As the losses pile up an the Mets roster gets a Triple-A makeover, fingers point, frustration builds, and questions are asked. Will Jerry be here next season? Will Omar go? Who is the real Jason Bay? What’s going to happen with K-Rod? The list goes on and every fan you talk to likely has one of their own to add. Perhaps the question that looms largest is the one that is the most direct “WHEN WILL IT GET BETTER?”
I’m not sure anyone knows that answer but there are no shortage of suggestions floating around. The team has a nice crop of youngsters on display as the season winds down and hopefully the framework for future becomes even more clear as the year progresses. As much as I hope the team can do as much as possible from within, it’s still pretty obvious that some outside help will be needed if things are going to get better sooner than later. We got in touch with Ben Nicholson-Smith from MLB Trade Rumors.com a little while back and asked him some questions (via a phone interview) about the upcoming free agent class to see where the aid outside of Queens might come from. Ben started covering baseball transactions for MLBTR in 2008 and has since written nearly 2,000 posts for the site. We highly recommend checking his work out and hope you enjoy his chat with Metszilla.com:
Vinny Cartiglia (Metszilla.com):
Before we can get into the future, we wanted to turn back the clock to this year’s deadline. Were you at all surprised as how quiet the Mets were at the deadline?
Ben Nicholson-Smith (MLBTR):
I definitely was. I think that leading up to the deadline we heard them as a team that could go after a Roy Oswalt or Cliff Lee type. Ultimately we kinda lowered our expectations and thought maybe a Brett Myers type, an innings eater. But they went out and basically did nothing as far as starting pitching and the bullpen was another area we heard they were rumored to go after guys like Scott Downs, than that didn’t happen. And ultimately they ended up being pretty quiet and at this point their not really in it, so maybe that was a good decision not to be overly aggressive and give up the farm for somebody but what if they had gone out and gotten Cliff Lee they might be in a different position right now anyways.
Given the fact that this team possesses so many ‘unmovable contracts’, do you anticipate or have you heard any rumblings of any offseason trades?
You hear the speculation whether or not they can move Castillo whether or not they can move Beltran. That’s something that you kinda wonder about and I’m not really sure how realistic that is. They probably have to eat money in either one of those situations. Oliver Perez is obviously another massive contract the Mets would probably like to move but I don’t know how realistic moving his contract is either. Especially since what are teams going to base their analysis of him off of. We haven’t really seen him pitch much recently s0 he’s kinda an unknown commodity but he has struggled obviously when he has been on the mound. So, I’m not sure they are gonna have a whole lot of luck moving him. At this point it’s speculation but I would definetly expect them to try and move one or two of those salaries.
Do you expect the Mets to be in the market for Cliff Lee? Who do you anticipate being his major suitors and what kind of contract might he command? (This question was asked prior to Lee’s most recent string of struggling starts)
Yeah, we heard in late August that a Mets official apparently told Adam Rubin from ESPN New York that the Mets aren’t gonna be after Cliff Lee this winter. But, we know they liked him leading up to the deadline. He’d look pretty good in that rotation along with Johan Santana that would be a great 1-2 punch, a couple lefties that would be really hard to beat. So I guess they’ll take a look at him, I would be pretty surprised if they don’t inquire see what kinda of asking price Lee’s going for, but the kinda season Cliff Lee was having before his recent back troubles and the fact that he already has one Cy Young award will make him expensive. He and Felix Hernandez were probably the leading contenders to win the 2010 Cy Young Award prior to his last few outings. And, if he had two Cy Young’s under his belt, he is still a relatively young pitcher he could be in position to ask for $120 Million plus, $140 million plus, its a little early to predict at this point because we’re not quit to the off-season but he would be asking for a 9 figure deal and that’s a pretty big commitment for any team.
Would you agree that prospective free agent class for 2012 seems to offer a good bit more than 2011 in terms of offense?
Yeah, the thing is what comparing Free Agent classes is they change so much as far as, which guys get locked up to extensions which guys just end up having off years. The one thing you look at with the 2012 FA class is, you have Prince Fielder, obviously you have Adrian Gonzalez, these are some guys who hit Free Agency after next season. Obviously Albert Pujols as well assuming the Cardinals pick his option up, that’s a pretty impressive trio of first baseman and that’s just the beginning. Jose Bautista will be in that free agent class, there are other interesting names but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cardinals go ahead and lock Albert Pujols up. Maybe the Padres as well will lock Adrian Gonzalez up, these things can look a lot different in a years time.
Assuming is still gonna be a pretty productive player at that point you have to think they are not gonna be in the market for a first baseman and that’s obviously the strength of the 2012 class. Jose Bautista can play 2 positions he’s a guy that would appeal to everybody assuming the Blue Jays don’t lock him up, so that’s one option. Maybe Grady Sizemore will be hitting free agency that year although if he’s having a really good season in 2011, the Indians are gonna lock him up so if he hits the market that’s not necessarily a good thing. Honestly it’s a little bit early for me to be predicting that kinda stuff.
*It hurts to have to ask questions about a year or two from now but after watching a season like this it’s hard to imagine the solution to the Mets problems being a quick fix. As Ben said, it doesn’t seem realistic that New York will be able to move past the contracts of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez or Carlos Beltran in 2011 without eating a good bit of salary. If that proves to be the case, how much money will they really have to make a splash in the free agency pool? To be honest, the list of available help this offseason (check it out here on MLBTR) breaks down to Cliff Lee and…….everyone else. If the Yankees want Lee, and all indications are that the do, then they will pay whatever it takes to get him. Madoff or no Madoff (who knows what to believe about the Mets finances), it doesn’t seem like the Wilpon’s will rushing after another $100 million contract any time soon. I’m hopeful that guys like Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Jonathon Niese, Bobby Parnell, and Jenrry Mejia will exceed even the highest of expectations and next season will be a story of resiliency and success fueled by homegrown talent rather than store bought patch work. Optimistic? Absolutely, but if I want to hear someone say ‘things are gonna get worse before they get better’, I will turn on CNN and listen to the first politician that hits the screen.
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