The U Files # 41: A Mets Manifesto

The Mets under Steve Phillips achieved their most exciting seasons in years in 1999 and 2000. However, in doing so, Phillips created a team with no future. In 2001, reality checked in: the Mets became the high priced disappointment they have been for three years. Unfortunately, the Mets continued to pursue a win-now philosophy past the time it was effective. Now, under a new General Manager, the Mets are going through a rebuilding plan.

The first question the Mets have to address is, who will be their next general manager. Jim Duquette is officially titled interim GM for the present time. To satisfy Major League Baseball stipulations, the Mets will go through a full search in the off-season. Omar Minaya, the former assistant to Steve Phillips and current GM of the MLB owned Montreal Expos, has already interviewed. Minaya has not shown hints of being an effective team orchestrator: in his time all he has achieved is to gut his farm to acquire players he could not keep, for a team that had little realistic chance of competing.

Attractive GM prospects from without may not find the Mets position appealing due to the fact they would not have as much authority as they may like; owner Fred Wilpon and son Jeff Wilpon have taken an active role in overseeing the team. There are indications the Mets would like to retain Duquette in his role as general manager: the Mets will be having meetings to plan for the off season with Duquette taking part in the role of general manager, before going through the process of selecting a GM.

It appears that Duquette may be a good choice. He made good trades to rid the team of the contracts of Roberto Alomar and Jeromy Burnitz, acquiring good prospects in the process, notably LHP Royce Ring and 2b Victor Diaz. The trade of Armando Benitez may have been done by Duquette under orders to reduce payroll; the Mets did not pay any part of Benitez' remaining salary, receiving less than they could have had they put money into the deal.

We should clarify what is meant to say the Mets are in a rebuilding phase. It does not mean the Mets will field a team of prospects yet to reach their prime at any point; the Mets have the resources to fill in the team with productive veterans. The Mets will field a team that includes a core of young talent that will grow at the Major League level until they are ready, but will not be forced into cellar-dwelling seasons as these phenoms go through growing pains.

The main element of the Mets "rebuilding" must be this: do all that is possible to support the future prospects of the team. This means not doing all that is possible to compete immediately; the current Mets roster will not easily support a serious chance to compete. The Mets should not enter into contracts that could hinder future flexibility. The team will be evaluating which prospects are most likely to be part of the team's future, and preparing to field a team including them.

Nothing should hinder attempts to improve the team for the near future, so long as the above conditions are obeyed. It will be a good test of the Mets creativity to pursue this goal. Fred Wilpon has already stated that the Mets are unwilling to give out long term contracts, particularly due to the difficulties teams are now having in insuring players signed to long term contracts. Also he indicated the Mets will be careful in considering how many effective years a player has ahead of him. He has been directly quoted as saying the Mets will be looking in particular to "non-tendered free agents."

While the Mets farm currently boasts an impressive hand of potential impact talent including Scott Kazmir, David Wright, Justin Huber, Matt Peterson and Victor Diaz, the Mets have limited the depth of the farm due to free agent signings. The team gave away it's second and third round picks in the Amateur Player draft for two consecutive years, as free agent compensation for the signings of David Weathers and Roger Cedeno in 2001 and Tom Glavine and Cliff Floyd in 2002. Also, the Mets have spent less money on the draft than the average in those years.

It would be wise for the Mets to take the draft more seriously for the next few years. The Mets have secured the #3 overall pick in the draft (and the third pick in each round) with their abysmal 2003, but the Mets should not ignore the necessity of building depth. The Mets should allocate more money to go into signing bonuses for drafted players. This means being loath to sign players offered arbitration. If this is what Wilpon was pointing to with his comment about "non-tendered free agents," it is a good sign from the Mets.

The actual state of this market will not be known until December. However, players that may appear in this market that could interest the Mets include CF Mike Cameron, OF Jose Cruz, Jr., OF Reggie Sanders, OF Carl Everett, OF Jeromy Burnitz, OF Kenny Lofton, OF Matt Stairs, OF John VanderWal, 3b Mike Lowell, and OF Milton Bradley.

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