While I have already accepted the idea that the 2011 New York Mets will not be outright contenders in the NL East, I do not think this team is a totally lost cause. 2009 was a definite aberration due to a laundry list of injuries. While 2010 did not end the way we all wanted, the Mets were still competitive until the All-Star Break. With healthy years from players such as Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, a resurgence from Jason Bay, proper use of a bullpen (here’s to you, Jerry Manuel) and a pitching staff full of reliable innings-eaters that go deep into games, this team can still be a mid-80’s win team in the National League. That win total gets you a fighter’s chance at the NL Wild Card, and the likelihood of more than 15,000 fans at Citi Field when the temperature drops below 75 degrees in mid-September. Although the Mets cannot and will not break the bank in 2011, this does not mean a bunch of holes cannot be filled with approximately $13-15 million. An allocation of this sum to plug multiple holes would keep this team in contention for most of next year, instead of giving it all to one player ala Jason Bay. This AAOP hopes to balance the roster instead of leaving it top heavy as the previous administration has done in recent years. This, while keeping 2012 flexible salary-wise. Enjoy!
NOTE: You have now entered the world of absurdly bad MSPaint work.
PART I: THE INFIELD
Move #1: Sign Orlando Hudson to a 1-year, $5 million contract, with a team option at $6 million for 2012.
This position has been such a black hole since 2008. I can’t risk second base as a question mark again, especially since there’s a reliable one falling into our laps. Hudson is vocal, a team leader, AND has actually wanted to be here for three years. There is no reason to risk very little value from second base, which is ultimately possible in a Castillo/Murphy, Murphy/Turner or Murphy/Tejada platoon. Hudson has been worth 3 wins three of the last four years (and had 1.5 WAR in an injury-riddled 107 games in 2008), is playoff-tested and has shown no signs of slowing down approaching 33 years old. He is still a very good player and a consistent switch-hitting second baseman that you could bat 2nd or 7th. Consistency out of a second baseman is an asset that this team has not had in 3 years. The Mets should just give in already.
Move #2: Make Daniel Murphy a utility man
The Castillo/Murphy platoon has been rumored for some time on here given Murphy’s progress at second base, and it just makes me nauseous. If injuries come down again and Ike Davis, Jason Bay, David Wright, or (in this case) Hudson get hurt, Daniel Murphy is an excellent guy to have around as a backup. If Murphy gets put into a platoon with Castillo and you have to convert him to a starter elsewhere mid-season due to injury, guess what? Luis Castillo once again becomes your starting second baseman! Take Murphy and use him at four different positions. He is much more valuable to a team in need of options in case of injury than as a member of a platoon. Sign Hudson, assign Murphy to this role, and second base is no longer an issue. You’d also have reinforcements in case of injury. I’m tired of watching guys like Luis Hernandez take up space on this roster for extended periods of times because our roster has no flexibility. This really makes too much sense not to happen.
Move #3: Give 2B Luis Castillo his outright release
With Hudson and Murphy entrenched as the starter and backup at second, respectively, Castillo would do nothing but sulk on the bench. He did not react well to Ruben Tejada’s playing time last year, and would really create a problem for the Mets if he wasn’t the starting second baseman in 2011. It is time to move on from our mistakes and cut bait with guys who don’t contribute and take away from the team morale. While it sucks to throw away $6 million, it is already counted on the books for 2011. Castillo is finished and no one wants him. He has absolutely no upside – he’s lucky to get a major league deal elsewhere.
Move #4: Sign OF/IF Melvin Mora to a 1-year, $1.2 million contract
This was a tough choice over a younger Eugenio Velez, but Mora is more versatile in the infield. Mora was once again a positive value player in 2010, although his range has declined considerably. The Rockies scooped him up in February for $1.3 million, but he still stayed healthy for 350 at-bats at age 38. He came up big for Colorado in a myriad of roles for Jim Tracy, and Tracy even played him over Ian Stewart at times. He was also a fan favorite for us a decade ago. It would be nice to have that flexibility for Mora to play first, second, third, short, and the outfield in a pinch. Mora can also be a dangerous pinch-hitter, as he still hits for contact and knows how to draw a walk. Mora is up there in age, but he’s still a great guy to have around regardless. Plus, Mora could serve as a trade chip to a contender if we fall out of it.
PART II: THE PITCHING STAFF
The Mets need a solid right-handed #2 pitcher, and Shields was an excellent big-game pitcher for three years. He fell out of favor with Joe Maddon last year, and he could use a fresh start in New York as a buy-low candidate. He has been towards the top of the league in home runs surrendered the past three seasons, which would be helped tremendously by Citi Field. Shields struggled last year, which made fans in Tampa Bay lose faith in him. However, his peripherals were excellent and he had the best strikeout ratio of his career. He is only making $4.25 million next year and has an escalating contract with team options heading forward. I anticipate that Tampa is nervous about his future salary increases and could move on with Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation.
As for the package heading to Tampa: Bobby Parnell is a good fit for Tampa given their bullpen losses, but he is too important given the state of our own bullpen. I don’t want to shortchange this offer, so I’m offering a close-to-MLB power hitter and two B prospects that can be cultivated in Tampa’s very strong system. Both players are minimum top 10 in our own system with fairly high ceilings. Lucas Duda had a great year at AAA last year but he is likely to be out-of-position at the major league level for an NL team. He has no use here with Jason Bay and Ike Davis around for the foreseeable future. This would be a sell-high, and a good cost-efficient player for Tampa since they need power hitters after losing Carlos Pena. Juan Urbina is the key to this deal. He would be tough to give up as a young and raw left-handed arm with good control, but he reminds me of Deolis Guerra a few years back in terms of upside. Urbina’s future is so up in the air at this point. I would take the chance to trade him now for a good starting pitcher at a time of need before unwrapping the present to see if we get diamonds or coal down the line. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is a good prospect who struggled in limited time in AAA. He is still about a year away, but he is still relevant enough for Tampa to be interested in him as a trade piece. He is a good player, but I think his future is as a fourth outfielder. Prove me wrong, Captain Kirk. The PTBNL is a marginal pitching prospect to be delivered at a later date, or a better player if you don't think this is enough for Shields (which I do).
I was originally going to petition for his outright release much like Castillo, but Perez is a different story. He still has the slightest hint of upside, for one reason only - MONEY. He strikes me as greedy and self-absorbed, so it would be natural for him to be motivated for a new paycheck after this season. Since all indications show that the Mets won't immediately eat this albatross, I would give Perez until the middle of spring training to try to get his career back on track. If he shows up motivated and he’s throwing hard again, then he gets consideration for a role as a long reliever, extra LOOGY or even as a 5th starter. While we all want him gone tomorrow, it would irk us all if he was back throwing well in spring training for another team. Think of Spring Training as an extended tryout (for a guy with a $12 million contract).
A rumor has surfaced about big-time tensions with Jerry Manuel, which serves as a personal excuse for his negative value the past two years. If that is the case, prove it to us now that Terry Collins is here. Stop being a distraction, and start pitching like a guy we've already thrown $24 million. If Perez sucks (as expected), Dillon Gee and other minor league options are available in spring training to take Johan Santana’s rotation spot until he returns.
Move #7: Sign C Gerald Laird to a 1-year, $1 million contract
With Josh Thole the starting catcher in 2011, the Mets could use a defense-first, right-handed hitter they know will be a backup and will tutor him well. With a plethora of catchers on the market and after a very off-year, Laird can be snagged on the cheap. He fits the same "220 average with good defense" backup free agent catcher mold as the other cheap catchers available. I loved Henry Blanco in this role, but I fear his age and inefficiency at the plate. Much like Blanco, Laird is good defensively and always towards the top of the league in runners caught stealing (34% last year). He is a very fiery personality, as evidenced by the fact he was KILLING Jim Joyce from the dugout during Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game. He hit a lot better towards the end of the season after a brutal start and has been a 1.5 WAR player for much of his career. Good enough for me.
PART IV: THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN
Move #8: Sign LHP Randy Choate to a 2-year, $3 million contract
With Pedro Feliciano gone this team needs a decent option to get lefties out. Before anyone mentions Pat Misch as an option, he is not a serviceable LOOGY. He is an extra starter with even splits. With Pedro Feliciano gone, that $4 million in savings will be devoted to filling multiple roles in the bullpen. We start with Choate, who is a Type-B free agent. Choate has pitched in big spots in the past few years with Tampa Bay. He also has the second-highest career efficiency against left-handers of all the free agents available. He is a good value given the fact that Feliciano would have cost this team about 3x the price. $1.3 million in 2011, $1.7 million in 2012.
Move #9: Sign RHP Koji Uehara to a 2-year, $6.5 million contract
Uehara is an underrated pitcher who has started, closed, and pitched in middle relief in the Baltimore bandbox over the past two seasons. The extra year is what should draw him to New York, as most teams now view him as a setup man and Baltimore only wants him back on a one-year pact. Although Uehara has suffered injuries over the past two years, he pitched well in the last three months of 2010. With Bobby Parnell perhaps ascending to a power 8th inning role, Uehara has excellent control and throws strikes. Right-handed hitters hit .185 off Uehara last year, and he was effective closing games for Baltimore late in the year (aside from that Alex Rodriguez home run that still hasn’t landed). Parnell and Uehara could play off each other well as a power/control bridge to Francisco Rodriguez, and Uehara could close if K-Rod is traded or released (for beating up Mr. Met, perhaps) during the season. $3 million this year, $3.5 million in 2012.
Move #10: Sign RHP Todd Coffey to a 1-year, $1.3 million contract with a team option for $2 million in 2012
Coffey had a rough year last year on the surface, but he was one of the best setup men in baseball in 2009. He had an atrocious 63.9% LOB rate in 2010 that should restore back into the mid-70’s in 2011. At the bare minimum, he still serves as a workhorse in the bullpen. I’d feel more comfortable filling our bullpen out with someone who had a down year as opposed to someone who had a fluke year like Joel Peralta. If Coffey has a bounce-back year, we could exercise the option for 2012. Plus, his trademark sprint in from the bullpen is always money.
PART V: YOUNG GUYS, AND FILLING OUT A 25-MAN ROSTER
Move #11: Sign OF Tony Gwynn Jr. to a 1-year, $800k contract
My team needs a second lefty off the bench and a backup outfielder, and Gwynn fits the bill the best. He is an excellent defensive outfielder and gives Fernando Martinez time to simmer (or get injured… again) down in the minor leagues. He can’t hit too much but is patient at the plate. He could serve as a late-game replacement for Jason Bay or an injury replacement for Beltran or Bay.
Move #12: Send Jenrry Mejia, Justin Turner, Fernando Martinez, and Ruben Tejada back to the minor leagues to start the year
In determining the rest of the bench, Nick Evans is out of options, so barring a really bad spring training he starts the year with the big club. I like Justin Turner, but I don’t really believe in him just yet. He had a good year in the minors, but he was discarded by Baltimore (who had Cesar Izturis at shortstop all year, mind you) and fell into our laps. He reads as an AAAA player to me, but I may be wrong. Fernando Martinez’s arthritic knee is starting to wear out its welcome in Queens, but he might get a shot mid-season if he stays healthy. Ruben Tejada needs more seasoning than food made by Emeril Lagasse, so that’s why I signed Melvin Mora as a stopgap. As for Mejia, he made some progress towards the end of the season as a starter in the minor leagues before getting injured. I want to send him back to the minors to eject all of the demons Jerry Manuel put in him. I would let him come to spring training to stretch out before sending him off to Buffalo, with expectations of calling him up mid-season when one of our starters goes down.
I am a firm believer that you need quite a few relievers to shuffle over the course of a season. Injuries, a pitcher getting overworked by mid-May (aka a "Nieve"), and other unfortunate occurrences are inevitable over a 162-game season. If you have good reinforcements in reserve, you don’t have to call up guys like Tobi Stoner from the minor leagues to pitch to Albert Pujols mid-season. Therefore, I want to stockpile arms. All of these players are flawed in some way and would take minor league contracts.
In the cases of Zavada and Miner, these guys are coming off surgery. Miner is especially intriguing since he could serve as a versatile sinkerball-pitching swingman and could compete for a spot in the rotation or in the bullpen. If he's healthy, I would expect him to make the team. Zavada should be back mid-season, but he's still a good option barring setback. He was very good in 2009 before getting injured. Tim Byrdak is also intriguing, as he is a 37-year old reliever with a lifetime .192 average against left-handed hitters, albeit a high walk rate. As everyone knows, anyone with ability against left-handed hitters has value to any team. Ian Snell is a different story, as he was atrocious in Seattle and suffered through personal issues. However, he has a ton of talent, as evidenced by his time in Pittsburgh. I’d give him a low-risk opportunity in spring training to salvage his career. Brandon Moss is a former prospect of the Red Sox that is a very good defensive outfielder. His bat has struggled in recent years, but he has major league experience and gives us depth in the minor league outfield along with Jason Pridie. Wil Nieves is a super-light hitter, but a typical depth move for a backup catcher in case of injury.
PART VI: THE 2011 NEW YORK METS
1: SS Jose Reyes (S) ($11m)
2: RF Angel Pagan (S) ($3m)
3: CF Carlos Beltran (S) ($18.5m)
4: 1B Ike Davis (L) ($400k)
5: 3B David Wright (R) ($14m)
6: LF Jason Bay (R) ($16m)
7: 2B Orlando Hudson (S) ($5m)
8: C Josh Thole (L) ($400k)
1: OF/IF Daniel Murphy (L) ($400k)
2: OF/IF Melvin Mora (R) ($1.2m)
3: 1B/OF Nick Evans (R) ($400k)
4: C Gerald Laird (R) ($1m)
5: OF Tony Gwynn Jr. (L) ($800k)
Minor League Options: OF Fernando Martinez, 2B Justin Turner, SS Ruben Tejada, OF Jason Pridie, OF Brandon Moss, C Wil Nieves
1: RHP Mike Pelfrey ($3.5m)
2: RHP James Shields ($4.25m)
3: LHP Jon Niese ($400k)
4: RHP RA Dickey ($2.5m)
5: LHP Oliver Perez ($12m)
Other Spring Training competitors for Santana’s spot (if/when Ollie fails): RHP Dillon Gee, RHP Zach Miner, RHP Jenrry Mejia, RHP Ian Snell, LHP Pat Misch
ETA Midseason: LHP Johan Santana ($22.5m)
1: RHP Francisco Rodriguez ($11.5m)
2: RHP Koji Uehara ($3m)
3: LHP Randy Choate ($1.3m)
4: RHP Bobby Parnell ($400k)
5: RHP Todd Coffey ($1.3m)
6: RHP Ryota Igarashi ($1.75m)
7: RHP Manny Acosta ($400k)
Minor league options: RHP Zach Miner, LHP Clay Zavada, LHP Tim Byrdak, LHP Mike O’Connor, RHP Manny Alvarez, RHP Jose De La Torre
Bum #1: Luis Castillo ($6m)
Bum #2: Gary Matthews ($1m)
P.S. – Thanks, Omar.
2011 AAOP payroll: $143.9 million
($6.1 million under budget)
In conclusion, I contacted two dedicated Amazin Avenue readers to ask them what they think of this plan. Their responses?
Thanks for reading, AA!!!