baseball; playoffs; nlcs latestpixWhen teams are competing for championships, their “window” for contention is often talked about.

The Texas Rangers had a short championship window, from about 2009-2012.

The San Francisco Giants’ championship window opened up in the 2009 season and is still wide open.

The Detroit Tigers window is preparing to slam shut as their stars continue to get another year older and the farm system shows little signs of reinforcements on their way.

For most teams, the championship window is determined by a number of things – chiefly the young players coming up through the minor league pipelines, the development of existing major league players, and of course the ability of the front office to bring in supplementary players to fill holes on the roster and replace ineffective, aging veterans.

So what does this mean for the Mets, and any potential championship window they may have in the near future?

As has been well-chronicled over the past few years, there is no shortage of minor league talent on its way to Flushing over the next few years.  With Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Cesar Puello, Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera set to make contributions in 2015 and 2016 and a depth of talent at the Single-A and Double-A levels, there are surely going to be plenty of new names coming to Citi Field to replace the likes of Curtis Granderson, Michael Cuddyer and Bartolo Colon soon.

Of course it is unrealistic to believe that all the prospects will pan out as planned, or that they will ever sniff the majors with the Mets or any other team.  But the same can be said for every team and with prospects there is strength in numbers, and the Mets certainly have numbers.

The second part of the equation is a bit more of a mixed bag of tricks.  Sure, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares provide a solid core of “young” players who should grow together, but Daniel Murphy and David Wright are on the wrong side of 30, and Lucas Duda will be 29 by Opening Day.

Also, let’s not pretend that just because a guy only has one or two seasons under his belt means that he’s that young.  In 2015, Harvey will be 26, deGrom 27, d’Arnaud 26, Vic Black 27, Wheeler 25.

For comparison, Clayton Kershaw will be 27 this year and is entering his eighth season in the Major Leagues.  These players are all either in their athletic primes right now or will be within the next two seasons.

It is not that we should expect to see some kind of radical drop off in their play anytime in the near future, but rather a reminder that these next two to five seasons are likely going to be the peak for these players.

Then there comes the question of their impending arbitrations and free agencies.  According to the numbers at Cot’s Contracts, Murphy, Colon and Bobby Parnell are all free agents at the end of 2015.  Dillon Gee, Duda, Jenrry Mejia (thanks, Omar), Ruben Tejada, John Mayberry Jr., Carlos Torres, Harvey, Lagares, Anthony Recker, Jeurys Familia, and Josh Edgin are all eligible for arbitration at the end of this year.

That’s going to get very expensive, which brings us to the third element of the Mets potential championship window: bringing in players to fill holes and replace ineffective players.

Here’s where they fail – they haven’t demonstrated the ability to expand payroll enough to even bring in a badly-needed shortstop or second bullpen lefty this offseason.  How ownership is going to have enough money to deal with the expanded contracts resulting from the upcoming arbitrations of their young core alone is mystifying, let alone how they can bring in more players without dealing significant pieces.

Sadly, those kinds of questions are not ones that teams that are trying to open up a championship window have to think long and hard about.  If a team is trying to win a World Series and they need a shortstop, they go out and get one.  They don’t sit around and wait for somebody to maybe develop into a decent regular.  They deal and get as sure of a thing as they can.

Until ownership begins to behave differently the Mets window of relative competitiveness may only be open for another year or so, before it comes time to blow it up for payroll reasons.  Let’s hope that’s not the case though – but that would require the Wilpons stumbling upon a few hundred million dollars, or the sale of the team.  Either way is fine, so long as that window is propped up.

39 comments on “How big is the Mets’ potential championship window?

  • Rob

    The way I see it the window is a moving target.

    First question is when are the Wilpon’s going to truly commit the resources to supplement the existing core with the added extra pieces that will vault them into serious contention? Sorry but Grandertson and Cuddyer do not imo constitute a serious commitment to winning.

    Second assuming they do number 1 are they going to have any left over to start to retain our emerging stars to keep the window open? And this is the biggest problem they still most probably need to spend some money to get us to real contender status with our already over stretched budget what does that leave for the youngster as they get into arbitration much less free agency.

    Since nobody but the Wilpon’s and their bankers can answer that question we really don’t have any idea when the window will open or if serious contention is possible or sustainable to any extent let’s open the window first and then we can revisit how long that window may stay open.

    To further clarify my position fringe wildcard contention is not in my opinion a true opening of the window to serious contention.

  • Chris F

    the truth is we dont know. We can make a plausible estimate based on existing contracts and extreme unlikelihood that Alderson goes all Preller on us and shakes up the roster dramatically. If you believe Harvey is the anchor, the Seaver if you will, then we have 3ish years depending if he is traded ahead of FA. I think this year is at best a dream of sorts, and unlikely to say the window is open with so many unknowns. But lets say 16, 17, 18 are all possibilities. He becomes a FA in 19. We have pitching coming, but will anyone be an ace? Probably not. But the good news is we could throw 4 front end types out there and not have an ace and do well, so keeps the window open longer…provided the ifs become positive.

    • Michael Geus

      Hey, my old line, “he went Preller on you.”

      • James Preller

        I went Preller on myself — and it wasn’t pretty.

        • Patrick Albanesius

          +1

  • Eric

    Most teams windows are 3-4 years. Unless you’re the Cardinals in which case the window seems to be permanently opened. They must get good weather in Missouri.

    • pete

      The Cards have great scouting, a damn good GM and ownership that re-invests in the team.

  • TexasGusCC

    Very on point article considering what the Mets want, but don’t have the heart to go after. I want to lose weight too, but that means no to everything chocolate which is something I refuse to do.

    If the Mets were ready to become winners, they go after Kemp or Upton and Collins should have been replaced.

    No, no, no. The Mets want “meaningful” games in September. Translation: “Close enough to sell tickets, don’t worry about winning.”

    If the Mets win, it will be despite their built-in adversity. Can you imagine if they had an owners and a GM like the Cubs or White Sox? They would be in attack mode right now. But, the Yankees are down too, so the fans will go to the team in the upswing. “Meaningful games” is the goal, not winning.

    • Rob

      No, no, no. The Mets want “meaningful” games in September. Translation: “Close enough to sell tickets, don’t worry about winning.”

      There it is the elephant in the room. And the sad part of it is that many Met fans have lowered their expectations so far that they will be thrilled with a Pretend/Contend team as long as they can statistically claim they were in the playoff hunt in late August or September which all but the very dregs of the league qualify as since playoff expansion, we are the NBA now.

      The other thing that will bouey these people is that as long as the Yankees are down they will point across town and say “see money doesn’t mean winning”, completely disregarding the 5 chips and 18 playoff appearances over the last 20 years they just watched enviously.

      I have to add another thing to the, What Alderson does well list:

      1) Cut Payroll

      2) Confuse fan bases with propaganda campaign to mask inadequacies.

      • TexasGusCC

        Rob,

        I find myself starting to agree with all the people who say that cutting payroll and trading off assets is the easiest part of the job. He still doesn’t have a draft pick in MLB, he still hasn’t made an impactful move for the MLB roster, and he continues to dumpster dive.

        • Chris F

          A sure pathway to a pennant!

    • pete

      Gus small steps for a team with a small budget and a fiscally challenged ownership. The team is able to win with one hand tied behind their collective backs. Rob is right. meaningful to generate ticket sales does not necessarily equate to winning. After all if the Mets consistently lose close games at home it gives the fan base hope that we are thisclose to winning again.

      • James Preller

        With the expanded Wild Card format, the new goal is to hang in there — play a touch above .500 — and maybe get to Game 163. After that, anything can happen.

        The idea of excellence is not even on the radar. In fact, excellence in the MLB is no longer rewarded; that’s the new business model.

        As a fan, I find that a little sad — but the folks in KC are happy, so I get why it’s become this way.

        • Pete

          I agree James. Better to be in the dance then waiting to get in. If the Mets were to get into the playoffs on a hot streak anything could happen. As you say just look at the Royals.

          • James Preller

            Here’s a research I’m not going to do: Go through MLB history — at least from 1945 — and tell us how many times the team with the best overall regular-season record won the World Series.

            Obviously, from 1945-68, it’s guaranteed that the best team (defined by wins) would be playing in the Series. It’s possible that the 3rd or 4th best could come away with the trophy.

            Yet as the playoffs expand, it becomes tougher for the best team to emerge as the winner. If KC won last year, for example, where would they have stood in terms of overall regular-season record? 8th best? 10th best?

            In baseball, we know that the short series is not the surest way to determine the best team.

            Again, I’m not applauding this situation, just seeing it as the new reality.

            • Brian Joura

              You’ll also have to figure in strength of league, too.

              The 1954 Indians went 22-22 against the only other two good teams in the league. They went 89-21 against the rest of the American League. Even though they won 111 games, were they really better than the 97-win Giants?

              • James Preller

                That’s a good point, Brian. I almost made it before, when you sighted the BP projections as ranking the 82-win Mets as 6th best in the NL.

                In my head I was like, “Well, not really.”

                But then I didn’t want to use up my weekly allotment of comments.

                • James Preller

                  Also, I did parenthetically say, “defined by wins,” since of course rankings such as “best” are qualitative, not quantitative.

              • TexasGusCC

                I agree with Brian and realize that everyone has been duped by the Royals mirage. Well, I’m sorry, but that to me is an outlier. Would you rather be the Nationals or Dodgers that are stacked but have not gotten over the hump, or the Royals and Orioles that seem to win with smoke and mirrors?

                This year, the Royals have a pitching staff of not one accomplished MLB pitcher and the same lineup that last year squeeked into the playoffs. Are you buoyed by that if you are a Royals fan? Will lightning strike twice? Look at the Orioles… If it wasn’t for Showalter, they wouldn’t sniff fourth place. But, at least with Jones, Davis, Hardy, Machado, Wieters, Pierce, and one more decent hitter, there is hope.

                Someone mentioned yesterday on another website that if one win in WAR is worth $6MM, then some managers are grossly underpaid because we see how they win games for their teams but don’t get any money.

                My point in all this is that the Mets don’t project much enthusiasm in excellence. They make us bid for pretty good. That, my friends, is “all about the monies”.

  • James Preller

    Good news, somebody did all the work already:

    http://www.thegoodphight.com/2011/7/26/2293738/team-with-best-record-seldom-wins-world-series

    Gotta love the interwebs. Just needs a bit of updating.

    • James Preller

      Last comment and I’m gone, promise. First, that is truly an excellent link and worth a glance. The conclusion was particularly relevant to today, in it’s argument that the goal should be to continue to make the playoffs in the future — which effects any trading of prospects for short-term gains.

      From 1903-68, the best record won 57% of the time (37 out of 65).
      From 1995-2010, the best record won 19% of the time (3 out of 16).

      With the expanded WC, it’s possible the percentage will only go down (thought the single-elimination game may hurt those teams, giving division champs an edge: we’ll see how that happens).

      My take: Sandy might be right here. There’s really no point being great anymore, particularly when it comes to the cost:win ratio for adding those extra 10 games. A fact that I find sad.

      • Chris F

        Here is the problem with that: going into October hoping to get hot is not a good strategy. Its also not the same as flipping a coin. The opportunity to fade and be crap is much higher than going amazingly hot against top competition and, like the Royals, dispose of a team like the Angels. 10 out of 10 times I prefer to be the Angels.

        Also, the Mets have not shown evidence of going on hot streaks, particularly against good teams. Weve had one 5 win stretch in the last two years and only a few streaks of 4 wins. “Anything can happen” is believing in miracles rather than choosing destiny.

        • James Preller

          Chris, I think we’d all rather be the better team, naturally. But I don’t think the motivation is quite what it used to be, because the benefit is less clear than it once was. The cost:reward ratio is off.

          As for the history of the Mets in the past and hot streaks, I find that irrelevant.

          “Anything can happen” is not believing in miracles; it’s a cold assessment of the data. How many Wild Card teams have won the Super Bowl already? As for the notion that any team can “choose destiny,” well, I sure don’t believe in that.

          The Royal/Angels comparison is a good one. We’d all pick the Angels, I assume, 10 out of 10 times. However, I’d guess that the Angels would only win a short series 6 out of 10 times — and that it costs $50 million more each trip to be the Angels. Run all that complex math and I’d bet a number of owners would say, I’ll be the Royals, thank you very much.

          All that aside: This discussion entirely ignores revenue (I so wish I could capitalize that word, if not for the rules of this fascist blog). Having the best, most exciting team — full of stars & stunning performances — would drive revenue in a very big way. So in that respect, excellence still pays. For the Mets, I still believe that’s where they should be trying to bring the team: To the top of the regular-season heap. Bring in the fans, make gobs of money, and hope for the best in the playoffs.

          • Brian Joura

            Hey, Mussolini got the trains running on time!

            • Patrick Albanesius

              Hahaha!

          • Chris F

            Like they say, that last 10 wins are the hardest to get and what spending all the money is for.

            It is of course lopsided that so much needs to go into being what appears to be fractionally better. But that is exactly how it goes. So sure, I can see Alderson saying we are not going to win the division, but instead play for a WC berth. That carries its own drama, with competition coming from other divisions, whereas winning the crown is a guarantee.

            I would of course be happy to be in the post season by hook or by crook, so I am not intimating that being the best is the only way to go, but being certain to field the best possible team is of course smart. But the Mets have little excuse except for inept ownership, particularly at a time when teams can keep warm by burning trash cans filled with 100$ bills thanks to all the TV revenue. And yet in the wealthiest city in the world, in one of the wealthiest enterprises going, the Mets are practically an island of destitution. The “anything can happen” approach feels like failure wrapped in crispy bacon…it looks good, but ultimately there is nothing there.

            I do believe a successful team needs to understand the season is a marathon. There is a regular season team, and a post season team too. Its what make the Cards and Giants so deadly. The weapons do not stop. Those WC wins anchor on intangibles like players stepping up in the playoffs. Its an X factor that I cant quantify. But all the sudden, Morse hits a HR or Carpenter hits a HR or Kolton Wong….or more for Mets fans, Carter gets a hit….The thing is both the Cards and Giants have a relentless drive to win that starts from the ownership and goes all the way down to the hot dog vendor. The “anything can happen” approach is viable when anything can happen because the personnel exist to make it happen, when the drive to win cannot be extinguished; unfortunately it is moribund as a terminal strategy in most cases.

          • Pete

            James in comparison the Angels by far play in a much larger market than the Royals. I’d pick the Angels every time. I don’t know if either team owns their own network but for sake of argument if the Angels did own their own network the amount of money they could charge for advertising would be dramatically increased if the team wins 100 games as opposed to 75 wins. More viewers. Higher ratings. More revenue.

        • Pete

          Chris “You Gotta Believe!” one day the Mets fortunes will turn around. Probably after Collins is gone!

      • Name

        Just wondering, if you were god and could control the odds of the best team winning the WS, what would that percentage be?

        Also, what was the rate from 69-94?

        • James Preller

          Wait, I’m not God?

          I think I’d like to see the best team win at a higher rate than 19%.

          The main point is that the playoffs are not about “the best team” winning. There’s luck, health, hot streaks, etc. That’s the fun of the playoffs — it’s the wild west, a crapshoot on the street corner.

          The key is to get invited to play. It also really helps if you’ve got a stud pitcher, and a lockdown bullpen.

          Again: I’m not saying this is what I want, or what I prefer. I’ve been vocally critical of the Mets’ wishy-washy dream of winning, maybe, 87 games on the road to Game 163. I’d like to see them shoot higher. But I can see the bean counters and the analysts with their formulas: that an extra 5 wins costs teams on average $35 million (or whatever!) and it’s not worth the added expenditure. There’s almost no value in winning 108 instead of, say, 92.

          May the best team win? Sure, I think that appeals to our general sense of sportsmanship (unless we are rooting for the underdog, which has its own appeal). Thing is — and this is what I’m saying — it’s a fact that the team with the best regular-season record doesn’t win 25% of the team these days. Therefore, it stands to reason that a lot of organizations could be more interested in making the playoffs than in being the best. It doesn’t pay.

          Oh, and Name: the info you want is in the link I provided. Which you should read. I think it was like 34% or something like that.

          • Name

            ” I’d like to see them shoot higher. ”

            I’m as critical as Sandy as one can get, but i don’t get this notion that Sandy is “only” going for a Wild Card spot. I don’t think anyone assembles a team looking to place 2nd and i’m not sure why you would suggest that’s the case here.

            He is trying to win the division, but due to financial mismanagement (shitty FA signings) and his prospect-hoarding nature (which results in lack of trades), it’s only realistic as fans to expect a Wild Card berth.

            I believe the intentions are pure, just the execution is sloppy and misguided.

            • James Preller

              Name, I didn’t intend to pin that on Sandy alone. I think it’s organizational, and comes from the top. I am not seeing a team that is in pursuit of excellence, pedal to the metal. In general, that’s never been the Wilpon way — in start contrast to the Yankees across the street. Fred has never hungered to be the best. The “meaningful games in September” line has struck a nerve in many because it is so telling. What we never hear is a desire to crush the competition, the run away with it. I’m trying to recall Davey’s comment before the ’86 season; it’s a mentality that’s been lacking for decades (though I think Omar tried to bring it back into circulation).

              I think we could examine the ins and outs of, say, the decision to sign Cuddyer compared to trading for Kemp, and see that as a team with a long view, seeking to make the playoffs on a consistent basis (retaining prospects) rather than “going for it” on a short-term basis. It’s a defensible analysis from the Mets standpoint. That’s my take: there’s been a conscious decision to attempt to be “very good” on a consistent basis, rather than to be “great” in any given year. Maybe that will change down the road. Trading for Tulo would signal a different mentality.

          • Pete

            I think the “invitation” for the Mets to play in the post season is lost in the mail.

          • Pete

            The Cardinals may not be the best team. But it sure helps their attendance year in and year out. Drawing 3 million fans annually and being competitive sure helps when trying to sign Free Agents.

  • Trotter76

    B!tch, b!tch, b.i.t.c.h., that’s all I hear Mets fans do these days. OK, our owners are cash strapped and mostly horrible people. We get it. You want to see a window, look at this.

    Right now we’re at just under $100 million for the payroll.
    After 2015 Murphy and Colon are off the books ($19MM) and Parnell hits FA among current Arb player. Replaced by Herrera and Thor and any number of options for Parnell if he leaves. Payroll down to $80MM + Arb raises.
    After 2016 Cuddyer and possibly Niese go ($21.55MM in ’16) and no Arb players hit FA. Replaced by Nimmo/Conforto and Matz/Montero possibly. Payroll down to $60MM + Arb raises.
    After 2017 Grandy is off the books ($15MM) and Duda hits FA. Too soon to say who replaces, but we have guys in the pipeline such as Smith.

    It’s not until after 2018 that a large group of homegrown players hit FA – Harvey, Mejia, Torres, Familia. After 2019 it’s Wheeler, Lagares, Flores, d’Arnaud.
    However, DWright’s contract drops to $15 and $12MM for ‘18 and ’19 and he’s the only player signed past 2017. If this homegrown core comes together to become a powerhouse, the Mets are incredibly well positioned to resign these players as well as other FAs. They don’t need to cut payroll because it’s built in over the next 3 years. The window could be open a long time, but it obviously requires a large number of these prospects to pan out. The beauty of stockpiling talent, however, is they don’t ALL have to pan out for it to work.

    • Pete

      I get your point trotter but do the Mets make the playoffs in any of your seasons?

  • Raff

    Seems to me that the season is broken into two parts- 1) Getting into the playoffs and 2)Moving through and winning in the playoffs (and WS). You need to do number 1, but everything changes at number 2- winning playoff series. The Mets are setting up a staff that could, potentially, have 2 dominant pitchers, one of each tossing 2 games in each of the post-season play-offs, depending upon Harvey’s health and the continued development of the rest of the staff. In that scenario, defense, up the middle becomes an imperative- and the SS & 2nd Base defense is really short-handed

    • TexasGusCC

      Raff,
      I agree with your assessment of defense up the middle but I don’t think you need 2 good defending middle infielders, I think one should be enough with the other guy being decent. I look at players like Jeff Kent, Johnny Peralta, Derek Jeter, Hanley Ramirez at SS, and feel that if the pieces around the those types or their double play partner is solid, you can cheat a little towards offense and get away with it.

      Understand, I do appreciate great defense and the comfort of having it. I never realized how awesome it was to have a great defender until Lagares came along. I literally feel that anything that passes over the middle of the diamond may be caught. It’s why I cannot accept people mentioning every little fault of his, but I realize there are too few of these players so if you give me a superior defender and hitter teamed up with a lesser defender and a superior hitter, I’m good with that.

  • EG

    There is no “Championship Window” per se. You can’t have one without being a legitimate contender – and they aren’t. Until they prove otherwise they are a 79 -win team. That’s not good.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *