Tuesday’s late night trade of Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers made perfect sense – or maybe cents is the more accurate term given the New York Mets financial condition. The deal came down to simple mathematics: Rodriguez was in the final season of a guaranteed three-year, $37 million contract with a vesting option for $17.5 million if he finished 55 games before the season ended. At the All-Star break, Rodriguez had finished 34 games, well ahead of pace on the option. Meanwhile, the Mets are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. You don’t need an accounting degree to do the math.
The Mets have done more with less the first four-and-one-half months of the 2011 season, Bobby Parnell is throwing as hard as K-Rod did in 2002 (with recent success), Jason Isringhausen is there to back him up and the Mets need more cash if they want to make a legitimate run at resigning Jose Reyes. Who is more important to the Mets long-term?
So it was goodbye Big Apple, hello CheeseHeads for Rodriguez.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson assured fans the trade “does not signify a change in direction from our continuing attempt to win games this season.” Neither does the injuries to David Wright, Jose Reyes, Ike Davis, Chris Young and Johan Santana, but they sure do make it increasingly more difficult to remain competitive.
The Mets organization will never, ever admit to waving the “white flag” on the 2011 season. It would be marketing suicide, bad for business. In two weeks, when Wright and Reyes have both returned from the disabled list and Carlos Beltran is traded – and he most certainly will be – Alderson will continue to sell the benefits (more payroll flexibility, the future, the attempt to field a winning team) while slowly purging another piece of the Omar Minaya era.
“Rather than referring to any particular player, I think clearly we now can look forward to considerably more payroll flexibility (in 2012),” Alderson told the media. “That flexibility to allocate our resources will be very important to us (going into) next season.”
Let me translate: We need extra money if we’re going to try and retain Reyes.
As for Beltran, his immediate future will be determined by the Mets won-loss record. Alderson admitted “I think far more important in that situation will be realistically how we play in the next week, two weeks, three weeks … wins and losses might dictate what we do.”
Realistically, the Mets, as they are currently constructed, are at best a .500 team, not a playoff contender. Realistically, If they play up to expectation, the “next week, two weeks, three weeks” will be all the justification Alderson needs to make his next move which, realistically, will put Beltran in a San Francisco Giants uniform soon, saving the Mets a little more for their down payment on that shiny young shortstop with the big smile and big future in New York.