I do not wish to advocate for the following to come to pass. This is an experiment to see what kind of team would be created if the Mets gave into some sort of guilty temptation and actually blew up their core. Trading Jose Reyes and David Wright is a risky proposition, and would shock the Mets fanbase more than any other move in the team's history (with the possible exception of the Seaver trade). So, without further ado, let's take a look into... the Twilight Zone.
The Trades (because, really, these are all that matter here)
Note: numbers in (_) are the Baseball America prospect rankings. I used the 2011 list for the Angels, but 2010 for the Reds (BA hasn't done 2011 for them yet).
Okay, let me reemphasize that I am not actually advocating that the Mets do this. But, going ahead with our little experiment, just look at this deal. The real question here is whether the Angels would agree to it. The Angels need some power, and badly. Their current third baseman is a guy named Alberto Callapso. Let's break down what it would take to get one of the best (if not the best) third basemen in all of baseball. (Also, some random minor leaguer. I don't know who, though, because I'm not too familiar with what the Angels would want. Some good, but not great, A/AA player should suffice.)
You've probably heard of Ervin Santana. He's the Angels' third or fourth starter, yet went 17-10 with a 3.92 ERA last year. He was an all-star in 2006, when he went 16-7, 3.49. He's quite good, but expendable because of the other guys who the Angels have (Jered Weaver and Dan Haren). The centerpiece of this deal is Mike Trout, the Angels' top prospect. Between low- and high-A last year he hit .341/.428/.490. Angels fans are absolutely crazy about him. In spite of the fact that he's never played above A+, he could conceivably see major league action as early as this year. In the Mets' hands, he'd probably ride out the year in Binghamton and Buffalo and take over CF in 2012 when Beltran departs. An example of his potential godliness: http://bit.ly/f3OQUg
Jordan Walden made his MLB debut last year with the Angels, in which he pitched to a 2.35 ERA over 16 games. He'd spend the year setting up K-Rod, and hopefully take over the closing duties in 2012. He's the elite relief prospect the Mets have always wanted but never had.
I debated having the Reds give RP Francisco Cordero in return as well, but I don't think there's any way the Mets would do that. Why would they take on a very expensive relief pitcher whose contract expires at the end of this year? The Reds would then probably not give up Boxberger, and the deal would not be as good. The players I do have them giving up, however, is a great group. Juan Francisco is MLB-ready, and hit .286/.325/.565 at AAA last year (though it was a limited sample; I guess he was injured or something?). He's not as good as Wright, but he'd provide a great power bat in the immediate future. With Scott Rolen blocking his way in Cincinnati, the Reds would probably be willing to give him up.
Travis Wood is similar in that he's a top prospect who could have a starting role in 2011. It's tough to say whether he's still a prospect, actually, since he went 5-4, 3.51 over 17 starts for the Reds last year. He'd be a quality #4/5 starter next year, and could move up based on performance. He might end up being the #2 pitcher down the road, if past prospect reports are correct. Brad Boxberger is another intriguing name. He's only played one year of pro ball thus far, and didn't do so well. It's unclear where he'd be next year, but scouting reports are high on him, and I figure that the Mets are pretty weak on general relief prospects, so why not give him a shot at Savannah?
C Gregg Zaun: $1.5M/1y
IF Adam Kennedy: $400k/1y
OF Marcus Thames: $1M/1y
RP Joe Beimel: $1M/1y
RP Joel Peralta: $1M/1y
SS Orlando Cabrera: $2M/1y
The theme here is "veteran leadership." Zaun can tutor Josh Thole, Kennedy can tutor Daniel Murphy and Juan Francisco (also Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada?), and Orlando Cabrera can just walk around and be 36-years-old, but still good somehow. Beimel is a great and cheap lefty replacement for Perpetual Pedro, and Peralta is a solid rightly reliever. Chacin, Hill, and Wang can be down on the farm, at the ready in case something goes wrong up top.
So where does this leave us?
Firstly, with a $116.22M payroll for 2011. The Wilpons can take that extreme surplus and make single-game tickets and concessions more affordable, and spruce up Citi Field a bit. Paint the wall blue, or something. In the meanwhile, the Mets will have an exciting young team that we, the fans, will love to watch. 2011 might be tough. That's fine, 2011 is but the bridge to 2012. Hopefully Carlos Beltran will be doing a yeoman job by mid-season, so he too can be shipped off for a nice haul of prospects. In any case, despite not having the one-two punch that we have come to know and love, this team could still eke out 80-85 wins in 2011.
2012, however, will be different. 2012 will be great. The total payroll going into the 2011/2 off-season will be $67M. Yes, that's right: about half of what it was last year. This will allow Sandy, and co. to go out and sign some great FAs. If they're not extended, for 1B, Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. For 2B, Robinson Cano or Brandon Phillips. Heck, even Jose Reyes can be brought back (if the Reds don't lock him up for the next ten years). How does this lineup sound to you: Pagan-Cano-Trout-Francisco-Bay-Davis-Thole-Flores (or whoever the SS is)? Good, doesn't it? How about this rotation: Santana-Santana-Wood-Niese/Pelfrey-Mejia? Yeah, that's right--pretty great. (NB: Due to too much awesome, one of E. Santana, Pelfrey, or Niese will have to be traded. For a SS, perhaps?)
I began this experiment totally opposed to trading the core of this team. Wright and Reyes are the first home-grown superstars the Mets have had in a long time, and it feels good to have them on our side. It would be crushing to lose them. But looking at the haul of players that would come back in return for them, it's hard to pass up such an opportunity. I'm still opposed to trading them; but I'd be lying if a part of me doesn't hope it happens, just to see how it would play out. It would be fun, no question. And I believe that it would leave the Mets with a 2012 team that could honestly win the World Series, as well as a great foundation for the next decade. Ah well--we'll just have to keep asking "what if?"