Over the course of the 2011 season, the lack of major league ready talent in the Mets' farm system was brought to the forefront due to injuries. Unfortunately, that issues remains moving forward. As a result, Sandy Alderson will have to go the route of free agent signings if he intends to turn the 2012 Mets into contenders.
With that said, it is no question that money is an issue. There are no more blank checks like those granted to Omar Minaya, however I would argue that those free agents mentioned below should be avoided at all costs, regardless of whether or not money is an issue...
1) Albert Pujols - If King Albert isn't the best player of the current generation, he's a close second to Alex Rodriguez. Therein lies the problem. Pujols, who will be 32 years old when spring training starts next season is rumored to be seeking a ten year deal in the neighborhood of $200 million. It is that exact reason that the Mets won't be mentioned in regards to Pujols. While he may be worth a contract of $20 million for the next three...maybe five years, even Albert Pujols can't stop father time. Sandy Alderson shouldn't, and wouldn't saddle the Mets and their fans with the albatross that Pujols' contract would be as an aging 40 year old owed well in excess of seven figures.
2) Jonathan Papelbon - One of the most pressing needs facing the Mets' front office is finding a replacement for Francisco Rodriguez. Assuming that replacement isn't currently in the organization, Papelbon is likely the #1 choice with 219 saves in the last six years. Coming from the rabid market that is Boston, it would make sense that Papelbon would be able to handle the attention the comes along with closing in New York, however the outspoken closer who often seeks out media attention may be his own worse enemy. Compound that with the fact that Krod was traded away in the interest of avoiding his $17.5 million dollar option, it seems unlike that Papelbon and his $12 million dollar 2011 salary would have a place on the 2012 New York Mets.
3) Heath Bell - Due to the presence of Billy Wagner, the then 28 year old Bell was never given an opportunity to close for the Mets prior to being traded by Omar Minaya in November 2006. He has since gone on to collect 132 saves for the San Diego Padres and will be one of the most coveted closers on the open market this winter. It is age of the now 34 year old Bell that should prevent Sandy and company from allowing a Heath Bell homecoming. In his eighth major league season, Bell manage to save 43 games, but his strike out per nine innings rate dropped from 11.1 to 7.3. Still a solid percentage, but definite cause for alarm if Bell is looking for more than a one year deal. Although his save numbers haven't suffered to date, it would appear that Bell's ability to avoid contact is dwindling and his decline shouldn't be far behind.
Its easy to use the Mets impending decline in payroll as an excuse to avoid these high profile players, however I would contest that even if money weren't an issue, they should be avoided. The Mets needn't look any farther than Carlos Beltran to see how injuries can sour even a fairly positive long term contract. Furthermore, they needn't look any farther than Jason Bay to see how the high profile players aren't always the right fit. The Mets need to get younger and need to plan for a future that is probably still a good three years away. None of those listed above accomplish that goal and for that reason, Sandy Alderson and the rest of the Mets front office shouldn't dare bring them in.
Follow me on twitter @RobPatterson83.