Often we hear fans pleading with front office officials, or more realistically talk radio hosts, to release a player when they are no longer meeting expectations. Often these cries are premature, as it's possible said player, in spite of underwhelming, can still provide value to the organization.
For the most part, a major league baseball contract is a sunk cost. Meaning the player is going to cost the team a fixed amount of money over a given period of time, regardless of his performance, or lack there of. The major exceptions often contained with major league contracts are performance bonuses or more substantially, an option (a vesting option or an executable option by the organization and/or the player).
No complaints in recent memory have been as loud as those of Mets fans who have consistently urged management to release the likes of Jeff Francouer, Oliver Perez, and Luis Castillo. While the Flushing Faithful never got their wish during the tenure of Omar Minaya, Sandy Alderson and company ended the wide spread speculation by announcing that both Perez and Castillo would be released.
At the time Minaya and ownership penned these two contracts in consecutive off-seasons (11/2007 & 2/2009), it appeared to many observers that they were bidding against themselves. In hindsight, it's clear that other management teams were correct not to consider contracting with an immobile punchless second baseman and a enigmatic, yet at times brilliant, young left handed pitcher. Certainly, Perez never evolved into the Sandy Kofaux clone Scott Boras reportedly hyped him to be during negotiations. In fact, the one time electric Pirates ace didn't come close.
As a consequence of these two deals, Sandy Alderson entered Spring Training with one simple question, applicable to both players. Will his performance be of any value to the 2011 Mets? If after several weeks of Spring Training, the answer was yes, then organization believed the could recoup some of the value Minaya had already committed to financially through on field performance. But, you should know from the preceding paragraphs how the Mets' brain trust answered.
But, these roster moves were not just a small win for simple baseball economics. With a billion dollar lawsuit imminent and projections of declining attendance and revenue, the Mets needed a headstone for their movement away from the discretionaless spending of the Minaya era. Hopefully, this decision will be followed closely by strategic international and draft spending. The Wilpons are far from winning the hearts and minds in Flushing, but it appears that, at least momentarily, Alderson's methodical management methods may mend the Mets' misfortunate morale mess.