Last night, Michael Salfino, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Sports and used to have a blog around these SNY parts (the now defunct SNYWhyGuys) tweeted that the Mets were broke.
He deleted his original series of tweets, but I retweeted one. Note, I edited it to keep it under 140 characters and use the old-style retweet, but did not change the meaning. Amazin Avenue has a screenshot of the original.
Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal wanted to make sure that it was clear that Salfino's report did not come from the Journal, but also did not attack the statement as true or false on the merits, tweeting as a follow-up: "That's not an attempt to discredit what he [Salfino] wrote."
Salfino himself then walked away from his own statements, tweeting, "I have no knowledge of the Mets financial situation other than hearsay." There was also a long string of tweets that included apologies to the Mets, and ones designed to insulate the Journal by declaring that he was not a WSJ employee. Just because it is hearsay does not make Salfino's original contention not true.
What to make of all of this?
The Mets certainly are operating like a team with tight budget restrictions. Releasing Jason Bay, he of the -1.3 bWAR in 2012, to defer payments from 2012 to some date in the future and open a roster spot now is partially an argument that the team needs every penny now. On the other hand, the move was not purely financial. The 40-man spot freed by releasing Bay has value too, and will require the Mets to spend at least a little money to find someone to fill it.
The nice thing about Salfino's assertion, or more precisely, his source's assertion, is that it's eminently testable. If the Mets do not extend David Wright or RA Dickey, his guy will be on point. If the team does extend Wright or Dickey, Salfino will just be the latest guy on twitter with lousy information.
I know we have discussed it (like every week) on the Mostly Mets Podcast, but I'm not sure I have written it here, so now I will: if either Wright or Dickey is not extended this winter, the Mets must trade that player. Both guys are too valuable for the team to let them walk via free agency while returning only draft picks, as the team did with Jose Reyes. If Wright or Dickey are to be part of the Mets' future, they must sign extensions before Opening Day 2013.
In terms of talking about the Mets' choices this winter, despite that similarity, it's really time to split Wright from Dickey. (As an aside, did you realize that both Wright and Dickey's middle name is Allen?)
First, the Mets hold a $16 million dollar option on Wright. It seems likely that they would be able to extend him with no raise, or at most a very small raise for the 2013 baseball season. Wright, who will be 30 on Opening Day 2013, is coming off his best year, by OPS+ since 2007. Wright's price is rising to scary levels (7 years and $120 million dollars) but given his value, age, and history of production, keeping him probably represents the Mets best chance of winning in the near to medium term.
Dickey is in a different situation. The Mets hold a $5 million option on him for 2013 with a $300,000 buyout. Any extension (say $25 million over 3 years on the low end) would very likely increase his 2013 base salary. Since the Mets also need between one and three outfielders, catching help, and bullpen reinforcements, that raise could blow up their limited 2013 budget. Dickey wants to remain a Met, but he might not have a choice. Trading one year of RA Dickey, who will be 38 in 2013, and potentially coming off a Cy Young Award season, should return young, cheap talent the Mets can use to build their next winner. Unless Dickey is willing to sign an extension with a small enough raise for 2013, that the Mets would still be able to address the team's other shortcomings, the team should be willing to turn his feel-good story, and mound dominance into talent that will be employed past 2013.
Broke? Not broke? Extend? Not extend? Trade? Not Trade? The decision points are coming. The Baseball Winter Meetings begin in Nashville on December 3.