The Mets have gone into the offseason in each of the past several years with no plans to spend money. Not real money, anyway. And certainly not the sort of money fans in New York, who are accustomed to sports teams spending big, would like them to spend.
On some level this has been understandable and even wise. Plunking down a ton of money on a big name free agent is not the best thing to do when you’re rebuilding, and spending money just to spend it makes little sense. On the other hand, there are lots of ways to spend less-than-top dollar that still help a club around the margins. This past offseason, for example, the Mets did little to bolster the bullpen despite there being a number of arms available in free agency relatively late into the offseason. Would that have put them over the top? No. But fans don’t exclusively expect to have the team be put over the top. A few more wins here or there does make paying good money to go to the ballpark a bit more enjoyable.
But, once again, it seems, the Mets are going to play it conservatively this winter. Yesterday Sandy Alderson made comments about the team’s plans, and while he gave some lip service to “flexibility” and being able “to do some things,” the message was nonetheless clear: don’t expect us to chase the big names:
“It’s gonna be prohibitive, but improving a team isn’t always a function of just dollars spent . . . Most of the improvement that came from the Mets this year had little to do with the overall [spending] … so it doesn’t equate. We’ll have some flexibility. We’ll be able to do some things. We just have to see what’s there . . . In addition to the young players that are coming through, we need to add maybe one or two veterans next year . . . That’s the thing about free agents, you’ve got to be careful because they don’t all work out … the quick fix isn’t always the best.”
Expectation management 101.
Again, none of this is unwise on its face. Prudence and the avoidance of big mistakes on the free agent market is smart. But this is also New York. And the Mets, despite sharing the game’s largest market and holding ownership in a lucrative regional sports network, have pretty consistently taken the approach of a mid-to-small market team. This has to grate on fans whose expectations are not the same as those in another city, for better or for worse. And whether that’s fair or reasonable, that’s who the Mets’ fans are, and for a long, long time they have not felt like they are getting what they pay for in terms of ticket sales and in terms of their loyalty.