There's something to be said about a Dartmouth College graduate who preceded one of baseball's best minds and had a huge impact on many others going forward. That same Dartmouth graduate traveled across America a little more than six months ago to ink a contract that would give him rights to attempt to fix one of the biggest messes in sports. If you hadn't guessed right already, I'm talking about Sandy Alderson -- one of baseball's best general managers already.
In his short stint as Mets GM, Sandy has pleased Mets fan after Mets fan by inking several players with extremely low value and being real selective with the rest of his money. Of course, the average Mets fan is used to seeing his or her hometown GM botch a contract or make a silly move leaving both fans and management hopeless.
Sandy did the opposite. With so little resources and an utterly awful distraction in the backdrop, Sandy and his new management teammates Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi took a small window of opportunity and spent time and money on players for whom they expected to make a big impact this year.
He took advantage of the small window of opportunity he had, despite the distractions, and inked almost a dozen players to Major and Minor League deals. Some high reward and some not, the point of the matter is that he spent less than $10MM doing so which could prove to be completely worthwhile once were a few months in to the season. But as we stand now just under 48 hours until Opening Day, the question becomes who and what deal signed was the best of the 2010/2011 off-season.
Again, the season is yet to start. However, not only do prognosticators like Buchholz entering '11 but it's a total win-win situation for the Mets. Call it what you want -- The Buchholz deal is the exact definition of a low risk-high reward type of signing. Buchholz signed a one-year $600,000 deal with incentives that can drive the deal up to approximately $1.1MM. Should something go wrong or not as planned, the Mets lose very little. If things go right then it's a worthwhile investment to say the least. Buchholz is only a healthy season removed from being one of the NL's most dominant relievers. The right-hander posted a 3.33 FIP in 2008 along with solid peripherals -- a 0.68 HR/9, a 2.77 BB/9, and a 3.11 K/BB ratio. Not to mention he was also worth 1.2 wins out of the pen.
Now, you're probably wondering why a reliever should be crowned with the "best deal of the off-season award." Sure, relievers are usually signed for cheap anyway and subsequently provide much less value than a solid cheap starter. However, as recent history has shown and for the simple fact that Buchholz was one of the most dominant late inning relievers just an arm surgery ago, there's a lot to like and plenty that the Mets can benefit from should Taylor Buchholz become his old self or close to it. Plus, there's a lot less pressure on a management if Buchholz ($600,000) falls apart than say, Cliff Lee who signed for over $100,000,000.
ZiPS projects a 3.59 FIP in 50.0 IP to go along with a 2.29 K/BB ratio and a .301 BABIP. Solid peripherals for a guy coming off an arm injury that caused him to miss all of '09 and much of '10. Citi Field should help Buchholz as well as he managed to dominate the NL pitching at Coors Field of all places in 2008. Should he pitch well, he could also earn the Mets a draft pick in 2012. Obviously salary arbitration plays a factor but that's a whole different animal.
Of course, it's too early to tell and way to early to think about Buchholz's fate. However, there's a lot to like about a team friendly deal and a reliever finding his bearings and doing so successfully. The injury really derailed the last few years of Buchholz's career but still seems to be ready to help the Mets a great deal according to many reports from Port St. Lucie. It's a stretch for sure to think Buchholz can prove to be one of the best signings from the past off-season, but not crazy. And as the pitch-to-contact machine looks to do so in a bigger park and whole new situation, there's a lot to be hopeful for.
Sandy Alderson has done a fantastic job this off-season putting the distractions aside and doing the business he's been expected to do. As Mets fans have long been able to see successful and economically sound endeavors take place in Queens it's been a relief to see Sandy do his best to revive an organization best known for it's winning. Alderson looks to impact a whole new crew (with similar guys, of course) the way he did Billy Beane and the Oakland Management. Buchholz may very well be just a microcosm of the Sandy Success Mets, but we'll just have to see.