Here is my Amazin Ave. Offseason Plan for 2010 (which I spent most of my day planning instead of actually working). This year was certainly challenging given the restraints on how much we could spend, and how many bad contracts we have to navigate around. Still I hope you enjoy my contribution. I feel I have addressed all of our immediate needs fairly well without selling out the future.
We already have some good pieces in place so lets get those out of the way first.
Santana (L), Dickey (R), Niese (L), Pelfrey (R), Parnell (R), K-rod (R), Misch (L), Toyota Irrigation (R), Davis (L), Wright R), Reyes (S), Thole (L), Pagan (S), Bay (R), Beltran (S), Evans (R), Duda (L), Blanco (R), Tejada (R),
Banished to some dark abyss (released)
Oliver Perez - 12 million dollar garbage is still garbage, treat it as such.
Luis Castillo - Slappy has managed to at least be somewhat useful with his plate discipline, but its past time to let him go. His defense is atrocious and if it were possible he'd have a lower slugging percentage than batting average.
The New Guys
Jeff Francis (LHP)
The first of my suggested acquisitions for 2011, I believe Jeff Francis would prove to be a useful addition to the team. Firstly, as a lefty pitcher, he would bring a bit of added variety to the rotation (currently Niese is the only guaranteed healthy lefty starter we have). With some of our lefty-heavy division rivals, it's always nice to make things a little harder on them. Francis came back from a torn labrum repair last season, and in half a season of work, gave Colorado a 1.9 WAR boost. His control was very good, walking less than two batters per nine, and while his ERA wasn't spectacular at 5.00, it belies how well he pitched. Never a strikeout pitcher, he will lean on his defense, but he won't hurt himself with walks or excessive Hrs (<1 hr/9) Now two years removed from the surgery, he should be fully recovered. At the back end of the rotation, he would provide a solid anchor to the rotation. His previous contract paid him ~5.5 in his last year with the Rockies, and due to his recent injury, his next contract should have a going rate less than this. I would offer 1 year/ $4.3M to add him as our 5th starter/organizational depth when Santana comes back (assuming everyone else is performing to our liking).
Erik Bedard (LHP)
This would probably be one my "big" signing of this offseason, cost-wise. Bedard when healthy is a staff ace level pitcher. The key words here are "when healthy". Bedard missed most of last season with bone spurs, and his $7M 2011 option was declined by Seattle. He hasn't cracked 84 innings in the past two years, however the upside is enormous if he can stay healthy. He is expected to be ready for spring training, which means he could potentially fill the void left by Santana. Since Bedard is a bit of a gamble, an incentive based contract would be in order. Since we know Seattle declined his $7M option, this gives us a decent idea of where negotiations would start. I would give Bedard $3M base, with a $1M incentive for 100 IP and an additional $1M incentive if he exceeds 150 innings bringing the possible value of the contract up to $5M. While the ceiling on this contract isn't quite as high as he had in Seattle last year, the base pay guarantees more money (They only gave him $1.75M), which should help sell him on the contract. Given his upside and likely desire for a multi year deal, I would also include a mutual option for 2012 at $6M (after incentives based on innings pitched) since we will have a lot of money coming off of the books next year, and if he proves he can make it through 2011 healthy, theres no reason we wouldn't want a chance at keeping him around longer. While I know his injury-prone nature the past couple seasons is cause for concern, I think the potential benefits far outweigh the costs, especially in a season where we have limited room in payroll to improve and are missing our ace for an undetermined period of time.
Chad Qualls (RHP)
Chad Qualls on the surface appeared to have a very rough season in Arizona, with an ERA over 7 and an absurd .399 BABIP. When you look underneath the hood however, the picture isn't quite so bad. Qualls had a FIP of 4.13, and not pitching in Arizona will help get his HR rate down even further. Put a decent defense behind him and he'll look like a star. Qualls declined arbitration, meaning he was looking for more than the just short of $1M he was expected to get. Given his awful surface numbers, we could offer him $2M for 2011.
Jesse Crain (RHP)
Crain declined arbitration and opted for free agency. He strikes out a fair number 8.2 per nine, however he does have a tendency to walk a few too many (3.57/9). He gives up less than one HR/9, all amounting to a FIP of 3.45 last season. His previous seasons suggest he should be able to maintain a sub 4.0 FIP. His last contract was for $2M in 2010, and given his performance a bit of a raise is probably in order. Since there will be competition for his services, I'd like to pay 2 years at $3M per year but would be willing to go as high as $3.5M
Randy Choate (LHP)
With the loss of Pedro Feliciano, a new lefty specialist is a must-find this year. Randy Choate can step up and fill this void. While horrible against righties, Choate had a FIP of 2.34 vs lefties last year, with a .201 average against, while striking out approximately 1 batter per inning, and only walking 2 per 9. He only made $700k in 2010, which means he should be signable for around $1M per year, at two years. This would fill the void left by our side-arming friend.
Orlando Hudson (S)
The other "big splash" free agent signing I would make this offseason is Orlando Hudson. After years of Luis Castillo hobbling around second base and slugging around his batting average, a change of pace is in order. Orlando Hudson has been on the Mets radar for a few years now, never managing to land here due to Castillos contract. With only one year remaining, I propose we eat the rest of that cost, release Slappy, and sign O-dog. Offensively, Hudson is an adequate choice at second base, with a wOBA of .320 last year. His wOBA has been steadily declining over the last 3 years due to a drop in slugging percentage, possibly cause for some concern in the 33 year old second baseman. However he still had a wRC+ of 100, meaning he was the epitome of the average offensive second baseman. Defensively UZR has him all over the place from year to year, which leads me to believe he's probably around an average fielder as well (despite his numerous Gold Gloves which I count as a metric of absolutely nothing). This is pretty much the key word when talking about Hudson. Average. However after a few years of subpar, average sounds pretty good. Hudson has been bouncing from one year contract to one year contract, and hasn't really expressed much of a problem with this, so we can keep the short contract trend going with a two year, $6M/year contract, one million greater than his last contract with the Twins and one extra year while Havens or Valdespin ripen a bit.
Henry Blanco (R)
Not really a new addition, Blanco served as a solid backup catcher. While unremarkable with the bat to put it mildly, his defense was rated very favorably by BTB (top 10). Thole seems capable of holding down the starting job, and having Blanco as a veteran presence seems to have helped Thole with his defense (speculative I know, but Thole looked much better last year as the year went on). His last deal with us was for 750k, so we can give him around $1M this time out on a similar one year deal (any less and he might try to switchblade you!).
Melvin Mora (R)
Melvin Mora is somewhat of an ageless wonder. Above average offensively in 3 of the past 4 years, Mora is primarily a third baseman, although he played a handful of games at 2nd last year without embarrassing himself. Coming off the bench, he provides a good bat and some defensive flexibility. Colorado paid him $1.3M for his services last year, so $1.5M should be a fair contract for his services.
The depth chart would be as follows
|Ike Davis||Orlando Hudson||David Wright||Jose Reyes|
|Nick Evans||Reuben Tejada||Melvin Mora||Reuben Tejada|
|Josh Thole||Jason Bay||Angel Pagan||Carlos Beltran|
|Henry Blanco||Lucas Duda||Carlos Beltran||Angel Pagan|
|Nick Evans||Lucas Duda|
|Johan Santana*||Bobby Parnell|
|Erik Bedard||Francisco Rodriguez|
|Jonathan Niese||Chad Qualls|
|Mike Pelfrey||Jesse Crain|
|Jeff Francis*||Randy Choate|
*When Santana returns, assuming Bedard is healthy, we can attempt to either move Francis to the pen,
or send him to AAA, if he refuses assignment, so be it.
Now down to finanaces, the final tallies look like this:
The grand tally comes to just under 150 million dollars. Note that I assumed arbitration salaries of ~3 mil for Dickey, Pelfrey, and Pagan. If somebody has what they believe are more accurate values let me know and i'll adjust accordingly.
This plan takes one large gamble in assuming Bedard will be capable of pitching, and at a level similar to before his injury. If Bedard were to be injured prior to Santana's return, we would keep Francis, and use Gee to fill in until Johan was healthy. Since we're strapped for cash and the market doesn't have many cheap aces sitting around for the taking, Bedard is our best shot at getting a high end starter on the cheap. This is especially important with Johan slated to miss the beginning of the season. If it doesn't work out the incentives in the contract should keep us from spending too much money on him, and the option means if he does show he can stay healthy, we've got an even stronger rotation next year.
To this end, Francis gives us some flexibility early in the season. In limited time last year he looked good after coming back from a shoulder injury. He can serve as a fill in until such time as we have too many pitchers (depends on the health of Santana and Bedard). Francis could either be moved to the pen or sent to AAA if Bedard and Santana (along with everyone else) are healthy and performing at the same time. At that point it would be ideal if he were to accept a minor league assignment, however if he didn't it is likely another team would pick him up alleviating any financial burden he may put on the team.
The addition of Orlando Hudson would greatly fortify the middle infield, and also remove a black hole offensively from the team. While Hudson is in no way extraordinary, he does everything adequately, and would therefore be a substantial improvement over Castillo who's only skill was not swinging the bat at an alarming frequency.
The addition of Jesse Crain and Chad Qualls would greatly bolster the bullpen, with Crain being a piece we could keep around for a few years, and Qualls likely coming cheaper than he should due to some horrible luck and bad defense behind him in a hitter friendly park. Furthermore the addition of Randy Choate fills the void left by Pedro Feliciano, as he is incredibly effective against left handed batters. Overall the pen will contain 5 righties and 2 lefties, with one being a lefty specialist, and the other being a long reliever/spot starter.
Henry Blanco served as a viable backup catcher for a low price-tag last year, and as long as we're not forced to lean on him for an extensive number of starts, he'll get the job done. He also can help mentor Thole as he continues to improve his defense and game calling skills.
The addition of Melvin Mora again fits with the theme of adding useful players at low cost. Mora is a great bench piece, capable of playing multiple infield positions reasonably competently while providing a bat that usually gives you a wRC+ of around 100 with a bit of pop. The bench is admittedly a bit righty heavy, but Duda can serve as the lefty bat off the bench in pinch hitting situations.
Our starting lineup would look like this
Reyes (S), Thole (L), Beltran (S), Wright (R), Pagan (S), Bay (R), Davis (L), Hudson (S)
This ensures there is no part of the order where we have have back to back hitters with the same handedness. Violating the second base hits second protocol we've all come so accustomed to, i've put Thole in the 2-spot. My reasoning for this is that he has a very good approach at the plate, which means he'll take more pitches for Jose. He's also got great bat control so even if he takes a strike two, he can still put the ball in play, and he gets on base at a very good rate. Beltran, Wright and Pagan in the middle is death to opposing pitchers, and hopefully a bit further down in the order Bay can find his swing again. I find Pagan and Beltrans positions might be interchangeable depending on how they're performing. If Bay gets back to form, and Beltran is even a fraction of what he used to be, thats a scary lineup.
The pitching rotation would be
Santana (L), Dickey (R), Bedard (L), Pelfrey (R), Niese (L), Francis (L)
shuffled slightly when Santana is out to look like this:
Bedard (L), Dickey (R), Niese (L), Pelfrey (R), Francis (L)
With Francis being somewhat expendable in the off chance they're all healthy and firing on all cylinders at the same time.
Either of these rotations gives the opposing team a lot of different looks over a series, making it harder for hitters to adjust.
The bench of Duda, Tejada, Evans, Blanco, and Mora gives us a backup at every position, and provides good bats from both sides of the plate.
As you can see, this plan fortifies the bullpen, stabilizes the lineup and the middle infield defense, and gives us a viable rotation with an upside of two potential ace level starters by midseason if all goes according to plan. With the exception of Bedard, most of these moves are pretty safe bets to give us good productivity for our dollar, and hopefully give us a shot at being competitive. The lineup is stacked from top to bottom, and allows us to have a good mix of lefties and righties due to the absurd number of switch hitters we would have. Furthermore the plan does not require us to move any of our young talent, and won't block the ascent of any of these players (such as Havens or Valdespin) for any extended period of time. Nor does the plan require giving any large contracts that extend past this year with the exception of Bedard, which is an option giving us the flexibility to decide later, and Hudson, who will only cost us $6M next year.
So, let me know what you think!