For the past few months, the train-wreck otherwise known as the New York Mets has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Managerial incompetence, player injuries, and a deep connection to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme: the Mets had every ingredient to run a franchise into the ground.

Even the releases of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, two despised players, this past week came with little fanfare. Who could get excited about getting rid of two sub-par players that were due $18 million this year?

The correct answer to that question should be everyone. Or all Mets fans. In the very least, anyone who understands value. Allow me to explain:

A gnarled aspect of team-building is guaranteed contracts. Unlike most occupations, a baseball player’s contract is 100% guaranteed. Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez were getting that $18 million whether they played like all-stars, retired from the game, or were the poor performers that they demonstrated themselves to be. By any statistical measure, no matter how elaborate, Perez and Castillo have been negative values since they signed their contracts.

After giving out these contracts, the Mets could only hope Castillo and Perez performed well. The answer, quite simply, was no they could not. This put the Mets braintrust (including the fanbase’s favorite General Manager, Omar Minaya) in a situation that managers and gamblers often find themselves in: They tried to recoup the players’ contracts by continuing to play them that Perez and Castillo could live up to their values.

This strategy of chasing their losses ultimately did management in. And it’s for forgetting a rule in sports: if the players stink they shouldn’t play. The large contracts (originally 4 years/$25 million for Castillo, and 3 years/ $36 million for Perez) were huge mistakes. The worse part was compounding the first mistake by continuing to put the two players on the field.

We hear it everyday in most salaried positions: “So-and-so has to live up to his paycheck.” But really, if Mr. So-and-so can’t live up to his paycheck, shouldn’t we stop wasting our time? We can’t get back our lost value, but we can spend time moving on a more productive path rather than continuing to lose on that sunk cost.

Which brings us back to the first intelligent thing the Mets have done in months, possibly years. Castillo and Perez: $18 million down the drain. But it was down the drain in 2007 and 2008. Now, by virtue of having two open roster spots, the Mets have the ability to play less expensive players who can provide better value.

They seem like small moves when contracts for $100 million are being given out. But dropping two sunk costs demonstrates financial austerity. Buck up Mets fans: management finally knows what they’re doing