Last year, I argued that 2011 should be treated as a dry run for 2012. My plan had three goals: Figure out which players were assets and which were phantoms; get fiscally well; and build a roster which could be maintained in 2012. That plan won second place in this contest and, to a large degree (well, if you blur your eyes a bit) was similar to the plan followed by Sandy Alderson and company.
This is the second part of that plan. And it's one Sandy Alderson probably won't follow -- "why" will be made obvious in a moment or two.
I don’t see us seriously contending in 2012, especially not with the $110MM payroll we will likely have. (That said, my team could surprise a few people.) I do, however, see a huge opportunity to get well, quickly, and be a contender in 2013. We do this in three ways:
- Play to the strengths of the farm system -- the four solid arms with 2012-13 ETAs -- and increase that strength.
- Slay sacred cows. The easiest way to get better is to do the things that our heads say are right but our hearts and stomachs can’t bear to fathom.
- Give 2013 a chance to be awesome by giving young guys a chance to shine.
How do I do it?
Hit the jump.
1) Jason Bay and Johan Santana, and $10MM in both 2012 and 2013 to Boston for Carl Crawford, SP Alex Wilson, and $6MM in each of 2014-2017.
Your first reaction is probably “What the what?” or something to that effect. I don’t even know if MLB has ever seen a deal where team A pays team B for a few years, and then it switches.
From the Red Sox’s perspective, they’re giving up Crawford (2011 fWAR of 0.2; brefWAR 0.0), which is part of the point. He’s a picture-perfect scapegoat for the collapse: a guy who came in with a crazy contract and performed like a replacement player. He’s already been badmouthed by the owner, he looks defensively lost in front of the Monster (and defense is supposed to be his strong point), and he’s a lefty hitting bat on a team that could use a right handed bat. He is also owed $122 million over the next six years -- six years beginning with seasonal age 30.
The Red Sox also need a starting pitcher -- and there isn’t much out there on the free agent wires. CC Sabathia will almost certainly return to the Bronx and CJ Wilson, well, he probably isn’t worth the six year, $100MM contract he can command. Besides, do the Red Sox really want to be paying Crawford $20.5MM and Wilson $18MM in 2015? Doubtful.
Instead, I’m proposing that the Red Sox exchange Crawford’s $122MM for Bay and Johan’s collective $90MM (assuming neither option vests, and both are bought out). With the money changing hands, not discounting future payments, the Red Sox save $28 million over the course of the next six years. Obviously, that savings evaporates if they allow Bay’s or Santana’s option to vest, but that’s probably a good problem for them to have.
But more importantly, look at 2012. The Red Sox get Bay (2011: 0.7 fWAR, 0.6 brefWAR) to replace Crawford. Bay was somewhat successful in front of the Monster in 2008-9, grading out to be about replacement level or slightly less, which is fine. He also crushed the ball there, which, well, he isn’t doing at Citi. While most of that is probably a function of him and not the ballpark, maybe there is hope.
Santana is a different story, but still one of hope. He last pitched in 2010, but put up 3.5 fWAR. His injury may preclude that -- but it may not. And he is certainly capable of putting up 5+ fWAR in a full season. There is definitely risk here for them, but let’s not go crazy and say that anything Santana gives is gravy. He is expected to enter Spring Training with a clean bill of health, and is only at seasonal age 32.
Doing the math for the Red Sox -- because the math matters here -- they currently owe Crawford $19.5MM next year. Bay ($16MM) and Santana ($24MM) are together owed $40MM, but I have the Mets picking up a quarter of that. Say a marginal win is worth $4MM. The Red Sox end up paying $10.5MM here more than they would with only Crawford. This could be a big short-term win from them, and one which simultaneously (a) saves them money while (b) dropping a long-term obligation to a really big question mark.
But what about the Mets?
I don’t really think Alderson will take on a six year, $122 million contract ($118 with the money changing hands) with the name “Carl Crawford” at the bottom. But here’s why he should.
a) Crawford’s game suits CitiField well, especially if he can play RF. Guys who can hit triples do well here, much better than those whose long flies die in our expansive outfields. Basically, Crawford would have a good chance at rebounding here -- much better than Bay ever will. And if he can play RF, Lucas Duda moves to LF, where he’s better suited. Bay can’t do that.
b) The Mets are financially screwed, but hopefully, that’s a short term problem. Or, rather, that’s two short term problems: (i) no cash because of Madoff and the fact that the team has sucked recently and (ii) a lot of expenses with all these guys with eight figure contracts. This trade fixes the short term problem, freeing up $10.5MM in budget space in each of the next two years. If we assume a $110MM budget total, that’s nearly 10%.
In fact, I prefer to look this trade as the Mets getting three things. First, they get SP Alex Wilson, a marginal prospect in the Red Sox system who would look pretty solid in ours -- an additional arm (albeit lesser) to add to Wheeler, Harvey, Mejia, and Familia. This isn’t trivial, because TINSTAAPP, after all.
Second, they get a $25 million dollar loan. Bay and Santana over the next two years cost $84.5 million. Crawford is owed $39.5 million. The Mets pick up $20MM of the difference, saving $25 million over those two years.
And finally, they get Carl Crawford for six years -- and, including interest on the “loan” above -- he only costs them $50MM after subtracting out the savings. He’s free in 2012-2013 (as we’re relieved of more salary than he is owed). In 2014, he costs $20.25MM, but subtract out Bay and Santana’s buyouts ($9MM total) and the $6MM the Red Sox pay, and it’s a pretty great $5.25MM. After that, he’s basically on a three year, $44.25MM contract, because of the money coming back from Boston. Bad, but not terrible, even if he remains a pumpkin.
2) Resign Jose Reyes, 5 years, $85 million.
I’d go $105/6. Maybe $110/6 or more, but no more than $17MM for 2012. I think Reyes and Crawford, in CitiField as-is, could be pretty special. I am openly hoping for a hometown discount here.
3) Trade David Wright and Mike Pelfrey to Colorado for Wilin Rosario, Drew Pomeranz, and Dexter Fowler.
Your first reaction is probably “What the what?” or something to that effect. (Again.) After all, I just cleared a good amount of salary space; why clear more?
Answer: This isn’t a salary dump. It’s market opportunism.
The starting pitching market is very weak (see this article and search for “early indications”). Pelfrey is not in the team’s long-term plans, and should be moved if possible. Colorado will likely be on the lookout for one.
Wright is a sought-after commodity. Both Colorado and Arizona are reportedly interested, and you could see a slew of others also throw their hats into the ring. On the other hand, he’s potentially no longer the player he was in 2008, and he’s a bad defensive third baseman who is getting worse there. We also have a decent, cheap replacement in Daniel Murphy -- who just happens to be one of the team’s best bats, but lacking a position. This solves that problem.
Pomeranz and Rosario are both high profile, top of list prospects -- and, as it happens, at positions where the Mets are somewhat weak. (Well, at least Rosario is; and it’s always nice to have a SP prospect on the horizon.) I don’t really want Fowler, but he could work well in CF, and his triples suggest he could be really good at Citi; he’s available and cheap; has potential still; and our current front office seems low on Angel Pagan.
With Pelfrey gone in 2013 -- that’s a given, right? -- we effectively end up with three guys who can be big parts of the 2013 team for Wright. And Wright can leave as a free agent after 2013. As a bonus, we free up a lot more payroll, but again, that’s not the thrust of the trade.
It does leave us with a problem, though: without Santana or Pelfrey, we kind of need some pitching.
4) Sign Adam Wainright to a deal similar to Chris Capuano’s, but better (for him): $3MM guaranteed, up to $9MM if he hits certain incentives, $9MM vesting option with a buyout of $1MM which vests if he hits $7MM in incentives in 2012.
OR Sign Paul Maholm, one year, $7.5MM, with team option of $9MM/$500k buyout. Or something like that.
I like these better than a two year, $18MM deal for Chris Capuano, for a few reasons. One, these guys are better than Capuano. Two, I don’t want Chris Capuano earning $9MM on the Mets in 2013 when we have a bunch of prospects ready and Dickey and Niese already taking up two spots. Basic stuff.
6) Sign Jonathan Broxton, one year, $5MM. Or maybe a lower base with a lot of incentives, but let’s say it costs the team $5MM. Add a team option for 2013 in there too.
7) Trade Angel Pagan to SF for Jonathan Sanchez. Throw in Josh Satin or someone like that if you have to.
I think the throw-in here is probably necessary, and will have to be better than Satin too, but the framework is here. Pagan is a spare part with Fowler on board; Sanchez has been the subject of rumors for years and like Pagan is a non-tender candidate. I expect Sanchez will earn about $6MM.
8) Re-sign Miguel Batista, 1 year, $1MM, to play the role of Darren Oliver while providing some SP flexibility. Non-tender or trade Ronny Paulino.
Lineup (salaries in millions):
SS Reyes ($17)
RF Crawford ($19.5)
3B Murphy ($0.5)
1B Davis ($0.5)
LF Duda ($0.5)
CF Fowler ($2.5)
C Thole ($0.5)
2B Tejada ($0.5)
2B/3B Justin Turner (I guess SS too, as Tejada would shift over as needed) ($0.5)
1B/Corner OF/RH bat Nick Evans ($0.5)
C Mike Nickeas ($0.5)
OF Jason Pridie (CF placeholder for Cap’n Kirk) ($0.5)
UT Mike Baxter (bats left) ($0.5)
Cost breakdown: $10MM to Boston, $41.5MM lineup, $2.5MM bench, $20.25MM rotation, $10.5MM bullpen.
Total cost: $84.75 million. Holy cow, I saved a lot of money. SHAKE SHACK FOR ALL!
What about 2013? Here are the assets with an ETA of 2012 or 2013:
- CF Cap’n Kirk -- could take over for any of the other three if they suck, but most likely fills the super-sub OF role well. Could very easily see him taking Jason Pridie’s spot on Opening Day (if the team is OK with him not playing every day) and/or taking Dexter Fowler’s job by June, or otherwise making the team upon first injury.
- C Wilin Rosario -- Probably is the starting catcher by end of year, moving Thole to the bench.
- 2B Reese Havens -- If he works out, Tejada becomes a great trade piece. If he maintains his Fernando Martinez Legacy (“FML”) of injuries, we’re covered.
- 3B Zach Lutz -- Not really a prospect (entering age 26 season) but a good 3B backup in the system even if we trade Satin.
- 2B/SS Jordany Valdespin -- See Reese Havens.
- OF Fernando Martinez -- I have no idea. Really. Seems like I could include him in a deal (to the Red Sox? Giants?) if I had to. Has an option left, though, so I’m not going to worry about it.
- Drew Pomeranz: ETA July 2012, replacing Gee or, more likely, filling in for an injury.
- Alex Wilson: ETA: July 2012, see Pomeranz but less so. May find his way to a late-inning bullpen role if he can’t differentiate his changeup from his fastball more.
- Jennry Mejia: ETA: Spring 2013. Let him use his last option year getting back from Tommy John.
- Jeurys Familiar: ETA 2013. Others list his ETA as 2012, but he’s more a toolsy thrower than a pitcher still, so I’d give him a full year in AAA.
- Matt Harvey: ETA September 2012. Part of the reason I want Wilson in the Johan/Bay deal is to give the team another potential SP candidate in the minors, buying Harvey some extra time.
- Zach Wheeler: ETA mid-2013. You know, for the playoff push.