By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper
Sandy Alderson has been the Mets general manager for one year now. His first year with the team was a lot of a wait-and-see approach, sprinkled in with waiting out some bad contracts to either expire (Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo) or dump (Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez). Time will tell what happens with Zach Wheeler, the return on investment for trading Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants, or his staff’s first draft year.
Mostly, 20/20 hindsight is a hell of a thing. Alderson was unfortunately in a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t situation coming in, especially at the beginning. While it was evident that Mike Pelfrey might have been better off traded out of the NL East after his overperformance in 2010, or Angel Pagan kept around to continuously brainwash the masses into thinking he’s any sorts of good, Alderson could have traded these guys at the peak of their market and heard the wrath of fans…or risk keeping them around and deplete any kind of value they could get in return. The latter, of course, is what happened.
What I like to say about this is that we want the best of both worlds: keep around our favorite prospects while getting the best free agents on the market. Yet, while they can coexist but sometimes you have to sacrifice one for the other. This isn’t just Mets fan specific, but every fan I suppose. One can argue till they’re blue in the face about the Mets though, about being a big market team which means they should spend at all costs, which to me is a bunch of crap because they’ve DONE that. Because of reckless spending without a plan, we have the crap cake we’ve been chomping at for the past three seasons, possibly more if you can include how disappointing 2007 and 2008 were.
Now, Alderson had a huge task to basically “re-do” the New York Mets, but throw in the mix at the beginning the potential loss of fan favorite Jose Reyes to free agency after the 2011 season finishes and it’s an even more unenviable task. There will be some in the camp who believe that Alderson should have negotiated with Reyes prior to spring training or the Reyes-imposed deadline of before Opening Day. I will admit to being one of them. For a front office that is supposed to be comprised of the smartest guys in the room, and be so conscious of costs, the best time to negotiate an extension with Reyes would have been prior to April. He’d been injury-marred for a few seasons, having missed most of 2009 as well. The flip side to that is with the Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth’s contracts that were given out like Skittles, Reyes had absolutely no incentive to even talk an extension for 3-4 years because all he had to do was play well in 2011.
But see, therein lies my issue with this whole shenanigans. Douchecanoe Deluxe Dino Costa “reported” (e.g. “stirred up shit” because he wanted to) a few weeks ago that Reyes was all but signing with the Marlins. Funny, I haven’t seen a press conference yet. For Reyes’ agents who only vocalize anything about their client is when they say he wants to “shop around,” something struck me funny that he would sign immediately with the first team that offered him a contract, ANY contract. But also to give the Mets the right of first refusal.
And isn’t it funny that with Alderson’s crew, there’s something else going on: leaks are very contained now, and if anything is leaked, it’s very controlled. You know why? Because competent people are actually running things now.
Which leads me to this. Last night, a bit of a kerfuffle occurred because during the day, Adam Rubin of ESPN had reported that Alderson said that he only knows what’s going on with Reyes “in the headlines.” Which led to an uproar on Twitter and other portals of social media, about how Alderson isn’t trying to sign Reyes and he sucks and he’s awful and he’s playing “Moneyball” now.
You know what we don’t hear, though? Is how much of this negotiation or lack thereof is on Jose Reyes and his agents.
Think about it. All we knew at the beginning of the season is that Reyes would have liked to negotiate prior to the start of the season. Another dude did that too: Albert Pujols in St. Louis. His team went on to win the World Series…a feat that no one predicted at the beginning of the season. Pujols has every incentive to stay with his team now. The only thing that would keep him from doing so would be money or perceived disrespect. Does anyone think that Pujols is going to sign anywhere else? Probably not. (And Pujols was also offered a contract by the Marlins)
This leads me here. Jose Reyes IS the Mets. He has been for several years. Yet, the Mets are in a precarious position. They had one of the highest payrolls in baseball with nothing to show for it. The farm system is in neglect and bottom-heavy for now, while there are still bad contracts that may handicap the team (namely Jason Bay and Johan Santana) short-term. Sadly, Reyes has become a luxury and not a necessity. Don’t get me wrong: I love Jose Reyes. I will miss him if he goes. The team hasn’t won anything with him, that also means they can lose without him too.
Yet, no one has brought up the other side of the equation: sure, Alderson may say all he knows is what he reads…but where is Reyes and his people in this mix? If they desperately wanted to either a) stay in New York, they’d be planting more stories or b) his agents could also conversely put negative stories there to make it seem like it wasn’t their fault. Either way, no one talks about what Reyes might be thinking. He may say he wants to stay in New York, but if someone blows him out of the water, he’s not going to say no to that too. And we all know there is a cap to even Jose Reyes, despite what the lunatic fringe may try to convince you of.
When Alderson traded Beltran, there were those of us upset because Beltran was no longer a Met (I was one of them), those who were ambivalent or those who felt that the Mets front office gave up too early on the season, that they still had a “chance” to somehow win. Yet no one ever brought up that Beltran, in his tenure with the Mets, was demonized by fans, media and even his own team alike for certain perceived behaviors. It wouldn’t be the first time this team’s front office or local media tried to run a superstar out of town. Yet, no one brought up that perhaps behind the scenes, Beltran and Alderson may have had a chit-chat, and Beltran may have green-lighted any deal do that he could wash away the negativity that has plagued him since signing with the team in 2005. The Mets were in no position to do so, especially since they owed him a lot of money and whoever picked him up would not be able to offer arbitration and get their draft picks. But they did and Beltran went gently in this good night.
What’s to say that Reyes might not be interested in talking to the Mets because in his mind, he’s moved on, or that his agents want him to negotiate with the Mets after they’ve shopped him around? The fact is no one knows and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve had nothing to really write about this offseason because all the stories have been bland. And I swore I wouldn’t write anything else on Reyes until SOMETHING happened. But really, I had to address the insanity, because it’s only going to get crazier until something happens. But I’ll make my judgments after the press conference.