Amidst reports that the Mets are "broke" and "out of money," I think there's a big difference between saying that and simply being a case of a team choosing not to spend. One rep for a free agent did say that he was told by the Mets that they had no money left to spend on his client, but maybe they just didn't want him. If the Mets didn't invest $66 million in Jason Bay, then maybe their financial situation could be considered dire.
But deciding not to overpay for a mediocre crop of free agents does not necessarily mean the Mets are bankrupt. The Yankees told Johnny Damon they were on a budget this offseason and couldn't meet his early demands. Didn't mean they were broke. They just went out and signed Nick Johnson, Randy Winn and Marcus Thames instead - then told Damon they were out of money.
As one Mets official explained to me last week, yes, the payroll is down from last year, but the team plans to use that flexibility once the season begins to see exactly where they need help. Around the trading deadline, elite players can be available at half price with the season at the midway point -- especially with a number of players heading for free agency next winter.
Is this a formula for success? Tough to say right now. I know it's easy to say the Mets needed a huge offseason to retore faith in the team, but this was not an ideal winter to remake the roster. Two of the top free agents played the same position - Bay and Matt Holliday - so it wasn't like a spending spree (see Yankees 2008) was going to solve the Mets' problems.
The Mets are in a bind, no question about that. The clock is ticking on Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya, and a fast start is imperative to save their jobs. But getting Rod Barajas or Yorvit Torrealba is probably not going to be the difference between making the playoffs or not. It's February. The Mets still have time to fix any problems that may come up between now and September.