My overall plan is straightforward and uses the muscle of our $150 million budget to build the deepest rotation in the majors along with the potential to be above average at every position. We'll add through free agency the best position player available, add two extremely reliable, above average starting pitchers, then trade or nontender below average starters or significant crash candidates and replace them with steady regulars so that unlike 2007 and 2008 positions such as C, 2B, LF and RF don't drag down the core. 2006, 2007, and 2008 proved the Mets core forms the nucleus of a playoff caliber team. That core is maintained and enhanced in my plan. It also allows our minor leaguers another year to develop, puts our young players in the best position to succeed, and adds a core player to get us through the possibility that Beltran and Reyes leave or simply aren't worth resigning after 2011. After 2010 salaries I give each players projected WAR for 2010 which I typically calculate on a 3-2-1 scale, adjusting for time lost to injury.
By the way, I'm going to spend the maximum allowed in this contest because the Wilpons did not get hurt in Madoff's scheme, they DID get a present from the taxpayers of a 600 million dollar ballpark, and the Mets, our team, is currently a joke. In a purely business sense that's very bad form and can be overcome in part by making the playoffs in 2010. If the Mets, the largest market team in the NL, decide to play second fiddle to the Phillies by going cheap next year they'll take a short term hit and may well take a long term hit in revenues and in the fan base.
But all that is secondary: we're fans. We want to win, we want to have fun winning, and we want to root for players who have been brought up through our system. My plan gives us an excellent chance of winning 95 games, going deep into the postseason, and retains every single one of our good minor leaguers.
1B: Lyle Overbay I do the rumored threeway Overbay deal, taking on his $7 million in salary for 2010 while getting rid of Castillo's $6 million salary for 2010 and 2011. This accomplishes five things: By limiting Overbay to facing exclusively RHP (.284/. 380/ .467/ .847 lifetime) I get a short term deal on an above average platoon player, let Nick Evans do what Nick Evans does best: mash a left-handed pitcher as the other side of the 1B platoon (.320/ .382/ .490/ .872 lifetime), don't rush Ike Davis, get rid of a collapse candidate in Castillo, and give Daniel Murphy a low pressure year and 350 ABs at the corners and as a ph to find out whether he can become a major league hitter--and if he isn't he still gets added experience towards being a fine bench player.
Salary: $7 million WAR: 2.0
2B: Placido Polanco With Castillo gone I sign Placido Polanco to a one year, 4.6 million dollar deal. Polanco's been making 4.6 million every year for years now, and while his bat is fading (OPS+'s of 121, 102, 88) he picked up the Gold Glove and earned it, meaning that unlike Castillo he's no collapse candidate even as his glove will go a long way towards turning Mike Pelfrey and his 1.7 ground ball to fly ball ratio back into a top starter.
Salary: $4.6 million WAR: 3.5
SS: Jose Reyes Jose's goin' nowhere.
Salary: $9.375 million WAR: 5.0
3B: David Wright Wright stays.
Salary: $10.25 million WAR: 6.5
C: Greg Zaun In a budget cutting move the Rays declined their 2 million option on Zaun. To give Thole another year to develop, to relegate Santos to backup--where he's an asset rather than a liability--and to all but guarantee average or better production behind the plate I'll offer Zaun what the Rays would not.
Salary: $2 million WAR: 1.5
LF: Matt Holliday Holliday is an authentic star, and Scott Boras notwithstanding neither the Red Sox or the Yankees are going to push the bidding into Teixeira territory. I'll go with the reasonable 6/102 figure that appears in various publications. In picking up Holliday I'm going after a ballplayer that improves our defense, solidifies our lineup by giving us four excellent hitters, and becomes part of the core lasting past the end of Beltran's and Reyes's contracts in 2011. No well run, large market team should ever go through a signifcant rebuilding phase, and maintaining a core of four or five excellent players means that with the right complementary players the playoffs are within reach every year.
Salary: $17 million WAR: 6.5
CF: Carlos Beltran Trade Carlos? No way!
Salary: $20.07 million WAR: 4.8
RF: Angel Pagan
Pagan proved last year he has what it takes to start, is a CFer playing RF in spacious CitiField, and can slide over to CF when Beltran needs a day off, giving our lineup flexibility. Pagan's development in 2009 gives us a great opportunity to get average or above production for the position from a ML RFer for around the ML minimum. 2009 was Angel's first arbitration year, and he avoided arb by agreeing to 575,000 plus minor incentives. I don't know what to expect here, but 1 million seems reasonable.
Salary: $1 million. WAR: 2.0
With the above moves I've eliminated 2009's below average production at 1B, 2B, LF, and RF, traded or nontendered collapse candidates Castillo and Francoeur, and put Nick Evans, Daniel Murphy, and Omir Santos into roles in which they're likely to succeed rather than be overtaxed and fail.
Since we already have four backups in place that suit our needs and they're all inexpensive, I'll stay with Evans, Murphy, Santos, and with Wilson Valdez's glove up the middle. Evans platoons with Overbay at 1b, and both Evans and Murphy are capable fill-ins at the corners. Pagan can slide over to CF when Beltran's out and Holliday can play CF in a pinch, but I'll keep a good CF glove in AAA just in case. That allows me to keep Fernando Tatis on the 25-man roster. A supersub with an above average ML bat is hard to come by. Tatis took 1.7 million last year, and since it was a down year compared to 2008 I think he'll accept the same again.
Nick Evans: Salary: $0.403 million WAR 0.8
Daniel Murphy: Salary: $0.450 million WAR 0.7
Omir Santos: Salary: $0.400 million WAR 0.4
Wilson Valdez: Salary: $0.400 WAR: 0.4
Fernando Tatis: Salary: $1.7 million WAR 1.5
Position Players: Total Salary: $72.865 million WAR: 36.0
PITCHING - STARTERS
The problem with signing John Lackey at something like 5/85 is that picking him up precludes any other significant move, and we need to be entirely ready to part company with Oliver Perez if Perez doesn't quickly improve on his dismal performance of last year. With a thoroughly unreliable rotation after Santana and Pelfrey (whom I like very much as a rebound candidate, especially with our improved defense), it's essential to add two durable starters who are both very good bets to be above average.
I believe too many AAOPlans have gambled unnecessarily on the starting rotation. The Mets, when solid players surround the core, are an extremely good ballclub. Two durable starters will turn the rotation from a weakness to a strength, and with our large market budget there's no need to take risks. Fortunately for us Cincinnati is looking to get rid of several of their high priced players, including Bronson Arroyo, who is among the most durable pitchers in the majors--he's thrown over 1000 innings during the last five years. His price tag is a little on the high side, but since it's for one year (with a valuable club option in 2011) there's very little downside. Since the Reds are looking to get rid of him in what is essentially a salary dump Arroyo will be available for at most two C prospects. In that vein I'm also adding the much maligned free agent Jason Marquis, who has practically thrown himself at the Mets this offseason, offering him 2/14. According to FanGraphs Marquis has been worth $32.2 million over the last three years. Even if his reverts to his more typical 2007-2008 level after his career year in 2009 Marquis will be well worth his contract.
Johan Santana: $21 million WAR: 4.2
Mike Pelfrey: $0.500 million (club option) WAR: 2.6
Bronson Arroyo: $11 million WAR: 2.4
Jason Marquis: $7 million WAR: 2.4
Oliver Perez: $12 million WAR: 1.5 (for our combination of 5th starters including Maine, Niese, Nieve, and Figueroa)
Starting Rotation: Salary: $51.5 million WAR: 13.1
PITCHING - BULLPEN
Another benefit of adding durability to the rotation is that it greatly improves the bullpen. Even if Perez flames out we still have three of Maine / Niese / Nieve / Figueroa to work out of the pen. Figgy's been a terrific fill in in the last starting slot over 2008 and 2009, so the possibilitiy of Maine, Niese, and Nieve in the pen turns a potential weakness into a real strength. All three of these guys have started, so I'm not concerned about an overtaxed pen undermining the club. I'm keeping Rodriguez, Feliciano, Niese, and Parnell from last year while stashing Stokes, Nieve, Green, and Misch in AAA. My one FA addition is Kiko Calero. He's wild, but consistently so, and not to the point where the walks destroy the value of the strikeouts. I want one more K guy in a setup role and Kiko's it, for 2/5.
Francisco Rodriguez: $12.17 million WAR: 1.6
Kiko Calero: $2.5 million WAR: 0.9
Pedro Feliciano: $2.5 million (arb raise) WAR: 0.6
John Maine: $2.6 (after last year I think he'll get the same again) WAR: 1.4
Jon Niese: $0.45 million WAR: 0.4
Bobby Parnell: $0.45 million WAR: 0.4
Nelson Figueroa: $0.50 WAR: 0.5 (as a reliever Figgy turns the average MLer into a weak-hitting MI. Lifetime OPS against in relief: .247/ .321/ .391/ .712)
Bullpen Salary: $21.17 million WAR: 5.8
Rotation Salary: $51.5 million WAR: 12.9
Position Players: $72.865 million WAR: 36.0
Total Salaries: $145.535 million Total WAR: 54.7
Adding our WAR to the replacement standard of 30% predicts
54.7 + 48.6 = 103.3 WINS in 2010
With an extremely solid front four followed by *five* potentially respectable options after them our starting pitching goes from very shaky to being one of the best rotations in the majors, one that has a very good chance of being above average in every rotation spot.
By adding Holliday and getting rid of weak spots in the lineup we have four true stars as position players, and at the other four spots can fully expect average or better production. Average to excellent production at every position is something very few teams can boast. As for our starting pitching, by adding two durable starters we give ourselves a terrific chance of winning more than 90 games. Earlier this offseason I had thought we would need to gamble with the rotation, but by eliminating weaknesses among the position players, a solid, deep rotation is more than sufficient to get us to the playoffs and take us deep into the postseason. And with as many as nine starting pitchers (who also give depth to the bullpen), and solidity throughout the lineup, we're in much, much better shape in 2010 to handle injuries.
Finally, it's time to for our Mets to again be the big dog in the National League. Many posters seem to have concluded that we're in desperate shape, can't go toe to toe with the Phillies, and need to gamble. That's just not the case. The Mets' 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons demonstrated what a strong core can accomplish even when weighed down by poor signings and outright mistakes on the roster. Bolstering the core and eliminating question marks make this version of the 2010 Mets monsters with the potential to dominate.
Finally, my plan leaves over $4 million for contingencies and negotiations. I won't cut it too fine so if that means we can take on salary in midseason, so much the better.
Overbay 1b (.380 OBP v rhp)
Evans 1b, lf, rf
Murphy 1b, 3b, lf, rf
Valdez 2b, ss
Tatis 1b, 2b, ss, 3b, lf, rf