There have been signs that the Mets were never going to go all-in in 2010. As far back as the offseason, the Mets appeared to have a plan of not overpaying for mediocre players. They considered John Lackey, considered the top pitcher on the market, but ultimately decided that he was going to get more years and commitment than they felt was wise. They resisted Bengie Molina’s demands for a second year, something we’d all be screaming about for 2011 had they given it to him. Joel Pineiro had a contract offer from the Mets, but played chicken with them hoping for more money or another year, something the Mets felt was not in their best interests and didn’t budge on. We’ll likely never know if this was due to some budget constraints, or due to a philosophy of not giving out bad contracts. Outside of budget issues, Omar also resisted trading away prospects for rentals or other pieces during the season. It’s impossible to know if there was one guy that would’ve turned the season around, or gotten them to the playoffs. It certainly doesn’t seem like it based on where they’ve ended up, but hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe there was a creative solution that could’ve gotten the Mets a contributing second baseman, or a solid right fielder when Castillo was sidelined with the injury and Jeff Francoeur settled back to his sub-par career norm. However, Omar’s resistance to trading prospects this season has helped bolster the farm system and has created more options going forward.
I think this plan reflects well on Omar. He seems to have conducted business in 2010 according to this preset plan likely put in place with his agreement or from the owners. While it’s possible it was set in motion to keep Omar from sacrificing the Mets under bad long term contracts or gutting the farm system for a outside shot at success this year, it seems more likely that he executed the organizational plan very well in 2010 and it’d be surprising for them to fire him as a result of that. It’s never an easy thing to evaluate a GM. We don’t know what decisions were solely his, and what decisions of his were vetoed by either the owners or the other people involved in making decisions. We also don’t know what decisions Omar may have vetoed that would’ve worked out, or that he just couldn’t get done. There are rumors and hints at both positive and negative budget issues and it’s unlikely we’ll ever know exactly what the financials are, or were, for the Mets.
The Mets are even more aware of the risk of long term contracts with Johan Santana’s recent torn capsule in his shoulder casting doubt on the productivity of the back end of his contract. Johan was and is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and it’s looking like even that may not have been worth the money and years. I think this only accentuates why the Mets won’t, and shouldn’t, go after Cliff Lee in the offseason. Having one long term, high priced, contract for a pitcher is risky, two could be catastrophic. Investing over $40 million dollars a year on two pitchers who will be on the field less than 40% of all Mets games may be irresponsible. This subject will probably be debated back and forth all offseason anyway though.
I wish the Mets had given 2010 a better shot than they did, although I consent that part of it was the underperforming Bay, Beltran’s slow recovery, Maine’s un-fixed injury, Murphy’s injury and even Castillo’s bone bruise that kept 2B production down from his usually OBP and subjected us to Cora and Tejada for too long. I don’t dislike the Mets plan. It’s often possible to find a cheap option that will approximate, if not better, the performance you’d get by signing a guy an average free agent like Jason Marquis or Joel Pineiro with a lot less commitment for the future. R.A. Dickey did as well as any free agent pitcher on the market, including John Lackey. The Mets trusted in Niese and were rewarded. Josh Thole certainly looks very solid, both defensively and offensively, and i’m so glad Omar didn’t give Bengie that second year.
Not trading prospects will end up being a boon as well. Ike Davis hasn’t been much better than Daniel Murphy was in his “rookie” 2009 season, but he’s well above average defensively, and has more power. Niese has grown up, Thole is here, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee may be outside shots at contributing next year. Ruben Tejada has looked pretty good defensively. There are others in the minors as well. This doesn’t mean the Mets are set for 2011, but they have a lot more options going forward. Knowing more about these prospects and having them close to Major League ready gives the 2011 Mets a lot of possibilities in terms of getting production for cheap from Ike Davis, or maybe trading a guy that doesn’t fit as well for a different piece of the puzzle.
Omar is still here right now. There’s no doubt that the Mets have a lot of things they need to accomplish this offseason, and I can see how a head start on getting to know what’s needed on the team could help that. What real reason is there to keep Omar around for September when the Mets are out of the playoff race? The biggest decisions he’s making right now are which rookies to promote to the Mets, and using that major league exposure to determine the holes and needs of the Mets for 2011. Chances are the ownership group is involved in which players are getting looks too, and isn’t this something a new GM could do as part of his (or her, though that seems unlikely) process? The Mets are going to have a lot to do this offseason, including picking new coaches and a manager and improving the team on the field. Wouldn’t it make sense to reassign or fire Omar sooner rather than later and get a head start on the administrative changes?
So based on all this, it does appear that Omar has been doing a good enough job to warrant not getting fired. Does that mean he keeps his job? One concern with the team is that they may stick with a guy too long, or make a decision based on what happened last year versus what will happen next year. It’s the front office’s job to pay a guy on what he’ll do in 2011, not reward him for what he did in 2010. This can apply to the GM as well. Omar may well have done a good job creating a 2011 Mets puzzle that looks promising, but will he do a good job putting together those pieces so that the end result is a 2011 Mets World Championship? That is the difficult question here, and one the Wilpons need to think long and hard about. If it was up to me, I think I’d look long and hard at other options, but I think if Omar can and does lay out a fully thought out and complete plan for 2011, and beyond, that he could return.