3:09 pm Dec. 18, 2012
With two months until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, David Wright re-signed, and R.A. Dickey traded, the New York Mets now turn their attention to the rest of the 2013 roster.
General manager Sandy Alderson discussed his plan to add outfielders, along with a starting pitcher to replace Dickey in the rotation, bullpen help, additional starting pitching depth, and even another catcher.
All of this makes sense, in terms of what a minimally competent major league team needs. But it's not clear how they'll do this with the money at their disposal. According to Ken Davidoff, the Mets have about $7 million to spend this winter. (Davidoff confirmed via Twitter that this came from a team official.)
By itself, that is problematic, considering that the Mets had every one of the needs described above, with the exception of replacing Dickey, at the start of the offseason. $7 million for those tasks isn't much.
It's a surprisingly small number, actually: Since the start of the offseason, they've retained Wright, and structured his contract extension so that he'll earn a salary $5 million less than he'd been scheduled to earn, with another $3 million of the 2013 salary deferred.
That alone should give them more than $7 million for this winter.
Also, when the Mets bought out Jason Bay earlier this offseason, Bay agreed to defer the lion's share of his $21 million still owed to him until 2014-15, receiving just $6 million in 2013.
Add that together, and the Mets should have $23 million to spend on this offseason, even if they hadn't budgeted a dime toward other improvements beforehand.
So where's that money going?
It would be nice to think that the Mets are just putting this money aside for more fruitful, future uses, just as it would have been nice to believe that's what the team was doing when they cut salary from $143 million in 2011 to $91 million in 2012.
But there's no indication that that's what's happening.
The reality has been, and continues to be, that ownership is redirecting whatever funds it can from what would otherwise go toward player salaries for their financial survival.
With revenues continuing to plummet at Citi Field, and enormous loans to service, the team has been cannibalized, with the results clear for anyone to see. Alderson can keep building the minor league system, as he has done, to his credit. But the situation on the field in Flushing is dire in the meantime, and through no fault of Alderson's.
No one could be expected to fill an outfield, add a starting pitcher, find a backup catcher and, oh right, fix a bullpen that finished 29th in the league in E.R.A. last season with the resources the Mets owners have reportedly put at his disposal.
There's no real way around spending, either. The Mets don't have much to give up on the trade market, and a new collective bargaining agreement, with caps and strict penalties, has resricted other shortcut options like international and over-slot signings.
What Alderson is doing is building the Mets for 2015, while Fred Wilpon and his partners do what they can to stick around till then.