By Ethan Marshall
Fred Wilpon may very well be responsible for turning a talented Mets team that’s a few pieces away from being World Series contenders into a franchise in no-mans land.
Despite a high amount of ticket sales in 2017, including at the minor league level (thanks to Tim Tebow), the Mets expect to have a much lower payroll in 2018, down from $155 million to around $130-135 million. This announcement came after the team traded away most of their pending free agents around the deadline for basically nothing. Rather than taking on at least a portion of the remaining salary from players like Jay Bruce and Neil Walker in exchange for better prospects to replenish a dried up farm system, the Mets took no-names and long-shots while their trade partners took on the remaining salaries.
Why, then, are the Mets lowering their payroll at a time where they’re doing well financially and have a great opportunity to be contenders? The blame can be placed on owner Fred Wilpon, who, unlike Derek Jeter, refuses to face his critics or even explain his actions to the New York media. According to a New York Post story, Fred Wilpon gets upset whenever the Yankees make a big move, like their acquisition of 2017 N.L. MVP Giancarlo Stanton. While this alone frustrates Mets fans to no end, as the team has done nothing but sign reliever Anthony Swarzak, Wilpon managed to make himself look worse. Wilpon apparently believes the Yankees’ willingness to spend money in excess in order to compete almost every year is not a good long-term formula for financial success. The Yankees have been doing this for the last 20-30 years, and show no sign of slowing down. They are the definition of success. Wilpon’s logic makes zero sense!
If this is Wilpon’s best argument for refusing to allow general manager Sandy Alderson to even know how much money he has to spend this off-season, then he shouldn’t be the owner of a major league baseball team at all, let alone one in the big market of New York City.
The Mets should be pursuing free agents like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. While they’ve been attached to free agents like Jay Bruce and Addison Reed, who could both be very useful, they’ve shown a reluctance to spend big on these candidates, to the point they haven’t even made any offers. Instead, the player the Mets have been most closely attached to at this stage of the off-season has been Adrian Gonzalez, who will be 36 next season and is coming off a season in which he suffered major back injuries, because he’d only need to be paid the major-league minimum. Additionally, the Mets may have wasted their opportunity to acquire second baseman Jason Kipnis from the Indians, who are now more reluctant to trade him than during the winter meetings. Negotiations stalled when the Mets were reluctant to take on most, if not all, of the $30.5 million on Kipnis’ remaining contract through 2020.
There is still plenty of time left this off-season for the Mets to fill the holes needed to be corrected, but with only $10 million believed to be left to spend, this wouldn’t be enough to inspire much optimism for a big signing any time soon. There has been no reason given as to why the Mets are cutting their payroll, which was just the 12th-highest last season, by $20 million. The Mets window of competing won’t last much longer. If the reason behind this is because Fred Wilpon doesn’t think the starting rotation can live up to expectations or stay healthy, this is not a good excuse. Regardless of how the rest of the rotation performs, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom can be one of the best one-two starters in the MLB.
Several Mets fans, upset at ownership’s lack of confidence and financial investment in the team, are considering boycotting the team if nothing is done this off-season to inspire confidence. These fans are talking about cancelling their season-ticket orders and not tuning into Mets games on TV or the radio. While the Wilpons have never been liked by Mets fans, they are facing hostility from their team’s fanbase not seen since the fallout from the Madoff scandal, which left the owners in financial ruin. With the Wilpons acting as though they are in financial trouble, fans have again called for them to sell the team, so that both sides may benefit.
There is no reason a New York baseball team that was in the World Series just two years ago should be run like a small-market team. There is no reason the Mets shouldn’t be in the market for players like Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas. There is no reason for money to get in the way from signing Jay Bruce and Addison Reed, with the former providing a solution at both first base and right field and the latter being perhaps the final piece to a potentially strong bullpen that would also consist of Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins and Anthony Swarzak. There is no reason small-market teams like the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals, and rebuilding teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, should be out-spending the Mets.
Mets fans are under the impression that most of the money coming towards the team is just ending up in the Wilpons’ bank vault, where there is enough money for them to dive into and swim in, similar to Scrooge McDuck. If the Mets’ needs aren’t addressed this off-season, there is a good chance that this time, the fans will fight back by not spending on a team whose owners refuse to spend on. Fred Wilpon needs to stop questioning the Yankees’ model for success, and start following it.