Inbox: Bid for big-name free agents?

Inbox: Bid for big-name free agents?

Will the Wilpon family sell the team in the future because of its inability to provide the fans with a great product on the field and a productive farm system?
-- Steven Cruz, Central Islip, N.Y.

The Mets played in the postseason in 1999, 2000 and '06, and were eliminated during the final weeks in '98, '07 and '08. Their 2001-05 seasons and the '09 campaign were unrewarding. So they have produced a pretty good record in six of their past 12 seasons, and the '05 season seemed to catch the fancy of most fans until the poor September.

Your definition of great may not apply to what the franchise has accomplished in that period, but the Mets have had their moments since '02 when the Wilpon family bought out Nelson Doubleday. And from what I know, Fred Wilpon stands by his '95 statement that his grandchildren will have a piece of the Mets, a quite large piece, I assume.

We hear a lot of talk about signing a free agent, but with a top-10 selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and the Minor League system in shambles, would it be worth it to sign a big-name free agent? The Mets should allow the players they have to get healthy and restock their system. What is your thought?
-- Scott L., Redondo Beach, Calif.

I'm in favor of signing a quality free agent or bringing in an impact player to address an obvious need when contending is a genuine possibility. The acquisitions of Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez met that standard, as did the acquisitions of Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado. The development of a highly regarded prospect is such a gamble that the risk isn't as high as it would be in the NFL, NBA or NHL, if comparable compensation rules existed in those leagues.

I would think most general managers would approach it that way.

That said, signing John Lackey would address the needs of the rotation. Adding Matt Holliday would address the needs of the batting order, but not provide the defensive outfielder needed to play at Citi Field. But are the Mets, as they are at this moment, legitimate contenders in 2010? They have fallen well behind the Phillies, Braves and Marlins and not only because of the injuries in 2009.

The lack of progress made by Mike Pelfrey in 2009, the mess that Oliver Perez has become, the age added to Luis Castillo and the uncertainty about the catching are factors to be considered that have nothing to do with the lack of power.

My sense of the situation it is that the final standings in the National League East accurately represent the relative strengths of the 2009 teams and are likely to serve the purpose for the 2010 season -- even if the Mets acquire a quality starting pitcher. Adding a power hitter who plays the outfield well -- a Kevin McReynolds type -- and a quality starter would close the gap.

But the catching situation is an enormous issue that seemingly has been camouflaged by the need for pitching and power.

People seem to forget that the Mets were near first place at several points in the first three months of the season before the Beltran injury basically ended their season. If they were to make a couple of big-name moves -- let's say sign Bengie Molina to be their catcher and maybe trade a Daniel Murphy and some others for Prince Fielder -- is it possible that the Mets would contend for either the division title or the Wild Card next season. Both moves are long shots, I know.
-- Jonathan G., Queens, N.Y.

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Molina is getting on in years, and the Mets probably don't have enough talent even to tempt the Brewers to deal Fielder.

Why haven't the Wilpons offered Bobby Valentine a contract? I'm fed up with Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel running this team for however short a term it has been. Your thoughts, please?
-- Derrick Maynor, Ridgewood, N.Y.

I suspect the Mets haven't offered Valentine a contract because they're not fed up with Manuel. And not all New York baseball franchises re-hire managers they have dismissed.

Should the Mets pursue Holliday and Carl Crawford to make their outfield the best in the National League?
-- Gabriel Morales, Perth Amboy, N.J.

Theirs undoubtedly would be the best defensive outfield in any league -- because it would include four players -- Beltran, Jeff Francoeur and your two suggestions. If they were to acquire one, Holliday seemingly would be the one they'd prefer for offensive reasons, and Crawford for defensive reasons.

Do you think Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang would be a good trade target for the Mets. Each might benefit from pitcher-friendly Citi Field, and both are entering their walk years, though Arroyo has an option for 2011. The trade price certainly would be less than that required for Roy Halladay, and the contract prices would be lower than for Halladay or Lackey.
-- Dave A., Barcelona, Spain

Harang endured a poor season, but Arroyo finished strong. He'd be a nice addition. Both pitchers have options for 2011. And if the Mets were to acquire Arroyo, they wouldn't have to face him. He has a 5-1 record and 2.45 ERA in his past seven starts (all with the Reds) against the Mets.

Do baseball executives look to upcoming years and target certain potential free agent (e.g. LeBron James in basketball). If so, I will suffer through a really tough 2010 if there is the possibility of getting a certain first baseman from the Cardinals. If I were Minaya, that's how I would try and save my job -- let ownership know that they might not get a lot this year in free agency, but wait until 2011. What do you think?
-- Sean F., Bethlehem, Pa.

What I think is that you're pie-in-the-skying. And the Cardinals have an option on a certain first baseman's contract for 2011. (I don't believe you or I can be charged with tampering, so let's stop speaking in code: Albert Pujols.) I can't imagine the Cardinals not locking him up forever some time before the option has to be exercised.

When you look at the Mets as they stand now, wouldn't they be better off moving the fences in for more home runs and not force David Wright, Beltran and Francoeur to damage their averages by trying to overpower the ball?
-- Paul S., Columbus, Ohio

Interesting the way you put it, as though batting average is the end-all measure of an offensive player. I'd rather have a team with four players with 25 home runs and .280 average than one with four who hit 15 home runs each and bat .310. Home runs produce runs -- see 2009 Phillies and Yankees. Batting average doesn't guarantee run production -- see 2009 Mets. That said, I advocate maintaining the dimensions of Citi Field. I believe the Mets were spooked by Citi's size. Opposing players didn't suffer power outages in Queens, and the Mets hardly qualified as sluggers on the road.

More has been made of the error of signing the wrong pitcher -- what was Minaya thinking when he signed Perez? -- to an absurd contract than to ownership's infamous investment issues. Why not assign Perez to the Minors, ignore the weight of his contract and move forward aggressively to sign the best pitchers available?
-- Richard F., New York, N.Y.

Because $24 million is a lot of money to ignore. It was and continues to be a bad contract, but the Mets have to try to get something from their investment. I don't expect anything more from Perez than he has provided the past two years. Moreover, recent reports suggest the Mets may not have been so damaged in their financial dealings.