David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Mets just changed the conversation.
It took close to $90 million, and yesterday's sizable risk in the extra-large Bartolo Colon. But for the time being, we're done ripping the Mets for not reaching into their pockets to improve the team.
There's no way of knowing how these moves will work out. Curtis Granderson brings plenty of strikeouts to Citi Field along with his lefthanded power and Colon, who turns 41 in late May, was suspended two years ago for a positive PED test.
But the Mets entered this offseason with three significant needs: an outfielder with pop, a pitcher to help mitigate the loss of Matt Harvey and a trusted shortstop. As of Wednesday, after a source said the Mets and Colon agreed on a two-year, $20-million contract, Sandy Alderson could scratch two off the list -- and the GM still has another two months left before the start of spring training.
While it's unclear how many wins Alderson has bought to this point, the Mets are a better team -- and he's managed to turn down the volume of the angry noise surrounding this franchise. That doesn't mean much on the field. But in the middle of December, with the Mets hawking tickets, it's good to at least give the impression that you're trying.
We also get the sense the Mets had become a bit more aware of the steady drumbeat of discontent. It's a tough thing to ignore in New York, especially when the team across town already has spent more than $300 million before Christmas. But rarely is such a thing acknowledged publicly as Alderson did during Wednesday's media briefing in the team's hotel suite.
"It's hard to manage expectations, our own and other people's," Alderson said, "when some are running around with their hair on fire -- and trying to write at the same time."
After a number of spaces -- this one included -- took the Mets to task a day earlier for suggesting that Granderson could be the end of the team's spending this winter, the timing of Alderson's comment didn't seem like a coincidence. On Tuesday, the Mets introduced Granderson, wearing their jersey, on center stage at the winter meetings. But that feel-good moment turned into a roast as Alderson and Jeff Wilpon were grilled on their plans to further enhance the roster.
Both provided little insight into their intentions. But they already had been involved in discussions with Colon, according to a source, and were kicking around the idea of adding a second year. Without it, the Mets probably had no shot at signing Colon, and the next day, they pushed the deal through -- pending a physical, of course.
That's a whopper of a package for Colon, but overpaying is the only way to get these players to Flushing. The Mets' last trip to the playoffs was 2006 and they haven't won more than 79 games since 2008. With that recent stretch of futility, Citi Field isn't exactly a dream destination for free agents, and giving the extra years is necessary to nudge them through the front door.
The Mets were the only team to go to four years for Granderson, and with Colon now on board, it's probably safe to say that no other club was willing to do two. But that's what we ultimately needed to see from the Wilpons -- some signs that they weren't mailing in 2014 because of the injury to Harvey.
At least the Mets are making us feel like they are back in business. Rather than just hearing about blueprints and a multiyear rebuilding plan, we're seeing the actual remodeling effort going on, with the addition of impact players who should make a difference right away -- not five years from now.
Spending money isn't the answer to everything. But it does stop all the chatter about not having any. For the Mets, that has value.