Mets Can't Keep Straddling the Fence

Red Sox-Dodgers megadeal shows where Mets are lacking direction

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Wright's face isn't going to look any happier if the Mets continue down this road to nowhere.

    Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson held a conference call with Mets season ticket holders on Sunday and shed some light about the team's plans for 2013 and beyond.

    Alderson said that he hopes the team's payroll will be about the same as it is this season, although he admitted he has no idea what kind of scratch the Wilpons will allow him to spend. Alderson also said that the team wants to sign David Wright and R.A. Dickey to new deals, either before or after exercising their options for next season.

    The latter is easy to spin as good news since it means the team has a chance to retain two popular and productive players for several years. But it's hard to feel too great about that nugget of information when combining it with the first piece of news.

    As we've mentioned previously, the Mets are on the hook for $72 million for six players if they exercise those options. Unless the payroll is going to go up from this year's roughly $100 million, that means another year of doing things on the cheap while trying to fill the glaring holes in the outfield, bullpen and elsewhere in a lineup that's still short on consistent punch.

    It also means another year of straddling the fence instead of making a real move in the direction of either rebuilding or trying to contend. Trying that again and expecting a better record is like banging your head against the wall over and over in hopes of a different result.

    This weekend provided a clear sign that the Mets have another option. The Red Sox dealt Adrian Gonzalez, a player they likely would have been happy to keep, to the Dodgers in order to escape from under the payroll crushing salaries of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett while getting a slew of minor leaguers in return for their trouble.

    As Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out over the weekend, it's a deal the Mets could have explored by dangling Wright in order to ditch their remaining commitments to Jason Bay and Johan Santana. Maybe it wouldn't have been something the Dodgers wanted to do, but it would have taken care of the last remaining payroll drags on the Mets roster while signaling that the team was serious about building from the ground up.

    It would be a tough sell to some portions of a fanbase tired of losing, but at least it would be losing with a point as opposed to the way the Mets keep trying to play the middle. They didn't trade Scott Hairston this year because they wanted to win as much as possible, they didn't trade Jose Reyes last year because they didn't want to alienate the fans and they've made no progress toward anything but an emptier stadium as a result.

    Maybe boldness is a better route to take to engage fans who have made it clear they have zero interest in the franchise's current lack of direction. Wright's popular, but not popular enough to get anyone to go to Citi Field nor is he good enough to change the team's fortunes all by himself.

    The Mets don't have to go that way, though. The Madoff issue is gone and the Mets could spend a little money in hopes of putting a better product on the field next season, which is really the only thing that's going to put fans in the seats and break the hideous cycle that the Mets have been living through since blowing playoff spots in 2007 and 2008.

    Wright and Dickey might re-sign with the Mets for the long term or they might look at the team's unwillingness to move definitively in any direction and say that they want to ply their trade somewhere else. That's a pretty big risk to take when you seem to be out of other ideas about what to do with the team.

    You don't spend indiscriminately and you don't just trade players for the sake of trading them, of course. You do it with an eye toward an overall picture of the kind of team that you want to be, something the Mets aren't doing unless their goal is to be the kind of team that people ignore because they are neither good enough to care about or committed enough to rebuilding to make people think that next year will be any better.

    It's an awful place to be and the Mets don't seem to have much interest in moving to a better neighborhood, which suggests that things aren't going to look all that different in Queens at this time next year.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.