For years, the Mets have built a glorious core for a dominant team, than surrounded that core with expensive deadweight and floatsam. While injuries decimated the core in 2009 and Minaya responded by making the team into an elaborate joke (Francoeur is the punchline), I believe in that core to this day. I recognize even as I create this plan that it swaps out grission for creativity and flexibility, meaning it probably has no chance of happening. However, the Mets did let Todd Hundley play left field once, so I can't say there is zero chance. You gotta believe.
STEP ONE: ELIMINATE
The first step of this plan is to eliminate the overpaid mediocrities from our roster. While I'd like to sit here and say that this is easy, it actually involves some very tricky maneuvering. Lets start with the easy part! I'd like to announce the following non-tenders in alphabetical order:
Francoeur, Jeff. That is all.
Okay, no, that isn't really all, but it felt good to type that without grouping it in elsewhere. It felt like all was right with the world again and there was hope for my favorite baseball team. Anyway, a full list of non-tenders that aren't Francoeur: Cory Sullivan (who?), Jeremy Reed, Tim Redding, and Sean Green (go allow 2 hits an inning for someone else please).
That's great Rivers, really grand, but you've only saved us about 5 mil there and we still have Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez! Yes, and we will get rid of them my friend, but you may cringe a bit here because it is going to cost us some farm system chunks.
Mets receive Chris Snyder
Why the Mets do this: I don't like going all-in on Chris Snyder, but that is why we have Josh Thole around. I see the two of them creating some sort of platoon, a 60/40 share or something like that. The simple truth is that there really aren't any good catchers out there. The best trade candidates elsewhere include Ryan Doumit and Kelly Shoppach, and neither of those guys have contracts that overcompensate them, nor do they play on teams that are in need of a second baseman. While Snyder has a few glaring warts (mixed metaphors!), he's got a track record of being a decent hitter for a catcher, even if it is in Arizona.
Why the Diamondbacks do this: They aren't receptive to a straight up swap, but Parnell is a decent bullpen piece that is cheap for a few years. I think that makes up for the difference in upside and positional scarcity. Kunz was a good prospect once, I think. Wait, are we sure he isn't Royce Ring? Well anyway, they can have him too.
Milwaukee recieves Oliver Perez, 12 million dollars (spread out over two seasons), and Brad Holt
Mets receive Rickie Weeks
Why the Mets do this: 6 million is not chump change in this economy. There isn't a single Mets fan that wants to watch Oliver Perez issue another walk. There isn't a single Mets fan that wants to look at Oliver Perez's face as he stomps off the field after walking the bases loaded, etc. etc.
Weeks may or may not stay at second base. UZR seems to think he is adequate, but if he's not he can eventually supplant Beltran or play a corner outfield slot. Plus speed, can walk, does have some pop. Either way, he fits in well with my blueprint of this team: plus athleticism and has tons of tools. He's coming off a wrist injury, so we'll need insurance, but I think this is a good buy-low.
Why the Brewers do this: The Brewers have successfully cleared all this salary space for pitching, but judging by the past, where they have signed Jeff Suppan to 4 years and 40 million, they probably aren't looking for the right pitcher anyway. Compared to what some of the few good pitchers in this market will get, 6 mil/2 is a bargain for someone who is young and left-handed. Also, he could be the next Sandy Koufax, who knows? Additionally, they get Holt, who could very well be a solid piece for them in the next few years. The Brewers aren't exactly stacked with upper level pitching.
Why do they give up on Weeks? Well, they haven't been thrilled with his defense for awhile, he's become somewhat injury-prone. While they don't have an obvious candidate to take over at second, they have Herman Iribarren loitering in AAA, this would free up some cash to re-up Felipe Lopez. They'd have some options here while they wait for Brett Lawrie. So that re-focuses us and gives us some medium risk high-reward types at positions we were weak-ish at last year. Now we get ready for...
STEP TWO!!!!: ATTACKING FREE AGENCY
The Mets haven't really had a great-hitting corner outfielder since that one time Moises Alou wasn't hurt...1995 I think. The best player in free agency is a corner outfielder. The Mets park emphasizes a need for defense. Said player is one of the best defensive left-fielders in years. The Mets haven't had a competent non-David Wright right-handed hitter for balance since...also that one year Alou was healthy. So yes, in my dream world, Matt Holliday gets 19 million per year for 6 years to play bases ball for the New York Mets.
After that, John Lackey is inked to a 5 year, 15 mil a year contract and allowed to finish any game he damn well feels like. He's obviously the most talented starter on the market (non-injury prone division), and while I hate giving five years to a pitcher, that is probably what it takes to get this done. The Mets are all-in here, after all.
STEP 3: THE BIGGGGGG DEAL
Mets receive: Carl Crawford and Andy Sonnastine
Why the Mets do it: They now have three of the greatest defensive outfielders of the 00's patrolling the deep confines of Citi. Crawford gives them elite speed, elite defense, and his game plays perfectly for the park. Sonnastine gives them a back-of-the-rotation starter with the potential to rebound into a decent three or four. He gets pitted against Jon Niese, and the loser reports to AAA for injury waiting.
Why the Rays do it: They have a capable Crawford replacement in Desmond Jennings, Sonnastine is one of the blandest of their army of MLB/upper level cheap arms they can throw at you. Martinez and Flores can develop at their own pace, Murphy can go down to AAA where he belongs and bitch about how he'll never get to play third base. They get an opportunity to fleece the Mets again.
STEP 4: FILLING OUT THE ROSTER
So full of grission he doesn't even need hands.
For first base, I have Carlos Delgado back for 4 mil/1, which he should accept out of the goodness of his heart after 2007. Eric Hinske comes on to backup the corners and platoon with Delgado for 1 mil. His 3 consecutive World Series appearances mean that he is able to take the clubhouse leader title away from Alex Cora in a bloodless coup. It is bloodless because, like all grission battles, it is fought mentally. Alex Cora's biggest mistake was teaching Hinske the art of grission in 2007 when they both won the championship for the Red Sox. Let me demonstrate this with a graph:
Fortunately for Mets fans, Hinske has grission AND he can hit. Which is a combo that had previously only belonged to Derek Jeter. Such a bargain for just one million.
Kelly Johnson is set to either be non-tendered or traded, I like taking him on even if it costs a mid-level prospect. Double down on him and Weeks and one of them should hit like a champ. He's a solid bench player and can also play the outfield.
For the staff, Maine and Feliciano are tendered at 3.75 and 2.5. The rest of the bullpen is made out of minor league free agents and minimum salaried FA's, because why waste money on Kiko Calero when you could find the next one of him? That said, if we could somehow squeeze another three million out so we could bring Octavio Dotel back, I'd love it for his name alone. It's just not in the cards on this plan since I'm already up against the gun.
So that is:
SS Reyes 9.375
RF Crawford 10
3B Wright 10.2
LF Holliday 19
CF Beltran 20
1B Delgado 4
2B Weeks 3.25
C Snyder 4.75
C Thole .4
1B Hinske 1
OF Pagan 1.5
2B Johnson 1.5
IF Ar.Reyes .4
5 lucky contest winners/holdovers: .4 (Also Dotel if you'll let me have him for 3/2)
Which puts me at a grand total of 150.085.
This plan fills our team with in-prime arms and bats, asides from Delgado. Besides catcher and first base, everyone on the team has speed, power, and can take a walk. We have two reliable starters backed by a slew of guys who could pitch well, and a bullpen that can be cobbled together on the fly. I really wanted to trade K-Rod too and build a three man bullpen off the money, but I figured that was a little too unrealistic given the glut of quality relief pitching in this market. This is, in my opinion, the best sort of swing-for-the-fences team the Mets could cobble together for 150 milion. I know it's a blow to the farm, but you'll notice that I deliberately traded mostly younger players in my plan. Players that I don't expect to be ready to play well at the major league level until this teams window is shut anyway, like Tejada and Flores.
If this seems a little far-fetched, let me tell you about this other team that recently missed the playoffs and was thought of as possibly past it's prime that went out and signed the best free agent pitcher and the best free agent position player. You might have seen them coming down the streets recently.