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AAOP--Amazingly Awesome Offseason Planbymistermet-soyoushouldreaditnow-andthenagainthreeyearsfromnow.

Welcome to my first AAOP!  Can I offer you some coffee while you are here?

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Hmm...okay.  Apparently I can't since this is the internet.  Damn you Al Gore...I want to give my readers coffee now, not three years from now!

Anywho, the 2011 Mets are somewhat of an interesting quandary.  The way that I look at this team is that they are not at all far from being contenders as built today.  Despite the likely loss of Johan Santana through midseason, this is still a team with some solid parts and with the right additions, they could be primed for contention in 2011 and (hopefully) beyond.  Read along as I profile what I would try to do if I were the GM of the Mets.

Introduction

As I said in the opening, this is a team with some very interesting parts and if everybody is healthy and performing up to standard (certainly not a slam dunk, I understand) then they should definitely be in the mix come August and September.  However, there are a number of holes to be filled that would go a long way towards helping out this team get to that stage.  The way I see it, this is how team is currently stacked up:

Positions Player Salary Positions Player Salary
Catcher Josh Thole 0.4 SP1 Mike Pelfrey 3 (Arb Estimate)
First Base Ike Davis 0.4 SP2 R.A. Dickey 4 (Arb Estimate)
Second Base ??????? ???????? SP3 Jon Niese 0.4
Third Base David Wright 14 SP4 ????????? ????????
Shortstop Jose Reyes 11 SP5 ????????? ????????
Left Field Jason Bay 16
Center Field Carlos Beltran 18.5 LR/Swingman ????????? ????????
Right Field Angel Pagan 4 (Arb Estimate) Middle Relief Ryota Igarashi 1.75
Middle Relief Manny Acosta 0.4
Bench-C ???????? ????????? Middle Relief ????????? ????????
Bench-IF ???????? ????????? LOOGY ????????? ????????
Bench-IF/OF ???????? ????????? Set Up Bobby Parnell 0.4
Bench-OF ???????? ????????? Closer Francisco Rodriguez 11.5
Bench-IN/OF ???????? ?????????
Injured
SP Johan Santana 22.5
Miscellaneous
P? Oliver Perez 12
2B? Luis Castillo 6
IF Daniel Murphy 0.4
IF/OF Nick Evans 0.4 Team Subtotal 119.05
IF Luis Hernandez 0.4
P Pat Misch 0.4
IF Justin Turner 0.4
SP Dillon Gee 0.4
OF Lucas Duda 0.4
OF Gary Matthews Jr. 1

According to my estimate of players currently on the books, as well as minor leaguers who are on the 40 man who will likely get substantial big league time, the team's payroll currently sits at $119.05 million.  A lot of this depends on the team's budget and how much they're willing to spend on the team but with that estimate, I'd have to imagine the team currently has around $10-15 million at the most to spend this offseason and that could push the amount to a little over $130 million.  Here's what I'd do, separated by position.

Lineup

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When you look at this team's lineup, there is truly only one gaping hole and it's unfortunately one that's been there for  a while now--Second Base.  The rest of the lineup could be very solid, but depending on the health and performance of certain players, it's still a bit of an unknown.  Overall I feel good about these guys and I think we will get solid bounceback performances from guys like Beltran, Bay and Reyes and that David Wright will improve his totals with a solid lineup behind him.  Pagan seems to be the real thing to me and Thole is a solid hitter as he makes good frequent contact and walks a good deal.  I think a big key to the lineup, aside from the injury guys, will be Ike Davis' maturation.  If Ike can cut down some on the K's, continue to walk at a high pace like last year and pop maybe 10 more home runs, this offense could really be outstanding from 1-8.

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That leaves the big gap at 2B and the one thing we know is that incumbent Luis Castillo has to go.  No starting role, no platoon role, no bench or pinch running role.  He's got no use on this (or any other) team and it's time to just eat the salary and move on.  So what's my plan, here?  Just as the Mets seem to be doing, I would open up the job to players already in the organization.  Daniel Murphy and Josh Turner would be the main competitors and on the fringes you could also have Ruben Tejada, Josh Satin and even Reese Havens involved during the spring.  I'd also bring in a veteran option on a minor league deal, perhaps an Adam Kennedy or Christian Guzman as competition.  Ultimately, I'd weed out Havens and Satin pretty quickly, as they need more time in the minors and eventually Tejada as well as he should spend all of the 2011 at Buffalo.  This would leave Murphy and Turner on the roster and Murphy would be my starter with Turner on the bench spelling him against Lefties.  I like Turner on the bench because of his versatility and ability to play 2B, 3B and even a little SS if needed.  I like this plan because it saves money that can be used in other places and though I've always liked Orlando Hudson, I'd rather have the extra money.  Finally, depending on how he looks and feels in spring training of course, Carlos Beltran at this moment is my Center Fielder.  Beltran will be 14 months removed from his surgery by spring training and with an actual spring, I feel that he'll be able improve on his mobility in center field and also become more used to his knee brace.

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On Opening Day 2011, this would be my lineup:

Position Player
SS Jose Reyes
RF Angel Pagan
CF Carlos Beltran
1B Ike Davis
3B David Wright
LF Jason Bay
2B Daniel Murphy
C Josh Thole

 

Bench

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The past couple of years, the Mets bench has been a punchless group of old guys who offered very little in terms of positive value to the team (sorry but Alex Cora's frowns and Julio Franco being 90 years old didn't offer much to the team on either side of the ball).  A good bench should provide something to supplement the players in the lineup, whether it be a solid defensive player or a slugger who can come in late in the game and start a rally or even just players who won't embarrass you when the starters need a day off.  Last season's "bench" was completely LULZ-worthy as it contained luminaries like Frank Catalanotto (who in fairness would've been a solid pickup 5 years ago), the aforementioned Alex Cora, Henry Blanco (a good defensive catcher who's never hit a lick and is pushing 40), the useless Gary Matthews Jr and church building utility man Fernando Tatis.  It's embarrassing to have 4 guys who are such automatic outs sitting on the bench but it really says something when Tatis is the best of these guys (sure, Tatis was a miracle in 2008 but after an awful 2009 there's no way Tatis should've still been the #1 offensive bench option).  For my 2011 bench, I'd like to add more offensive minded players as I feel our lineup's defense is pretty solid as a whole, as well as versatile players who can move around the field to give Terry Collins flexibility.

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As I mentioned in the lineup paragraph, one bench spot on my team would go to Justin Turner.  Turner can split time at 2nd base with Daniel Murphy and also cover 3rd base and SS in a pinch should the need arise.  The righty swinger has hit at every level of the minor leagues, including a .906 OPS in 350 ab's at Buffalo (.862 when combined with what he did at AAA Norfolk).  Most importantly, Turner walks at a solid rate and makes good contact and even though I've seen his defensive skills ranked anywhere from slightly above average to below average, I think he can serviceably handle those positions and his bat will provide the real value to the team.

Another solid pickup for this team's bench would be veteran utility man Jerry Hairston Jr.  Hairston has decent value with the bat, as he's got a little pop and some speed too but the thing that I like is his versatility.  Hairston is a utility man in the mold of fan favorite Joe McEwing (though with a more potent bat) in that he can play almost every position on the field.  Last season with the Padres, Hairston saw action at all three outfield positions and also got a lot of time at 2B, 3B and SS.  These types of players help to free up the moves that a manager makes, knowing that as long as Hairston's still around, you'll always have a capable player available to play each position.  Hairston made 2.1 million last season and was worth 1.9 fWAR and if they could sign him at around 2 million, I think he'd be a great acquisition for the team's bench.

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With regards to the backup catcher role, I think the recently non-tendered Russell Martin would be the best pickup as he could split time with Josh Thole.  At the least, Martin is a solid defensive catcher who could possibly turn back into the solid player he was in his first three seasons.  Having two good young catchers in Martin and Thole could allow the Mets to eventually deal one of them in the future for other players.  On a 3 million dollar contract, I would be intrigued to see if Martin's bat comes back and at the least, you have a solid defensive catcher who you can non-tender next year if it doesn't.

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With Martin, Turner and Hairston on the bench, you have most of the positions on the field covered.  Along with these three, I would go out and sign our favorite nemesis Willie Harris.  As much as we hate him, Harris would provide a decent left handed bat off the bench along with a little pop and some speed and he can also play all three OF positions as well as 2B and 3B if needed.  Harris had a rough year with the Nats in 2010 and likely will come cheaper than the 1.5 million he made a year ago.  Let's say he signs on for 1 year at 700,000.

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For the last spot on the 2011 bench, I would go with our favorite mystery man Nick Evans.  Of all of the guys on this bench, none of them really has much experience at 1B and Evans, who's out of options, provides a decent glove at first base should Ike Davis need a day off or if there's a tough lefty on the hill.  Evans has some pop in his bat and I think he could be a solid contributor off the bench, not to mention that he'll also be making the big league minimum.

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Rotation

With Johan Santana on the shelf for a few months, the team currently has 3 starters making up the rotation in Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey and Jon Niese.  These three are solid starters but obviously they could use more.  The first pitcher that I'd go after to fill a hole would be former Padre's righty Kevin Correia.  The 30 year old righty likely would come cheap and though he had a rough season in 2010, due to a doubled HR/FB rate, his xFIP was actually a tick better than it was in 2009 when he put up a 2.5 WAR (4.20 in 2009 to 4.19 in 2010).  On a one year deal at around 2 million, I think Correia could be a solid pick up for the back of the rotation.

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Finally to round out the rotation, I'd call up our division rival the Florida Marlins and see if they are still trying to slash payroll.  If they were, I'd inquire about RHP Ricky Nolasco and I would offer CF Kirk Nieuwenheis, RHP Kyle Allen and INF Zach Lutz.  Nolasco would benefit from Citi Field, as he's always been bitten by the home run bug and Citi's deep walls should mitigate some of that to a degree.  Not only do these moves improve the rotation, but they allow prospects like Dillon Gee and Jenrry Mejia to stay at Buffalo and once Johan Santana comes back, they can move Correia to bullpen since he has experience pitching out of the pen with the Giants.  I'd also look into signing one of Chris Young, Jeff Francis, Justin Duchscherer or Chris Capuano to a minor league deal to provide depth at Buffalo and potentially be the first callup should an injury strike.

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Bullpen

Finally, we get to the bullpen.  Like it or not, Frankie Rodriguez will have the all important "closer" title meaning that it's going to be on Collins' shoulders to use him (or not use him) enough so that his option will not vest.  It would be a big help to this cause to find a pitcher who has closer experience, since they do not have an up and comer who could steal savez (sorry Bobby Parnell).  Parnell should be a part of the team's pen, no doubt.  However, I would prefer him to be more of a 7th inning guy, rather than a setup man.  Manny Acostalypse did a decent enough job in the Mets' pen last year and I think he'd be a serviceable (and cheap) middle reliever in 2011.  And Ryota Igarashi was terrible in 2010 but I am inclined to let him have a shot at redeeming himself in Spring Training, since they're already paying him anyway.  I'd make sure he has a short leash if he makes the opening day roster.  With those four players already in the pen, that leaves 3 spots open-one for a longman/swingman to replace Hisanori Takahashi, the second a lefty setup guy or LOOGY to replace Pedro Feliciano and finally, another middle reliever.

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To fill the long reliever/swingman role, I'd look in-house to either Pat Misch or Mike O'Connor and allow either one to try to step up for the gig.  We know all about Misch, who has been solid but unspectacular when given a shot and is out of options (sure he made through waivers last year, but I'd like to keep him around).  O'Connor is another lefty who pitched all of last season at Buffalo and really made a solid impression out of the pen, striking out a batter an inning with good control in 51 appearances.  The former Nats pitcher doesn't throw hard but manages to miss bats, although he isn't dominant against lefties.  He's also thrown well in the Dominican Winter League, tossing 11.1 innings for Licey where he's only allowed 2 runs while K'ing 16 and walking just 3.  Re-signed to a minor league deal, O'Connor would be a good option to have at AAA at the least.

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Assuming only one of Misch/O'Connor make the team out of spring training, that leaves two open spots in the pen.  To fill one of those spots, I would grab free agent LHP JP Howell, who was non-tendered by Tampa Bay.  Howell missed all of 2010 due to injury but in 2008 and 2009, Howell established himself as one of the best lefty relievers in the game.  The recent news on him is that his shoulder injury is healing after surgery but he will not be ready for spring training.  This news could force his value and price to plummet further, hopefully down to the territory to where they could sign him to a minor league deal worth under 1 million at the big league level (let's say 700,000) with incentives.  If he doesn't start the season in Flushing, the team could always roll with O'Connor out of the pen to start and then wait for Howell to make his return.  A healthy JP Howell would be a huge piece in the 2011 pen.

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To fill the final spot in the pen, I feel like we need somebody who can steal saves and some 9th inning duty from Frankie Rodriguez.  There are a number of intriguing bullpen options out there, but some of them like Grant Balfour, Scott Downs, Matt Guerrier and Takashi Saito among others are Type A free agents.  Staying away from those guys, there are still a number of solid options on the market and I'd look into Bobby Jenks, Jesse Crain, Todd Coffey and Octavio Dotel.  In the end, though, I'd go with the former White Sox closer Jenks to take over as the team's setup man/super secret 2nd closer.  Jenks' numbers look ugly if you are Michael Baron (wow look at that rising ERA...that number is so important!!!!) but taking a hop over to fangraphs, you'll notice that he really didn't have that bad a year in 2010 as his FIP and xFIP sat right around 2.60 and his K/9 climbed to the highest it's been since 2006 at 10.42 K/9.  The culprit for Jenks?  A .368 BABIP as well as a LOB% of 65.4%, down from his average LOB% which is typically in the mid 70's.  Jenks made 7.5 million last season and would be a great option if they could grab him on a discounted 5 million dollar deal, due to that inflated ERA.

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Conclusion

Some final housekeeping items-Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo would be released after spring training.  I don't expect either to fetch anything in a deal, so their full salaries are listed.  Also, I could go over every player that I'd like to see signed to a minor league deal but I won't.  A few that are interesting to me, though, include Alfredo Aceves, Willy Aybar, Manny Delcarmen, Fred Lewis, Andrew Miller, Dioner Navarro, Nick Punto, Ryan Rowland-Smith and George Sherrill.

I think the 2011 Mets would be greatly helped out by a number of these pickups and they would have a great shot at contending if they did even half of this.  These moves completely fill out the big league team and allow most of the young guys in the system to have extra time in the minors.  Guys like Fernando Martinez, Jenrry Mejia, Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee would all benefit from some more time at AAA and would be better options as extreme backup plans instead of being the next guy on the list in case of injury.

With all of these moves, the team's payroll would sit at a relatively manageable 132.85 million and most importantly, wouldn't lock the team into any players long term (other than guys like Martin who would be arbitration eligible in a year).  Not only does this improve the team's chances in 2011 but it keeps the payroll flexible for next offseason.  Here is the spreadsheet of the team after all of these signings/trades have been included:

Positions Player Salary Positions Player Salary
Catcher Josh Thole 0.4 SP1 Mike Pelfrey 3 (Arb Estimate)
First Base Ike Davis 0.4 SP2 R.A. Dickey 4 (Arb Estimate)
Second Base Daniel Murphy 0.4 SP3 Jon Niese 0.4
Third Base David Wright 14 SP4 Ricky Nolasco 4 (Arb Estimate)
Shortstop Jose Reyes 11 SP5 Kevin Correia 2
Left Field Jason Bay 16
Center Field Carlos Beltran 18.5 LR/Swingman Pat Misch 0.4
Right Field Angel Pagan 4 (Arb Estimate) Middle Relief Ryota Igarashi 1.75
Middle Relief Manny Acosta 0.4
Bench-C Russell Martin 3 Middle Relief Bobby Parnell 0.4
Bench-IF Justin Turner 0.4 Lefty Setup Mike O'Connor 0.4
Bench-IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr 2 Righty Setup Bobby Jenks 5
Bench-OF Willie Harris 0.7 Closer Francisco Rodriguez 11.5
Bench-IN/OF Nick Evans 0.4
Injured
SP Johan Santana 22.5
LHP JP Howell 0.7
Miscellaneous
P? Oliver Perez 12
2B? Luis Castillo 6
SP Dillon Gee 0.4
OF Lucas Duda 0.4 Team Subtotal 132.85
IF Luis Hernandez 0.4
OF Gary Matthews Jr. 1

So that's it!!!!  Let's Go METS!!!!

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This has been a Jeddy Leecoeur Production

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With help from Puppy Avenue Inc.

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This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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