Is it really that disturbing?

Rob Neyer’s usually spot-on, but I think he misses the mark a bit in his remarks on Jeff Passan’s recent rip-job of the Mets’ front office. Neyer and Passan agree that the Jason Bay signing, to paraphrase Neyer’s headline “continues a disturbing pattern.”

If you read this site or my columns with any regularity, you know that I’m the first to criticize Minaya when he deserves it. In fact, I actually touched on a lot of the same themes Passan did in this column in August.

I’m certainly not out to excuse the club for refusing to spend above slot on draft picks. I still can’t, for the life of me, figure out what that’s about, unless it’s playing nice with the league in an effort to secure an All-Star Game at Citi Field.

But throwing money at Jason Bay, while perhaps shortsighted given the length of the deal, does not really do anything to hurt the Mets’ farm system. In fact, if there’s a year the Mets should be signing a Type A free agent, it’s this one, when their first-round draft pick is protected.

And citing Rubin’s work to rate the Mets’ farm system, as Neyer does, well, I don’t know. I’m skeptical. Organizational winning percentages are nice, I guess, but I don’t imagine they matter much, since it’s the performance of the prospects that matters more than the performance of the organizational guys who fill out most Minor League rosters.

The Mets’ Minor League rosters certainly lack depth. And they haven’t, under Minaya, produced a whole lot of top-flight Major League talent. Some warm bodies, for sure, but no All-Stars. That’s all true, and it’s certainly not good.

But for the first time in recent memory, the Mets now actually have a crop of intriguing prospects set for the higher levels of their farm system. Fernando Martinez, Ike Davis, Jonathon Niese and Josh Thole should all start the season in Triple-A. Brad Holt, Jenrry Mejia, Reese Havens and Kirk Nieuwenhuis should all start at Double-A Binghamton.

Granted, as a Mets fan, I’m probably overvaluing some of these guys. But all are still quite young and have performed well in the Minors, and so appear to have at least decent shots at becoming decent Major Leaguers.

And thus far this offseason, coming off an embarrassing 2009 campaign, Minaya has resisted the urge to trade any of them for a proven starting pitcher or an everyday catcher or a power-hitting first basemen.

I’d say, given the Mets’ history of quick fixes, that actually bucks the disturbing pattern.

Would I have signed Jason Bay to a four-year, $66 million deal with a vesting option? Probably not. Do I think he’ll help the Mets? Almost certainly. Would I choose him over Matt Holliday? Definitely not. Do I think his acquisition dooms them forever? Not at all.

The deal will probably hamstring the Mets financially down the road, especially since, in Minaya’s administration, they’ve had a whole, whole lot of problems grasping the concept of sunk cost.

But they have the advantage of playing in a huge market, so they can take one on the chin and recover if they can find cost-effective contributors elsewhere. And if they let their prospects develop into Major Leaguers, they’ll be doing just that.

Plus he’ll hit. It’s just not that disturbing.

17 thoughts on “Is it really that disturbing?

  1. Finally, a blog putting the media in their place. It seems bashing Omar and the Mets is the “in” thing to do. If the Mets failed to sign Bay, the press would be all over him. I wonder if the constant negative publicity is any payback for the Rubin incident last year.

    • But Hawkmets, you’ve failed to consider that I am the media. Also, what if I’ve been planted here, by the Mets, to excuse the team and defend it from the rightful criticism from fair journalists everywhere?

      Seriously, though, I don’t think Neyer should really be lumped in with the media en masse.

      You wouldn’t be the first to wonder if the general media harshness against the Mets this offseason had to do with the press conference meltdown. I can offer no insight, but a friend offered an interesting conspiracy theory the other day — how weird is it that the major media leaks this offseason have all come through Mike Francesa? He suggested it’s the Mets lashing back at the print media for the treatment.

  2. Great piece, Ted. Mets’ system is starting to show some depth. Maybe we’ll soon stop “hoping against hope,” to paraphrase the Murph, game six. The Bay signing does nothing to retard the system’s development.

  3. I[‘m sick of how the local and national media are bashing the Mets no matter what they do. I was waiting to read how stupid the Mets are for signing Bay as soon as the deal was “leaked”.

    I wasn’t disappointed when almost every expert on local TV/Radio and “columnist” in the fish rags and “reporters” from the major networks all ripped this move apart. Most of these guys were saying only days before of bad the Mets off season was because they haven’t signed a big name player.

    For the record, I much preferred Bay over Holliday. Look closely into Holliday’s numbers, away from Coors he’s nothing more than a .280 21hr hitter.

      • So would you want to give 100+mil to a guy who only hit 24HRs? This is a guy who only hit 30+HR and/or 100+RBI twice in his career. there is a huge drop off in production in his games away from Coors

        In 93 games in Oakland, Holliday hit .283, 11HRs and 54RBI. The late run last year in StL can be attributed to batting next to Pujols. Holliday would not have that type of production with the Mets. (it’s kinda like how Bonds made Kent a MVP).

        I’m not saying the Holliday isn’t a good player, but he’s not worth half the contact he’s gonna get…

      • exactly. No one questions the talent Holliday has. Its the cost of that talent vs. Jason Bay. Is he worth that much more money to us than what we’re paying Bay. I’d rather have fewer years in a mega contract for Bay vs Holliday. Holliday is not worth the contract Carlos Beltran received, Not at all. Money per year is not a big deal. especially for the second highest payroll in 2009. It’s the number of years that is always the risk. See: Barry Zito, Luis Castillo, etc.

  4. What I wrote to Neyer after reading the same article you are commenting about. I agree with a lot of what you have written.

    A few comments on the Mets as I am a huge fan. I don’t really know how much we can blame Minaya for the current mess of the farm system, as the Mets habitually seem to underspend on the domestic draft. They have been doing it long before Minaya and probably will continue to do it long after. If there is one thing that frustrates me about their system is their desire to rush up raw athletes without taking the time to refine their game. (Daniel Murphy, and Fernando Martinez come to mind.) I think Murphy could be a solid complimentary player somewhere, if they took the time to find him a position other then first base where his bat may actually play.

    It’s also worth noting Jason Bay was traded a few times before he became JASON BAY. Also lets give the Mets a break here. They signed a player for around what he was expected to get, and he is agreed as the second best outfielder available as a free agent. Everyone slams the Mets for not making a drastic move, and then we slam them for signing the player they wanted near the price they wanted. Yes Bay has flaws, but he’s a gamer and can handle a high pressure market. Also even in Citi field you still need to be able to score some runs.

    As far as Minaya goes let’s give credit where credit is due, he did turn around the franchise. He has done an excellent job of getting some decent players in trades. (Maine, Perez, Putz.) Unfortunately the Mets then seem unable to realize bargin players are no longer bargins when you sign them for huge contracts. Also I know Putz didn’t work out but that trade was universally lauded for good reason last season.

    Basically since Steve Phillips the Mets have hemorrhaged decent young players for older less effective alternatives. (Melvin Mora, Jeff Tam, Scott Kazmir, Heath Bell, Matt Lindstrom, Dan Wheeler, Marco Scutaro.) Granted none of these players are elite, but they are the kind of complimentary players the Mets farm system seems to be barren of right now. Until the Mets embrace the fact that a young unproven player can be an asset, and reinforce their investment in their farm system we will have problems.

    Even with all this being said, I think just about everything that could have gone wrong for the Mets did last year. (Bernie Madoff) Clearly they were overly optimistic, and paid for it. However with that being said I don’t think anyone could have predicted the spate of injuries that hit them or the complete implosion of the team either. I think we will make a return to respectability this year, but without 2 more starting pitchers the playoffs are a bit of a reach.

  5. Perhaps if Mets fans would stop bashing their own team as much as my fellow Mets fans do and with such lunacy, others wouldn’t be so vested in following suit. No one bashes the Mets with such exagerrated malice than Mets fans themselves.

    • exaggerated malice is a very fair description. I don’t understand it.

      Minaya’s faults have not been in the big-name players he has acquired. In fact, those players have panned out for us. The big problem is not those contracts, it’s what he does in conjuction with those acquistions. He fails to build around that talent. That talent is alway there, we just have failed to build depth around those players.

      examples…Getting Johan was a big move, but he stopp there. He did not improve the depth in the bullpen that year and it failed us late in the season. Krod/putz was a great upgrade, but we failed to improve the depth and quality starting pitching and that failed us. Ditto the depth of the bench. And then that failed us.

      The problem with the splashy moves is not the move itself its the fact that those moves are often used to overshadow and make people forget about the smaller problems we have.

      Bay is a great signing. I love 4 years. (5ht year is not a big deal when a buyout is included). We just can’t stop there. We need a catcher and an upgrade to the starting pitcher. This particular off-season, I think Omar will do just that as well.

  6. It’s good to see heady folk defend this front office when they actually improve in their approach. So much of the mainstream media conveniently leaves out that, due to our horrible record, our first round pick is protected this year.

  7. Good article, Ted; well-balanced and fair. As Hawkmets points out, bashing the Mets is indeed the “in” thing to do these days, by both fans and media alike. Winning is really the only thing that will silence those critics.

    One thing I do feel compelled to point out: Rob Neyer has a long history of bashing the Mets. I’ve never liked his snarky writing or his poor analysis. He can take more than a few lessons on baseball teams and players from Keith Law in particular.

  8. Ted, this is spot on. The only part I disagree with is that Neyer is often right. A lot of the past “Moneyball” calculus has been proven wrong. Statheads have finally figured out that — guess what — defense matters!! I’m not sure if they’ll ever understand character and how teammates can actually improve each other’s performance. I’m not sure how they explain the Phillies’ dominance over the Mets, because it sure hasn’t been talent.

    I worry greatly about the farm system, but you’re right that they are bucking the trend. Moreover, the “reforms” don’t produce dividends for a few years. As such, maybe the Wilpons’ patience with Minaya could be — gasp — a positive sign. A sign that short-term fixes and lineup patches are not as important to them as stocking a farm system and producing young players. The fans prefer to watch them, they’re cheaper, and they’re currency for bringing in the missing pieces when you finally get to the point where there are only one or two. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

  9. I am beginning to believe that much of the blame should go above Minaya’s head to the Wilpons. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if this is true or not.
    The way the Wilpons took control of the Mets, their development of
    the new stadium (seating, dimensions, lack of focus on the Mets history), their historical penny-pinching (which Minaya reportedly
    got them to ease up on), their lack of honesty on son Jeff’s baseball
    background, all lead me to believe that the family is a major part of the team’s problems.

  10. I think Neyer’s gone really downhill. I’m just not really impressed with his SweetSpot blog, 60% of which is direct quotes from other writers with the other 40% being disagreement by him (which can be OK) or pretty superficial agreement with the quoted writer with little insight offered. I think Neyer is clearly a more intelligent guy than most mainstream writers, but he really seems to be going through the motions lately.

  11. Using home-grown players who have played in All-Star Games as a benchmark of the success of a farm system is a mistake. Every team has to have at least one All Star. Cheap, small market teams don’t HAVE big name, highly paid free agents that get elected to All Star Games. So their All Star representatives are usually home-grown players who are having a good year. Notice that Passon doesn’t list the 8 Royals players. That’s because you would probably wouldn’t remember most of the names. At least we have developed guys who had more then 1 good year.

  12. If there’s anything to criticize about this deal is that it was a very inside the box kind of move. Bay was probably the lowest risk move they could have made considering the years and dollars Holliday is seeking, and considering what they woudl have had to give up in a trade. I have no problems with Minaya playing it conservative here. I think it’s refreshing that at the bare minimum, Fernando Martinez is an injury replacement next year, not a legitimate option in the outfield as the Mets have tried to do in the past with Milledge and Gomez.

    Meanwhile, something the media has not talked about is I feel that the Mets are quietly putting together quite the bullpen. Sure, these are some high risk guys, but also high reward. But if Escobar, Igarashi and Clint Everts all pan out, combined with Feliciano, Parnell and Stokes, and of course K-Rod, that’s an even better bullpen that what they had on paper last year with Putz and K-Rod.

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