One of the issues with the Mets from the last few years is that if they had an issue, they went and bought it. They also addressed it one need at a time. Two years ago, well the bullpen was a problem, enter Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz. Then the following year they hit 95 home runs as a team, enter Jason Bay. They never addressed multiple needs that existed at once, it was just fix what the problem the year before was and assume the best from everything else you already have.
The Mets do not have the financial muscle that the team across town does, so they can’t afford to try to act like them and buy any need they have. Of course sometimes the Yankees buy something that isn’t even a need, but that’s a story for another day. Look at some of the model franchises, the Red Sox, the Angels, the Twins etc. How are they built? Primarily from within. The proper way to build a team, atleast in modern day baseball unless you have unlimited funds is to build from within.
It is a much more cost effective way to build. If you spend $10M on a draft, which is an absurdly high number, you still are $2M shy of what Oliver Perez made in 2010. I am not asking the Mets to be the top spender in the league in the draft/international free agency every year. But the fact that a huge market team like the Mets, who spend $130+ million per year on their major league team sits in the bottom of the barrel in draft/IFA spending is a complete joke. Part of that is the Wilpon’s wanting to adhere to Bud Selig’s slot recommendations, but I think part of it is management, which is fortunately changing.
Whoever the new GM is needs to sit Jeff Wilpon down and say to him, look what is happening here is not working. The fact you guys don’t spend on the draft is drastically hurting the long term health of the franchise. The proper way to build your organization is the polar opposite of what the Mets are doing. The Mets are buying their free agents, and making trades (Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, K-Rod, Jason Bay etc) and supplementing their purchases with prospects (Ike Davis, Josh Thole etc). In reality, the better way to build is to build from your prospects and supplement them with your purchases.
I absolutely think the Mets should spend on the major league team, and be involved on all of the top free agents every year if they fit. But imagine having the ability to buy more than one very good free agent at a time? That could be accomplished by spending more on the draft and international free agency. Look at it this way: If you can have 2-3 guys in your starting rotation that are homegrown making near league minimum, how much more money does that provide for you to have to spend on the other members of the rotation and other spots? It certainly would stop you from dishing out silly deals like the one Oliver Perez received. The more talent you have that you produce yourself, the less commitments you have to make to outside players, which means less risk of a deal completely flopping in your face.
Of course not every prospect pans out. But that’s why you have to bring in good scouts with a good eye for talent, and trust them when they say player x is a sound investment at $300K. Let’s look at Erik Goeddel from the 2010 draft as an example. Jason Churchill of ESPN.com recently did an interview with Mike Diaz over at Mets Minor League Blog. In the interview he said about Goeddel that he was the most impressive arm that he saw on the UCLA Bruins last year, including likely top 3 pick in the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole. Some think Goeddel ends up a closer type rather than a starter, but even if that’s the case, isn’t it a better investment with the $350K the Mets spent to sign Goeddel and develop their own good closer rather than giving out a contract like the one K-Rod received?
Are the Mets making progress in this area? Absolutely. I am seeing more and more youth infused into the team, especially in 2010, which is great. Now imagine they had more high level prospects? Ike Davis looks like he’ll be a fine player, you can find more Ike Davis types in the draft outside of round 1 even. Obviously the draft is a crapshoot, but the investment there long-term will be worth it. You’ll miss plenty, but when you do hit and produce that star, the dollar value he will be worth will be worth more than the entire draft you drafted him in. And then you don’t need to go pay $15M a year for it.
You can even win while making your farm grow. Look at the Red Sox, Angels, Twins. Every single year they are in the race, or the playoffs, and every single year their farm keeps improving. They have late picks, it’s all about having the right guys scouting (it all starts with a very strong scouting director), and being willing to spend when it fits. Of course you need your organizational fillers, and your guys who just project as back end starters etc, but if you can strategically spend in the draft, it’s more than worth your while. Look at what the Nationals did this year. AJ Cole, bonafide mid 1st round talent falls due to signability, and the Nats pay him even after giving out big $ to Bryce Harper.
I am not asking the team to every single round of the draft take the best player available, or every year in IFA sign the 3 best kids out there. Scout people, determine people who are worth spending on, and act on it. In the draft this is probably more often high school kids or draft eligible sophomores in college who will fall due to signability. Take some chances, and prepare to give the kids your scouts deem worth it some money. Then when you develop your own stars, you at that point can realize where you need to spend on outside players, and you can bring in the best of the best there. This is the way to build a powerhouse, and I hope whoever is named GM can implement a philiosophy similar to this.