The off-season debate about ‘spending,’ and no easy answers

Matthew Cerrone , Lead Writer

Last week, the seven National League teams with estimated payrolls over $90 million had an average record of 71-71. The nine teams spending less had an average record of 70-72.

In addition, if the playoffs started today, of the six teams making the National League playoffs, two will have spent more than $90 million on payroll, while four will have spent less.

The funny thing is, if the Mets sign David Wright and RA Dickey to contract extensions, it’s going to mean they ‘spent’ close $150 million this winter, yet that only retains two players they already had… technically, they won’t be any better… and they’ll still likely be referred to as ‘cheap,’ when targeted by critics.

Speaking of money, there are fans and talk radio hosts who like to simply yell, “The Mets need to spend money.” They’re not totally incorrect. Money matters, obviously. The thing is, the Mets <em>are</em> one of those elite teams spending more than $90 million. And, sadly, they’re also one of those teams who will not make the playoffs. In other words, simply shaking a bag of money out the window of Citi Field isn’t going to result in an automatically better team… just ask the Marlins… and, even if it did bring in better talent, based on the above reality, there is no evidence to suggest would even matter (in terms of making the playoffs).

That said, even though the free agent market is mostly terrible these days, there will likely be ways to spend some new money on new talent to at least patch holes on the current roster, which would give depth and make for a more solid team. Yes, it’s a crap situation to be in because the success rate is so low. I mean, how many additional wins is Cody Ross <em>really</em> worth? But, it’s so much more than one or two players, because when you add them up, a roster starts to form that can at least support the younger players and not clog the long-term line.

In the end, in this climate, every MLB team’s success is going to be about the results of their farm system and acquiring or developing young, long-term talent that will eventually be paid more and more money as they get better… and, if you clog the line with overpriced, unmovable players, you end up a traffic jam on your books that kills the organization and starts the process all over again. The Mets need as many of these young players as they can get, and they’re developing some as we speak. However, to acquire a quality, young, outfield bat, the Mets are going to have to trade away a young pitcher of value this winter… or, they can stick with the pitching they have and roll the dice on a short-term, subpar free agent (who will not likely do enough to move the needle) or they can spend on a high-priced free agent (who will not likely be worth the long-term investment, and who might clog the line) or they can go with another untested minor-leaguer who may or may not pan out… again. It’s going to be a tough call. But, that’s the point, it’s <em>going to be</em> tough, and it will not be as simple as yelling, ‘spend money.’