Given the fact that Mets appear to be absolutely handcuffed by the nearly $20 million still owed to Oliver Perez, perhaps now is as good a time as any to rejoice over some of the dodged bullets from this past offseason. Assuming Jason Bay continues to hit it appears as though talk of him being a poor signing will remain quiet. Bay has handled himself very well in the media and by all accounts is a positive force in the clubhouse, two things that go a long way towards endearing oneself to New York fans.
Aside from Bay, the Mets were consistently linked to Benjie Molina, who wanted a 3 year deal worth roughtly $20 million dollars. Given that Big Benjie is only batting .262 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI for S.F. while Rod Barajas (signed for 1 year with a $1 million base salary and another $1 million in easily attainable incentives) is currently leading the Mets in HR’s, there is no question the stance the front office took has paid off. As quick as we are to look at guys like Perez and loathe Minaya for making that deal is as quick as we should be ready to praise him for passing on Molina, who seemed reticent to the fact that NY would overpay (perhaps he talked to Ollie). Omar also managed to show restraint and not offer extra years to guys like John Lackey (4.84 ERA), Joel Pineiro (4.95 ERA), and Jason Marquis (20.52 ERA, shoulder surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow landed him on the DL), even though such incentive would likely have been enough to get a deal done.
That’s not to say the Mets didn’t go out and waste some money in Eddy Curry type fashion. They shelled out 1-yea
r contracts to Kiko Calero (minor league deal worth up to $1.5 million for 1 year ) and Kelvim Escobar (1 year for $1.25 million ), both of whom were coming off injuries and have since been either released or placed on the DL. They also paid $2 million for a player in Gary Matthew Jr. who was basically paid $10 million by the Angels to go away. Other players, such as Mike Jacobs , Chris Coste , Fernando Tatis, and Frank Catalanatto really had little to no chance of being a difference maker for the team in 2010, yet they were also given 1-year deals totaling ~$3.3 million.
Back in March though it seemed like the Mets brass could agree that it would have been nice to add another lefty to the bullpen. Rumors linked the Mets to Ron Mahay and Joe Beimel. I remember at the time that you couldn’t talk to a Met enthusiast that didn’t think signing Beimel would be a good idea. It would have allowed the team more freedom to use Pedro Feliciano (currently the lone lefty reliever on the roster) more sparingly and as Michael Baron of Metsblog.com wrote back in March, perhaps it may have even made it easier to put Hisanori Takahashi in the starting rotation right out of Spring.
For whatever the reason, the Mets decided to play hardball with Beimel, who was believed to be looking for $2 million in 2010. Given his 3.58 ERA in 71 appearances with Washington and Colorado in 2009 it hardly seemed like a lofty sum. But the Mets were set on only paying ~1 million to bolster their bullpen and as a result Beimel and his agent Joe Sroba eventually continued to look elsewhere. In April Beimel ended up resigning a minor league deal with Colorado worth $850,000. Since being called up on April 15th Beimel has posted a 0.48 ERA on the year and according to CBSsportsline.com is tops among all relievers with an average of 12.1 pitches per inning. He has been equally dominant against lefties and righties, a trend that continues from last year where he actually had a lower ERA (3.07) against right hand batters than he did left (4.07). Equally impressive is the fact that Colorado Joe hasn’t allowed a run in almost 18 innings, dating back to April 16th. This isn’t one of those cases where the front office can offer a rebuttal that goes something like this: “sure, it’s easy to say now that we should have signed him.” From 2006-2009 Beimel posted ERA’s of 2.96, 3.89, 2.02, and 3.59 and the benefits of signing him (even at his asking price) seemed just as obvious in March as they do after the bullpen’s most recent collapse last night.
The grade the Mets receive for their 2010 Spring moves will ultimately depend on Jason Bay’s production, but beyond their high-priced right fielder the Mets were able to succeed, to some extent, by simply avoiding any Ollie-esque type contracts with less than deserving pitchers. Joe Beimel, however, is turning out to be an obvious oversight.
In the end it could have been that Beimel had no intention of signing with New York and was just using a larger market team to leverage a better deal with Colorado. If that was the case then he failed miserably after ultimately receiving less money to play with Colorado ($850,000 base salary with up to $300,000 in incentives ), but that in itself may be an indictment of his intentions, or lack thereof, of playing with the Mets. Since much of that dancing between player, agent, front offices goes on beyond closed doors, we may not know the whole story but it’s even easier to say now than it was in the Spring that with the way guys like Valdes, Feliciano, and Fernando Neive have been pitching, it would be nice to have Beimel in the pen.
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