By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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There’s no way around it. It was simply a move that had to be made.
Prior to that, general manager Sandy Alderson hadn’t signed one top-tier free agent since being hired to replace Omar Minaya after the 2010 season. Yes, he inked David Wright to a long-term extension and brought in top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, but until Friday he’d never committed more than $12 million to a player (Frank Francisco in 2011) during his tenure in Queens.
Francisco’s $6 million average annual salary — he was signed to a two-year deal — was only trumped by the one-year, $7.25 million deal that Chris Young signed earlier this offseason.
Suffice it to say that Alderson has not opened his organization’s wallet very much since coming to Flushing. Until now.
This reported signing is exceptionally symbolic. It represents that the Mets are finally, after what feels like decades of frugality, back in business.
And for the first time since 2009, when the Mets signed Jason Bay — yes, we all know how that worked out — Mets fans have something to genuinely look forward to heading into Spring Training. Granderson isn’t a reclamation project. He isn’t a player with upside who “might” perform if everything falls into place and breaks the right way. No, he’s a proven commodity, a legitimate major-league player with an accomplished background who has shined on the big stage.
Ownership knew that signing Granderson was a risk, but the front office also recognized that after years and years of mediocrity it was time to go for it, to take that risk, to shell out the big bucks and get aggressive in order to significantly improve the on-field product.
Signing the slugging outfielder sends a message to the fans, to the Mets’ players and to the rest of the baseball. And that message is that the Amazin’s are, again, in the game. No longer are they going to roll over and continue to preach a “plan” that could take years to produce results. No, they want to get better NOW. It’s time to start winning ballgames NOW.
Sure, Granderson was probably overpaid. But look at the market. If you want to compete, you have to overpay. It’s as simple as that. Take a look at all the free-agent signings thus far this offseason. You could make the argument that every player has been overpaid, that every contract will look ugly down the line. But if you want to compete, you have to bite the bullet. And every single free agent — yes, even Robinson Cano — is entering the latter years of his prime, if he hasn’t completely passed it.
With steroid use not nearly as prevalent as it used to be, players aren’t performing at a high level into their late 30s like they once did. You don’t think the Cano, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran contracts will look bad in three years? They absolutely will. But you make that sacrifice. You do what you have to do, because there’s no other choice in the matter. The market is what it is. You deal with it.
But while the affable veteran’s contract may be a burden in three years, there’s no question that his play will immediately make the Mets a better baseball team. And that makes it more than worth it.
Forget for a second what this move signifies. Let’s take a look at what the three-time All-Star can do on the field, which of course is of the utmost importance.
The 32-year-old can run and plays good defense, and he immediately becomes the club’s second-best offensive player and cleanup hitter. For a team that hasn’t hit for any power over the last five years, the 2011 American League RBI leader’s bat will bolster an offense that has had to rely on station-to-station baseball to score runs. In recent years, the Mets have needed three hits in an inning to put a run on the board. Granderson will produce with one swing of the bat.
Yes, he has flaws. He strikes out too much, and he’ll hit less home runs without having the benefit of the short porch at Yankee Stadium. But Citi Field isn’t going to transform him into Josh Thole. Sure, some balls that would have gotten out in the Bronx will die at the warning track in Queens, but it’s not like all of Grandy’s long balls were cheap shots.
The Grandy Man hit 41 and 43 homers in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The man has some serious power — there’s no two ways about it. And last I checked, the Mets play 81 games on the road.
Oh, and don’t look now, but David Wright just became an even better hitter with the 2011 Silver Slugger Award winner batting behind him. In recent years there was absolutely no reason to pitch to the face of the franchise.
Now there’s a reason.
Alderson unquestionably still has work to do to make this a contending ballclub. And it still might be far from a contending ballclub.
But signing Granderson sends the right message, and it puts the baseball world on notice that this franchise isn’t just going to rest on its laurels and continue to be a complete and utter joke.
And more than anything, signing Granderson makes the Mets a far more potent team. That fact is not debatable.
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