Yesterday, I wrote about "my problem with prospects." Today, in a guest post, Doug Helferich is going to explain his problem with veterans...
They've seen it all. They know the pitchers, they know how to play each hitter in the field. The provide stability. But are they a sure bet? I think it depends.
Over the years, the Mets have perennially been buyers at the trading deadline. Trading for such gems as Kris Benson (losing the young Ty Wigginton who, while never a stay, provided decent defense and adequate hitting ability) and practically giving away the fireballing Scott Kazmir for the miserable Victor Zambrano, the Mets have time and again thrown away promising young stars for players with a few more years under their belts. Luis Castillo is another recent name added at the deadline.
Other free agent deals and trades in the offseason brought the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, Cliff Floyd, and Moises Alou into the orange and blue. While most of those deals (certainly more recently) have been at least good if not excellent, some have been questionable at best (read: Castillo).
At some point, you have to plan for the future. The Mets will never truly rebuild like they need to, purging the team of old fallen stars and getting valuable playing experience. However, there are small circumstances where they have had the chance without losing much, if any, skill at a given position. For example, why won't the Mets commit to a youngster at second base? As much as I love Gotay, he was a terrible fielder, and he has not had a good year with the Braves. However, we really didn't give him a real chance to start. Same thing this year with Argenis Reyes; he splits the starts with Easley, and clearly will get less time with Castillo coming back soon.
The Mets opt for veterans time and again, when, by the end of the year, the kid that is replaced would be nearly as good (and certainly not as injury-prone) as the older player. Every veteran we sign is one less opportunity to build a team of players we can keep for years at a time. We don't have to sign or trade for a whole new team each year. 2006 is a good example of solid veteran signings; they unquestionably put experienced players in the needed positions. But what did Luis Castillo offer that necessitated a 4 year deal? Why did we resign Alou when we could have gotten away with a platoon of Endy and friends?
Veterans can be great mentors and provide stability to an inexperienced team. However, they also impede the progress of a franchise. The Mets need to decide whether they are going to sign a new team of old-timers every year, or actually put together a real team that will play together for years.