Part I – Major Transactions
1. Sign Felipe Lopez.
I know many other Met fans like Orlando Hudson or Placido Polanco, but Lopez is younger and has offensive numbers that are just as good if not better. Offer him three years at $4,000,000 per year. Probably end up at $5,000,000 if there are other bidders.
2. Sign Matt Holliday.
This one has been debated ad infinitum, and I have very little to add. But given his age I’d rather offer 3 years for $22,000,000/year rather than the longer-term deals mentioned elsewhere, even if it’s a bit more per season. Perhaps with a club option for 2013 at $18,000,000.
3. Trade Luis Castillo to the Cubs for some low-level prospects.
Chicago’s a big market, so the Cubs can afford the high salary, and they can definitely use the offensive upgrade at second base. I wouldn’t be too picky about what the Mets receive in return, as long as the players received have some good potential. Obviously Castillo won’t be worth any of the Cubs’ best AAA players, but after Castillo’s 2009 success at the plate I think it would not be unreasonable to expect 3 or 4 good A/AA players.
(b) The Red Sox send Jacoby Ellsbury to the Mets and some high-level prospects to the Blue Jays. (Basically the value of these prospects would equal the amount by which Carlos Beltran’s value exceeds Jacoby Ellsbury’s.)
(c) The Blue Jays send Roy Halladay to the Mets.
I think this is a fair deal for all three teams. The Mets get a desperately needed starting pitcher and a talented young center fielder with high batting average and speed appropriate to Citi Field. The Blue Jays get lots of prospects, and hopefully with their superior in-house pitching development they can make something of Parnell and Misch that the Mets never could. The Red Sox get one of the premier center fielders in the game. The trade is also good for Beltran, who would go to an automatic contender and therefore is very likely to waive his no-trade clause without holding out for any particular incentives.
This deal is important because the Mets, with all the holes in their roster, can’t afford to hold onto a premier center fielder who may be at the beginning of his career decline. It is much better to trade him now while his value is still high, than to wait until next year when more injuries or generally declining performance may have made him less attractive to other big market teams that can afford his salary.
5. Give Jeff Francoeur an extension.
I tend to agree with Joe Janish’s opinion on Francoeur. Francoeur will never be a superstar, but he is a solid young player, worth hanging on to when there are so many holes elsewhere in the Mets roster. Now is the time to bargain. I would offer him five years at $2,750,000 per year. If he demands more than $3,000,000 per season, let him walk. I doubt any other team would bid that much for his services, and if one does then I’m sure a similar player could be found for less on the free agent market.
6. Sign Aroldis Chapman.
The guy is young, and has already pitched well against major league batters at the WBC and other international events. The $40,000,000 price-tag mentioned in the press sounds steep, but really it depends how far it is spread out. Five years at $8,000,000 per year should do it, and would be worth the risk given the Mets’ rotation issues. A strong left-handed starter would be especially good for the Mets given Oliver Perez’s collapse, and the Phillies’ issues with southpaws.
7. Sign Randy Wolf.
This is the guy they should have signed instead of Oliver Perez. It seems he could be had for around $5,500,000. Should probably stick to a one-year deal, since hopefully Niese will be ready for full-time service in the MLB by 2011.
8. Sign Rod Barajas.
It would be nice to have a catcher who is an offensive threat, but there don’t seem to be any on the market, and there is no way the Mets have the talent to trade for Joe Mauer or Brian McCann. (Perhaps the Braves would part with McCann for Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez and Josh Thole, but even if so I don’t think it would be worth it.) I prefer Barajas over Bengie Molina because, although their numbers are similar, Barajas is younger and less expensive. He will probably take $2,500,000. Here’s hoping Josh Thole will have a good season at Buffalo and be ready to play for the Mets in September.
9. Offer John Maine $1,500,000 for a year.
Don’t go to arbitration. If he wants more, let him walk. I like John Maine and his “bulldog attitude”, but with his arm issues and the fact that no one expects him ever to return to his early 2007 form, he will almost certainly take a substantial pay cut.
10. Sign Kiko Calero.
He had his best season in 2009 and would make a great set-up man. Offer him $2,000,000 and I expect he'll take it.
Part II – Resulting Roster
1- Jacoby Ellsbury (CF) $475,000.00
2- Felipe Lopez (2B) $4,000,000.00
3- Jose Reyes (SS) $9,000,000.00
4- Matt Holliday (LF) $22,000,000.00
5- David Wright (3B) $10,000,000.00
6- Jeff Francoeur (RF) $2,750,000.00
7- Daniel Murphy (1B) $425,000.00
8- Rod Barajas (C) $2,500,000.00
It’s not exactly Murderer’s Row, but I think this is as strong a lineup as anyone can expect the Mets to field in 2010. Ellsbury, Lopez and Reyes are all strong on-base threats to set the table for Holliday and Wright. I prefer Reyes at #3 because he has slightly more power than Ellsbury, but other than that their numbers are similar. Wright at #5 gives Holliday some protection, and though some may pitch around Wright to get to Francoeur and Murphy, those two are not easy outs by any means. At the top of the order in 2009 they were inadequate, but as #6 and #7, I think Francoeur and Murphy really will make things difficult for opposing teams. At the very least, they can wear down opposing pitchers for their next trip through the order. Barajas is basically a stopgap until Thole is ready or a better offensive solution at C can be found at a decent price.
I think this is a pretty strong rotation. It features a variety of styles and lefties and righties on alternating days. Furthermore have added enough talent that Pelfrey’s rank falls from #2 to #4; that is a sign of how much better the Mets’ starting pitching would be under my plan.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (R) $11,500,000.00
Set-Up: Kiko Calero (R) $2,000,000.00
Long-Relief/Mop-Up: Oliver Perez (L) $12,000,000.00
Long-Relief/Mop-Up: John Maine (R) $1,500,000.00
Situational Leftie: Pedro Feliciano (L) $1,900,000.00
Mid-Relief: Sean Green (R) $475,000.00
Mid-Relief: Brian Stokes (R) $425,000.00
A 7-man bullpen is risky, but necessary in my opinion. Position players can always be called up in a hurry from the minors, but if your minor league replacement for a pitching role pitched yesterday then you may be out of luck. Also, since we are stuck with Jerry Manuel and his atrocious bullpen management skills for at least another year, I want to give him as much cushion as possible for handling the pitching. For example, whenever the Mets are up or down by five runs or more, it makes no sense to push one of the starters to 115 pitches. Let Perez or Maine pitch the last three innings or so to rest all the other arms for when the score is close or tied.
Fourth Outfielder: Angel Pagan $600,000.00
Fifth Outfielder, 1B and Emergency Catcher: Nick Evans $425,000.00
Primary Backup Catcher: Omir Santos $425,000.00
SS, 2B: Alex Cora $750,000.00
3B, 2B, 1B: Edgardo Alfonzo $425,000.00
It’s a short bench, but I think it makes up for its small size with flexibility and grit.
Part III - Minor Transactions
If you're doing the math, you will notice that I have only spent $133,325,000.00 on the above players. I would also favor substantial spending on minor league scrapheap deals. In addition to Josh Thole, Fernando Martinez, Ike Davis and Jonathon Niese, I think the Mets should work very hard to have a strong pool of AAAA-type players in Buffalo available to provide depth in the event of injuries. Certainly sign Nelson Figueroa and Tim Redding to minor league contracts if they can be had for $750,000 or less (including MLB incentives if they kick in).
Edgardo Alfonzo could also be called a scrap-heap deal, but I think it's likely that he would make the team, given his performance in Japan in 2009.