Zobrist & Cabrera Never Would’ve Happened

If you’ve read Andy Martino’s Winter Meetings article, there’s a lot to digest. There’s many ways to go, but first I wanted to address the Asdrubal Cabrera situation. 

As you well know, the Mets acquired Cabrera. Depending on your point-of-view, Cabrera may or may not be an upgrade at shortstop. He’s a weaker defender. You’re relying on a good second half being a sign that he’s ready to overcome his struggles of the past five seasons. For all that, the Mets signed him to a two year $18.5 million contract.  It’s a contract that might’ve depended on what Ben Zobrist did. 

Supposedly, the Mets were willing to sign Zobrist to a four year $60 million contract. That would’ve been an average annual value of $15 million per year. This is what the Mets conveyed to Zobrist’s agent, Alan Nero, who coincidentally represents Cabrera. The Mets talked about both players with the agent. However, pay careful attention to this quote:

Before Zobrist made his decision, [Assistant GM John] Ricco felt he had to approach the pursuit of Cabrera delicately. The Mets needed to appear interested, but not so much that Nero thought they were turning away from Zobrist. Now, with that barrier lifted, Ricco and his group go hard after Cabrera, offering a two year, $18.5 million deal, and landing him that night. The process is simple: Will you take our money?  Yes?  Great, we have a deal. 

I’m sure there are a number of ways to reasonably interpret that statement. Personally, I interpret it as the Mets didn’t have $24+ million in their budget, at least not for the middle infield. From the beginning of their conversations, Cabrera was a fallback option. 

As Mets fans, we were informed if attendance increased than payroll would increase. Well, attendance increased. As a result, the Mets revenue increased somewhere between $45 – 60 million. Now, before the Mets made any moves, their projected payroll was going to be around $92 million. Adding $24 million to the middle infield would’ve increased the payroll to $116 million. 

Keep in mind with that $116 million payroll, the Mets infield and rotation would’ve been locked down. You could’ve justified not pursuing a Yoenis Cespedes because you would’ve shown to everyone, let alone your fan base, that:

  1. The Mets were willing to outbid everyone to get the most coveted free agent on the market;
  2. You were willing to spend to address what you saw as a position of need; and
  3. You would’ve actually increased the payroll. 

After having minimum $45 million in extra revenue, Cabrera should not have been contingent on Zobrist. The Mets should’ve been able to bring in both players. Either they are still facing budget constraints from the Madoff scandal, or the team doesn’t feel compelled to have a league average payroll despite whatever promises were made. 

In any event, the Mets fans have been lied to by this team. It’s not alright. Attendance and revenues significantly increased.  There will be a modest increase in payroll. This should make you question everything they do this offseason. Was Neil Walker really an improvement over Daniel Murphy, or is the team just selling that to us?  Did the Mets trade Jon Niese because it was a reasonable deal, or was it because they needed to shed some payroll to have enough room for Walker and Cabrera?

I just look forward to the next free agent move, if there will be one. I’m curious how they’ll sell it to the fans. I wonder how much there’s left in the budget. These questions are more than reasonable and fair after reading this article. 

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