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July 28, 2011

The BP Broadside

Farewell to the Last Golden Beltran

by Steven Goldman

I suppose it should be unsurprising that for the Mets, so much of this year has been about undoing Omar Minaya’s legacy. Minaya took over the team on the last day of September, 2004 and vacated his chair on October 4, 2010. He took over a 71-91 club, but that club was not without hope, for even before he began, the 2004 Mets had broken the seals on two outstanding young players, both 21 years old: shortstop Jose Reyes and third baseman David Wright. The Mets were rebuilding, but the foundation was already in place.

What a gift to a general manager, but in the end it didn’t count for much. Over the following six seasons, Minaya would endeavor to find the pennant-winning pieces to go with his budding All-Stars. The farm would fail to produce what was needed, and much of what did come up through the system, however mediocre, was used as fodder in trades, some good, most inconsequential. The best of them brought veterans such as Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado, and Luis Castillo at low costs. These players were part of a constant influx of veterans. Free agent signings included Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, Moises Alou, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran, just dealt to the San Francisco Giants.

K-Rod, not so much a poor signing as an expensive and unnecessary one, has already been deaccessioned in return for two Brewers to be named earlier this month. Beltran departs with roughly eight weeks left on the seven-year, $119 million contract he signed back in mid-January, 2005. Bay, by dint of his poor performance and the $35 million yet due him, is likely a permanent part of the collection. Santana too will stay on exhibition even as he returns to the mound after shoulder surgery, legal problems, and declining results. He will earn $22.5 million this year and a minimum of $34 million through the end of 2013. Some things cannot be undone.

The upshot of all this maneuvering is that seven years have gone by, much treasure has been spilled, and Wright and Reyes are now 28 and still pretty much the sum total of what the Mets have established in the majors to build around. Zach Wheeler is an excellent pitching prospect, but he’s also in High-A. Daniel Murphy is having a surprisingly good year and perhaps he or a healthy Ike Davis will give the team a long-term answer at first base. Jon Niese and Dillon Gee should be decent back-of-the-rotation options in the coming years. There are some good prospects coming along, like Matt Harvey and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Jenrry Mejia could come back from Tommy John surgery and still be interesting. But as far as what is here now, with Beltran gone, the heart of the next great Mets team is the same as it was when Minaya took over almost seven years ago.

The problem is, they don’t have another seven years of time with Wright and Reyes. The latter achieves free agency at the conclusion of this season and there is no guarantee that he will return, or even that the ballclub can afford to ask him to return. Wright is signed through next season, after which the club will have to decide if he is worth $16 million or pay him a $1 million buyout. In the Beltran deal and its promise of return in the indeterminate future, Minaya’s administration receives its simultaneous culmination and dissolution, like an expensive high-rise building that is topped off and immediately demolished. No harm done? Not exactly. The ending is exactly the same as Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”: 

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better, but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

Good luck, Sandy Alderson; you’ll be starting from close to scratch this winter.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

8 comments have been left for this article.

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