The Mets are heading for an iceberg of 1912 proportions.
For years, GM Omar Minaya has charged after glitzy, high-profile free agents while ignoring just about everything else that makes a team good.
This season’s injury woes have shown that while the Mets were loaded with big-name stars, their minor league system is not loaded with much of anything.
Stocking the minor leagues is not just about hot young prospects (which, by the way, the Mets are low on too), but is also about signing all those has-been and never-were fringe major leaguers to minor league free agent deals, just in case you need a replacement-level stiff to fill in with some reliable mediocrity for a few weeks when a star goes down.
Omar largely seems to have ignored this part of his job, which is why when someone gets injured he consistently finds in a situation akin to a gunslinger in a duel who fires off the six bullets in his first gun, then pulls out his other six-shooter only to realize he forgot to load it with anything.
Nobody can blame Omar for the ridiculous rash of injuries the team has sufferered this year, which is certainly out of the ordinary. But at the same time, there are always going to be at least a few injuries every year.
Before the season who exactly did Omar think was going to be the backup option if some of these guys went down? Have we ever seen a team’s starting lineup go so quickly from playoff contender to worst in the majors? The utter lack of depth in the upper level of the Mets system can only be laid at Omar’s door.
But worst of all is what this all means for next year and beyond. Because the Mets were clearly in “win-now” mode this year, and have been for years, with the attendant ill-effects on the future.
Next year the Mets are going to have gaping holes at left field, first base, catcher, and at least two starting pitchers, and even that is only if you assume that Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran will both come back fully healthy (questionable), and if you consider Jeff Francoeur to be “not a hole” in right field (extremely questionable).
Sure, it is true that the Mets are going to be clearing off about $40 million from their books via departing free agents, so they could go after some free agents. But they also have about $20 million in raises coming, if they offer everyone arbitration, and next year’s free agent class is expected to be the thinnest in years, which will drive up prices on the few mediocre players actually available. Plus it is questionable how much of that left-over $20 million the Wilpons will allow to be spent, given all the collateral damage they’ve taken between the financial crisis and the Madoff scandal. And in the end there is still the basic fact that the Mets have at least 5 major holes to fill.
Meanwhile the Phillies have only gotten stronger, with Happ and Lee pitching in for a full season, and the Marlins are still young-ish with a stacked rotation, and the Braves are always lurking and never mail it in, while the Mets have a farm system which, if not “barren,” can at best be described as “very thin.”
My suggestion *would* be to blow this whole team up and rebuild, if not for the fact that almost all of the Mets’ tradeable commodities, up to and including David Wright, are incredibly devalued at present due to injury or suckage. At this point the Mets are just going to have to resign themselves to slogging through another mediocre campaign next summer, and hope they can build some of these guys back up in value and flip them at the deadline.
That is, unless they really want to consider flipping Johan Santana or K-Rod at this point, but that certainly seems to be an unthinkable scenario, as the Mets have gotten so used to thinking of themselves as perennial contenders, and the injuries this year are such an obvious and convenient excuse for their struggles to be blamed on, rather than facing up to the fact that the ship is leaking, the iceberg is lurking, the helmsman is incompetent, and it just might be time to at least try to change course, even if it might be too late, instead of just continuing on full steam ahead.