Broken Clouds 44° Good Afternoon
Broken Clouds 44° Good Afternoon

Will the Jason Bay deal prevent the Mets from spending big next winter?

I don't think so.

See you soon!

(Eats breakfast, exercises, checks out the new Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA. Returns home)

Oh, you're still here? Sorry, I figured you left hours ago. You want an explanation? Fair enough.

First of all, you definitely know that the Mets will introduce Jason Bay today, at a Citi Field news conference. You probably know that next year's free-agent crop looks to be outstanding.

Hence the concern that the Mets, in committing so much to Bay, are handcuffing themselves come a year from now, when they could theoretically sign Joe Mauer to catch, Cliff Lee to pitch and Carlos Pena to play first base.

On one hand...of course the Bay signing limits the Mets' spending power next year. In the same way any commitment would do so. There is a finite amount of money that they'll spend in any season, and Bay is now set to take up a significant percentage of that.

On the other hand, such a criticism carries with it a probably inaccurate assumption: That the Mets won't be willing to raise their payroll a year from now.

If you look at the Mets' roster, you'll see that amazingly little money is coming off the books next year. They can buy out Jose Reyes' $11 million team option for 2011, if Reyes doesn't rebound. They can non-tender Jeff Francoeur and John Maine. But that's about it.

It's the Mets' 2011-12 offseason that will be potentially franchise-changing. Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Francisco Rodriguez (vesting option for '13) and David Wright (team option for '13) are all candidates to be off the books.

But take a step back, and look at the Mets' payroll figures of the past 20 years. More often than not, the figure has gone up. Especially in the SNY era.

It probably won't go up this winter. But the Mets are coming off an awful season, the free-agent crop is bad and - let's face it - the Wilpons were hit by Bernie Madoff.

If the Mets put up a more respectable 2010 season than their horrid 2009 - and everyone sees that coming - then ownership, based on history, will likely be open to increasing the team's payroll from the 2009 count of $149 million. Especially since, in '11, the luxury tax threshold will be $178 million, giving them plenty of leeway.

Is the Bay contract a potential albatross? Of course. We now see, thanks to the Associated Press, that the $17 million option for 2014 will vest if Bay accrues either 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 in both 2012 and 2013. That should be doable as long as Bay stays healthy, which - despite the Red Sox's reported concerns - he has done pretty well, overall.

But will the Mets beg out of next year's free-for-all, citing the Bay deal? I just don't see it.

--For what it's worth, I was at Fenway Park on August 1, 2008, the day that Bay reported to the Red Sox. The circumstances, you could argue quite convincingly, were far more trying than his current situation: Bay had to jump into a pennant race for the first time in his career, replacing a legend in Manny Ramirez, stepping into a clubhouse that had been rocked by Manny's antics, taking on a higher caliber of competition and dealing with a completely different media environment.

He handled all of that quite well. So while age might get the better of him in the later years of this deal, it would be out of character for him to create any sort of controvery or characteristic Mets-fan unhappiness (not a "winner" and all of that nonsense).

--The Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre, and when you combine this acquisition with the Mike Cameron signing, you conclude that the Red Sox will be a vastly improved club on the defensive side.

And yet...I wonder whether they're getting too cute here. I've written here that it's all about run differential, but in the cutthroat American League East, you can't be too much of a liability in any one area. Will the Red Sox hit enough? They might, especially with Marco Scutaro serving as a major offensive upgrade over previous shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Then again, they might not.



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