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Mets' financial deal obviously helps, but they're a long way from contention

By March 20, 2012

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The New York Mets seem to have avoided the fate of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, but they still face stiff headwinds toward success in the short-term.

The Mets have some financial security after agreeing to a settlement with a trustee for Bernie Madoff's fraud victims for $162 million (which will be less than that, because they are seeking money themselves from Madoff's bankruptcy estate), and don't have to pay anything for the next three years. (In a bizarre way, now that the settlement has been reached, they will root for trustee Irving Picard to be successful, because that helps their bottom line.) The deal reached Monday gives the Mets time to raise money and hope their business turns around.

And that's perhaps the biggest if in the plan for the Mets' current ownership group. The Mets need to be the cash cow everybody expected them to be in a new stadium in the biggest market in baseball.

They ow MLB $25 million from a loan and another $40 million to Bank of America. GM Sandy Alderson said the team lost $70 million last year, and their payroll has been slashed from $142 million last season to $95 million in 2012. It's easy to discount things that soon-to-be-former-Dodgers-owner Frank McCourt says these days, but there seems to be a nugget of truth that the Mets have been cut a lot more slack by MLB in their financial issues than the Dodgers.

But now the Mets don't have Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran to help them sell tickets and win games. And it seems likely that David Wright will be the next out the door, as he has a $16 million club option for 2013. Wright has had injury issues, and if the Mets aren't going to contend anyway, why spend $16 million on one player, even if he is the face of the franchise? Johan Santana is back, but the rest of the rotation is very mediocre. And even the downtrodden Pirates, with 19 consecutive losing seasons, have a better everyday lineup these days. Fangraphs puts the Mets in the middle of the pack as far as minor-league prospects go.

The Mets will be back on top at some point. But it will be later rather than sooner.

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