Mets Fire Sale Is Just Another Pipe Dream

Can the Wilpons save themselves by jettisoning their players?

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011  |  Updated 11:30 AM EDT
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Mets Fire Sale Is Just Another Pipe Dream

Just about everything you need to know about the general prognosis for the 2011 Mets season can be gleaned from the way that people are coming up with an endless parade of unrealistic scenarios about the road forward.

You've had dreams of Mark Cuban or Donald Trump buying the team and of bounceback seasons for Oliver Perez, Jason Bay and Luis Castillo.

Jeff MacGregor of ESPN.com wrote a fairly entertaining if totally impossible piece about the fans coming together as the next owners of the franchise and now come a pair of local columnists taking a look at what might happen if the Mets were to hold a fire sale of their assets this season.

Joel Sherman of the Post was first up over the weekend with an exploration of how trading away just about every veteran on the roster could help the Wilpons get the payroll down to the point where they could hold onto the team.

On top of that, it would allow them to load up on young players who could play a role in the team's rebirth. It means punting on 2011 and 2012, at the very least, but it's a way forward.  

Ken Davidoff of Newsday likes the idea, but sees it as a hard sell for a fan base that will still have to buy tickets to watch a team stripped of its best parts.

Getting the payroll down is great, but losing revenue in the process won't exactly fix the financial mess. And, after the last few years, you can be sure people won't be lining up to help the Wilpons hold onto the team.

Still, it seems sensible. The Mets are unlikely to contend while spending $140 million this season, so why not accept the pain for the short term with less cost and higher upside? 

Frankly, the reason why not is because the Mets are the far less important party in any fire sale scenario. The majority of the players who would be part of a fire sale come with serious drawbacks.

Jose Reyes has to prove himself, and interested teams could get him, as a free agent after the season, without giving up prospects.

Bay is overpaid and coming off an awful season. Johan Santana has to show he's healthy enough to justify the money left on his deal. Francisco Rodriguez has a vesting option that no one's going to want while Perez, Castillo and Carlos Beltran are all coming off the payroll at the end of the season anyway. 

If any one of these players were considered an asset, people wouldn't be so bleak about the state of the Mets right now. Their combined value obviously pales in comparison to their combined salary, but it also wouldn't bring back any kind of return to make it worthwhile for the Mets to put a glorified minor league team on the field.

Could that change if a few of these players bounce back in the first half? Perhaps, but then you're even closer to most of them coming off the payroll and still facing limited returns in any deal that would make August and September miserable months in Queens.

Right now the Mets have exactly one player who would generate the kind of return that would justify going down this road.

That would be David Wright, and his departure as part of a ploy to allow the Wilpons to remain in charge of the team would be met with the kind of vitriol that made Tom Seaver's departure in 1977 seem like a wise decision. 

In a vacuum, this kind of maneuvering makes sense. In reality, the Mets will have to keep taking lumps as they try to turn the corner on this increasingly miserable era.  

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.

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