My AAOP starts with the starters. R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese are all back in the rotation after each pitched well in 2010. Pat Misch also gets a shot to hang in the rotation because he’s extremely affordable and at the very least has shown he’s stingy with walks while sporting a reasonable career groundball rate of 44.7%. Sign Chris Capuano, who hadn’t pitched in quite some time before returning from injury in 2010 and pitching quite well. He only received a minor-league deal last winter, so bring him to Queens on a 1 year, $2 million deal with incentives for innings pitched that could make the deal worth $6 million in total.
Seven of the eight starting position players are already on the team. Ike Davis, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan return to their positions from 2010 with the exception of a position switch between Beltran and Pagan in center field and right field. Pencil in Daniel Murphy as the second baseman, and if his defense turns out to be such a liability that it negates his bat, move him to the bench in a utility role. Sign Russell Martin as the catcher for 1 year, $2.5 million plus incentives for playing time and throw in a team option for 1 year, $5 million with a $1 million buyout. Martin’s offensive production has declined over the past two seasons, but against lefties Martin has a .372 wOBA over his career and as recently as 2009 turned in a .348 wOBA against them. Generally speaking, catchers are really bad at hitting, and Martin is still young enough that his numbers could return to or approach his career numbers.
As for the bench, Josh Thole’s limited time in the majors so far suggests that he performs better against right-handed pitchers, creating a good lefty-righty combo behind the plate for the Mets. Sign Matt Diaz for 2 years, $2.5 million because he absolutely mashes against left-handed pitching and, if judged by his UZR/150, can hold his own manning either left or right field when he plays. Keep Lucas Duda in the big leagues to do what Diaz does but from the other side of the plate and with less defensive prowess. Sign Willy Aybar for 1 year, $1.5 million as the backup plan if Murphy winds up on the bench or just as a utility player if Murphy succeeds. Finally, sign Dewayne Wise for 1 year, $500k as a backup center fielder, late inning defensive replacement and pinch runner.
With the departure of Hisanori Takahashi and the near-certain departure of Pedro Feliciano, the bullpen is thin entering the winter. Francisco Rodriguez returns as closer, of course, and Bobby Parnell also comes back after a strong 2010. Of the other in-house options, Manny Acosta comes back as a serviceable, unspectacular middle relief pitcher earning the league minimum or just a bit more. Ryota Igarashi gets another shot to start the year on the major league roster and is used almost exclusively in low-leverage situations for a while to see if he can back on track. One of his biggest problems in 2010 was his awful 5.34 BB/9, but control doesn’t appear to have been a problem for him in the minors or Japan. If he cuts down on walks, he could be a pleasant surprise and pitch in more important situations. Pencil in Manuel Alvarez to join the bullpen based upon his strong peripherals in the minors and league minimum salary.
The last two members of the bullpen come from outside the organization. Sign Randy Choate for 2 years, $2.2 million. A durable left-handed specialist, Choate shouldn’t be much of a risk on that deal and should also excel if used properly. Last but certainly not least, sign Jon Rauch for 2 years, $6 million. Rauch would join Parnell as a very strong late-inning/high-leverage duo to get leads the Francisco Rodriguez. He should also be used for the occasional save opportunity as it is imperative that the Mets do not allow Rodriguez’s option to vest. Rauch performed admirably as the Twins closer for a good part of 2010, and if Rodriguez is out after 2011, Rauch would be an internal option to compete for the closer’s role in 2012.
There’s no harm in letting them report to spring training, but at some point before Opening Day, release Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. If there is an opportunity to move either player and get minimal salary relief or better, trade him instead.
Luis Castillo, $6
Oliver Perez, $12
Total Salary: $143.3 million, or if Martin and Capuano max out on incentives $148.8 million
Given the potential to spend $150 million on major league payroll, my plan focuses solely on signing free agents to fill out the Mets 2011 major league roster. The two players with incentive-laden deals are admittedly injury risks because of their recent histories, but both could be very good values when they’re on the field. The incentives also allow a little extra breathing room with the salary with which the Mets could add players mid-season to fill in if these players are hurt.
There’s only one left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, but if Johan Santana returns, the lesser of Misch and Capuano can be moved there. If the lack of lefties other than Choate proves to be a major issue, someone from the bullpen can be sent to Buffalo in favor of a left-handed arm.
Overall, there should be enough talent on the team to play competitive baseball in 2011 without mortgaging anything for the future. The Mets have a ton of money coming off the books after 2011, and my plan adds a maximum commitment of $10.35 million to the 2012 payroll, and that's only if Martin's option is exercised. All minor league players are kept in the organization for another year of development, and some will increase their trade value should the Mets be in contention at the end of July or want to make trades in the winter of 2011-12.
And now, my AAOP in table form, organized by position with 2011 salaries.
|SP||Chris Capuano||2 (6 max)|
|C||Russell Martin||2.5 (4 max)|