Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
I wrote this in December, 2012, just after the Winter Meetings. It seems worth re-posting, given recent talk of payroll, contract extensions and building like the A’s and Rays…
I wonder if we need to get more comfortable with rooting for the uniform again and not specific players?
Sandy Alderson locked up David Wright, mostly because he’s a terrific third baseman (in an era when there aren’t many good third baseman), but he also got the deal because he’s a good guy, clean, smart, a good story, loyal, and capable — and willing — to be the face of the franchise now and after he retires. Every franchise needs this, and Alderson so much as said so. But, for the most part, he has said he isn’t a big fan of giving out these type of second-generation contracts… let alone ones that cost $100 million… and especially to more than one player.
As I’ve said before, I think he believes in having a young, under-team-control core to win with (such as Jon Niese, Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, etc.,) with Wright as their leader), but who are supported each season by a constant rotation of mercenaries acquired by trade or signed to very short-term, affordable contracts that can be easily discarded and replaced if they’re not working out.
Further more, if Alderson finds himself with player requesting more money – who is having a career year or attaining a major, personal achievement, like a batting title, Cy Young, etc. – I have a feeling Alderson and his staff will treat him like any other overvalued asset that he should sell high on.
For instance, like in the case of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, R.A. Dickey, etc., I think Alderson and his staff may literally see these guys as “opportunities,” like flipping a house or selling a stock, assuming it’s in the best interest of the organization’s future. The foundation (d’Arnaud, Harvey, Wheeler, etc.) do not get moved, at least not yet, at least not while they’re appropriately valued and producing. But, even for them, the moment they are producing at a high level, and their demand increases while on the verge of being free agents (say five, six, seven years from now), I wonder if they’ll get moved too?
Oakland A’s fans are very used to this way of life, they actually take pride in it at this point, and Alderson, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi all have roots in that system. The Rays are doing this well, too. The difference is that New York City has conditioned itself to root for stars. However — with a few exceptions — I get the feeling Alderson believes winning (regardless of who you do it with and how much you spend on it) trumps any one player, regardless of how you and I feel about those players. And, maybe, what we’re watching here (at the expense of short-term success) is Alderson transition from one model to the other.
Obviously, the perfect scenario, the ultimate goal, the sweet spot — for Alderson or any GM — will be a combination of: sustained winning, a consistent system, gunning for the postseason year after year, but with four of five familiar faces we love and rally around (the ‘Core Four,’ so to speak). But, if he had to choose, I bet Alderson would take wins over faces… and I wonder if New York fans will agree…