If the Phillies already did not have a strangle hold on the National League East, well, they do now. Philadelphia has inked former Phil Cliff Lee to a 5-year contract, stunning both the Yankees and Rangers.
What does this mean for the Mets right now? Not much in my opinion.
As a realistic fan, I don’t see how this affects the Mets in 2011. If anything, this will cause the Mets brass to really focus on the amateur draft. For the time being, perhaps Philadelphia has passed New York in terms of annual budget, and so the Mets must make a conscious effort to strengthen their minor league system to develop major league ready players. This means allocating more resources for the draft, like spending $2M to sign a 15th rounder who falls because of signability concerns instead of using it on Alex Cora. In particular, I can see them pursuing pitchers as the market for good pitching is a thin one at best.
Having more home grown talent will allow them to compete with Philadelphia in the free agent market. This situation mirrors the Red Sox approach to the Yankees. The Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball and therefore were able to reel in Adrian Gonzalez while signing Carl Crawford. (Although it is noted that the Sox payroll has skyrocketed recently.)
The Mets should use this season to really see what they have out of their young players, like Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Jon Niese, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee et al.
They should hold on to Beltran and hope he raises his trade value, since he cannot be offered arbitration per the terms of his contract signed before the 2005 season. Try to trade him for prospects at the deadline, otherwise they gain nothing from his departure.
They should make sure that the 2012 option on Francisco Rodriguez’s contract does not vest, as it would be unwise to pay him $17.5M for one season. He’s another trade candidate. I read somewhere that a logical destination for him would be to a team that already has a closer. This makes sense for the hypothetical new team.
If these scenarios play out to the Mets hopes, then next off-season will be a interesting one as the Mets will have many contracts coming off the books. Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, and Francisco Rodriguez are more likely not part of the team’s future and equate to about $50M of this year’s budget. That gives the Mets a lot of financial flexibility next year, but as Sandy Alderson has said, do not expect the team to spend all of that in one off-season. It would not be very prudent for a franchise that would like to yield results year after year, instead of a couple of years every decade.
With all this being said, I believe that Sandy Alderson and his team have a very intelligent plan for the direction of this team. They must know their current situation compared to that of Philadelphia’s and realize that Mets plan is long term while the Phillies are in a win-now stage of development. The time will come, and I believe New York will be ready when it is.