On Monday, the Chicago Cubs parted ways with manager Dale Sveum after a pair of consecutive 5th place finishes and a combined 127-197 mark. Cubs GM Theo Epstein spoke of needing to find “that spark of a winning culture” after terminating the well liked Sveum, and one can safely conclude the former had determined Sveum was not the right guy to lead a club with ambitions beyond merely playing 162 games.
Conversely, the New York Mets today rewarded 64-year-old manager Terry Collins — he of the 225-261 record over the last 3 seasons — with a two year contract extension. Collins, who presided over a 50-50 finish this season despite losing a number of key players to injury for long stretches, said of the new pact, “if you’re going to manage, this is the place. There’s no better stage, no bigger stage than to manage here.”
And that’s more than little worrying. If Collins considers a half empty (at best) stadium the best of all possible venues, that might speak to the measured expectations of the manager and his paymasters. For all the talk of fielding something beyond a slightly glorified Triple A starting lineup next spring, Capital New York’s Howard Megdal calls GM Sandy Alderson fantasy payroll of $90-100 million just that, a fantasy that’s “floated away before the offseason even begins.”
ESPN.’s Adam Rubin reported on Friday that the Mets, regardless of whether they had a protected pick in next year’s draft, wouldn’t be going after free agents who received qualifying offers from their own teams. (Related: it was supposedly losing a first-round pick that kept the Mets from signing Michael Bourn last winter.)
The math on this is pretty simple. A qualifying offer, last year, was for one year, $13.3 million. It is likely to be similar this year. So any free agent who can reasonably expect a better contract on the open market than that, which covers the most productive of the free agents, will receive, and refuse, a qualifying offer.
The Mets, before the free agent game even begins, are saying they’re not in on any of them.
They were saying that in another way in Rubin’s Friday reporting about Shin-Soo Choo, who you might remember from a exciting-sounding report a few weeks ago as a likely target for the team. Sure, the Mets would sign Choo, the report said, but won’t offer more than the four-year, $48 million they nearly offered Bourn last year. Considering that comparable outfielder Hunter Pence just signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Giants this weekend, saying they’d offer roughly half that to Choo is just a fancy way of saying they won’t be signing him, either.
Even Alderson’s payroll from approximately 100 days ago is, according to Rubin’s reporting on Monday, no longer “sane.” The salaries coming off the books, the team holes, the likely free agents, none of these have really changed, except for an additional team problem to fix if Matt Harvey is unable to avoid Tommy John surgery. Yet somehow, Alderson’s own publicly defined plan from June is now crazy.