets were widely ridiculed as needing an entire outfield.  That issue has now been extinguished with two purchases, and a clutch of in-house options that should give the Mets five capable outfielders to work with.

With the outfield's shortcomings, and the need for increased power at the plate addressed, the same can be said of the starting rotation.  The Mets needed someone to keep Matt Harvey's spot in the rotation warm until his return.  The acquisition of Bartolo Colon potentially satisfies that.

Sandy Alderson's total bill on these three players will amount to $32.25 million next season, then Chris Young comes off the books.  After 2015, Colon comes off the books, which keeps the Mets obligated to just $30 million over two years for Granderson.  Three smartly staggered contracts will serve the Mets payroll flexibility very well.  On top of that, the GM has satisfied two of the club's  major needs, and will enter the season with a payroll near $90 million dollars, which, for 2014, should not be regarded as being New York cheap, but instead should be viewed as smart spending.  Isn't that what we accused the Omar Minaya regime of doing - spending wrongly?

Solving a dilemma at shortstop, clarifying the situation at first base, and addressing the bullpen are what remain before Spring Training, but the bulk of the work for 2014 is done.

We know Sandy Alderson is cryptic, and leaves room to read between the lines.  There are two things in particular he said that I am clinging to like velcro.  One is, the GM said he is having fun at his job.  The second item he intimated about was to be on the look-out for surprises.

He is likely done signing free agents this off-season, but maybe there's still room to buy a relief pitcher.  Otherwise, it's trading season now.  As a Mets executive, that is what Alderson has done best.



  1. Anonymous2:40 PM

    These signings must also be seen through the limitations of the last three years. Alderson managed to replenish the farm system with little cash and less flexibility. Now he's filling gaps instead of buying a new team, with stronger group prospects waiting in the wings.

    1. I wholly agree. Alderson has done a marvelous job reseeding the farm system. Can't fill all the holes in one shot, but so far, so good.


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