This is not a plan to blow up the team, trade the core, or have a firesale and rebuild. This is a team that has the talent to contend, and it has to contend so we don't have another season where the team loses money. If this team has another poor season financially there is the possibility of an even lower payroll in 2013 and that would truly be a case for rebuilding the team. All it really needs though is to fill a few holes creatively and we'll find the anti-venom for that pesky snakebite that has been plaguing the team for the past few years. I'll start by describing the major moves the team needs to make then I'll outline the lineup and rotation.
But first I'll let Samuel L. Dickey kick things off.
"Enough is enough! I have had it with these %$#@ snakes on this #@%$ plane! Everybody strap in. I'm about to open some $%@# windows!"
Jose Reyes: I'm sorry Mr. Wilpon, but Jose Reyes is going to get Crawford Money, just maybe not all the years that Crawford got. It comes down to wether you think the team can compete within the next year or two or if you just want to rebuild. I think this team can compete even if you can only get 130-140 games out of Reyes each season due to regular rest and some injuries. He has shown this year that he ultimately has the potential to put up very good numbers like he has throughout his career. As for the contract, it would have to be backloaded slightly to give the team the flexibility it needs for this year and next. I would give Jose a $96M contract over 5 years with an option for a sixth year at an additional $21M. The breakdown is as follows: 2012 $16M; 2013 $18M; 2014 $20M; 2015 $21M; 2016 $21M; 2017 $21M Team option that vests with 600 PA in 2016 or 1000 PA in 2015-2016. This breakdown is very similar to the Crawford deal minus a year and if Reyes does get injured down the line this would be the proper situation to include the ever frightening vest. The first two years gives the team a little flexibility until the contracts of Santana and Bay expire.
The next hole the team needs to fill is the pitching. The starting pitching could improve with the return of Santana, but with his effectiveness still uncertain I propose to add another starter to add some depth in case of injuries. This is not the year to rush the young arms again however. Harvey, Familia, Mejia, and Wheeler still have something left to prove in the minors and should remain there all year and maybe some of them could get a cup of coffee in September and be ready for 2013. What a fun rotation that is looking like!
Chris Capuano: I would let Capuano go as he is going to want considerably more money and multiple years. The point of a scrapheap arm like Capuano is to get as much as you can from him for very little money. We achieved that and there should be no reason to pay any more for a player who is only one year removed from being high risk.
Mike Pelfrey: I would offer arbitration to Pelfrey as he has been a league average innings eater and someone who we know exactly what he is with no risk involved. He is a solid #4-5 starter and I have a theory that when the pitching around him improves so will he. Pelfrey also has the potential to improve his perception to where he might become a useful trade chip by midsummer especially if one of Mejia, Harvey, or Familia has proven ready for a callup.
The Mets are not in a position to pay for a free agent pitcher and thanks to some research by Patrick Flood it almost never seems to be worth it anyway. Luebke is a lefty strikeout pitcher with just over a year of service time who has been a starter and reliever in the majors and has been pretty dominant so far (3.38 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 9.84 K/9). He would likely be the Padre's #2 starter behind Mat Latos next year. While San Diego would probably not be very interested in trading him, they would be interested in getting someone to replace Orlando Hudson, and get some more offense and a decent young pitcher in return. Valdespin, Lagares, and Schwinden are at their highest trade value after the seasons they each had. Valdespin probably has the highest ceiling, but he would be blocked by Reyes at short and Tejada/Murphy at second. Plus while he performed well last season, it has been said that he is still very raw, and might not ever reach his full potential. Lagares is one of many Mets outfield prospects and hit out of his mind last year, but was very BABIP-y and did not walk much. Schwinden pitched well in September and could be a major league starter, but doesn't have near the upside of Luebke. I'd also throw in one of our many utility men to sweeten the deal. I decided to send Evans and give Josh Satin a shot on the Major League bench. I suppose if you don't think this trade would happen you could substitute Murphy for Evans, but then I feel like we're almost giving up too much.
The only concern about this rotation is how many innings could Santana and Luebke put together. Luebke has never pitched more than 140 IP in a season and Santana is coming off of a year of rehab. Thankfully the pitching depth at AAA would get a great boost with Gee stockpiled there. Gee proved to be an acceptable Major League pitcher, but he developed control problems through the year that he could use to work on in AAA that are a big deal for a soft tossing pitcher like him. He would be starting there waiting for when the team needs him.
The Bullpen needs some new blood as most of the pieces we have were a part of the terribleness that was the 2011 bullpen. The useable parts include Bobby Parnell, Manny Acosta, and Tim Byrdak. Beato and Stinson are young enough that they could both use a little more work in the minors, but would provide some good depth in case of injuries. Carrasco gets the Toyota Irrigation treatment and gets stashed in the Minors until he proves he can not suck or we really need a warm body.
Taylor Buchholz: I would give Buchholz the exact same offer as last year as a cheap reliever with some potential who is apparently healthy if he has dealt with his demons.
Darren Oliver: The pen needs a second lefty arm and one who can also pitch to both sides. Oliver is certainly old at 41 and would hopefully not cost more than a $2M one year deal which would be a pay cut for him. However despite being old he has been remarkably consistent posting good K/BB ratios and supressing the HR for the past 5 seasons.
Joel Peralta: He can strike out a good number and walks very few. For some reason Peralta has never commanded a ton of money and could hopefully be another one year deal to solidify the pen. Also I believe Peralta could be the type of pitcher who could close if given the opportunity. That would only be if the next guy on my list proves he can't close any more though.
Jonathan Broxton: He's a good bet to not be resigned by LA and coming off an injured/ineffective season he could be had for a cheap incentive laden deal. Broxton has the stuff to strike out the world while his control has never been great but has taken a turn for the worse with bone spurs in his elbow. This is not that serious an injury though and I would expect him to return to form.
The position players would all be mostly the same except for the outfield.
Angel Pagan: I ultimately would non-tender him. He has had one and a half good seasons, which does not necessarily guarantee that he will be worth the $5M that he would potentially make. There is a very slight possibility that we could still try to resign Pagan after non-tendering him, but I think Pagan would probably try to look elsewhere.
Grady Sizemore: The Indian's all-star CF is a good bet to not have his option picked up. He has been injured the past couple of seasons and did not play very well this season when he was on the field. Given his injuries I think he could be had for around $3M maybe with some incentives. This is comparable to the $4M the Yankees paid for a similar caliber player in Russell Martin. Sizemore could be a star again if he can stay healthy and also if Dave Hudgens can work some magic and get him to stop striking out as much as he did last year. The power is still there though as seen in his 10 HR in 71 games. I should add that my hope would be that Nieuwenhuis only needs a month or two back at AAA to be ready to step in in case of an injury.
Endy Chavez: Got to bring back the fan favorite. With Grady's health in question Endy would be a great backup as he has played awesome for Texas this year. Endy has always been a great defender with a solid bat and could be relied upon to start for stretches
The rest of the outfield would still be Bay in left and Duda in right. The biggest concern for Alderson this season in my opinion is to try to trade Bay. I don't care what his trade value is or how well the team is playing with him. I don't want to pay him $18M for possibly two more years when we could have Duda in a more suitable position in LF and Nieuwenhuis taking over RF. I don't think this outfield would be a downgrade at all, and it has the potential to be a huge upgrade from last year.
As for the infield you have to have Daniel Murphy's bat at 2B for most of the starts. I would have Ruben Tejada on the bench as Murphy's defensive replacement/platoon and to give Reyes regular rest. The rest of the bench would be Turner, Satin, and get another cheap catcher like Kelly Shoppach who would be primarily pinch hitters although Satin could give Ike or Wright a day off and play some outfield. Turner could take a couple starts at 2B to allow Murphy to spell Wright. This bench full of young players should give the Mets all the positional flexibility they need while making sure that we don't give any more AB's to Willie Harris.
The following are the dollar figures broken up into respective groups, and projected WAR values which may be a little biased in some areas.
Johan Santana - 24M
Jason Bay - 18.1M
David Wright - 15.3M
RA Dickey - 4.8M
DJ Carrasco - 1.2M
Tim Byrdak - 1.5M
Ike Davis - .45M
Josh Thole - .45M
Daniel Murphy - .45M
Lucas Duda - .43M
Justin Turner - .43M
Jon Niese - .45M
Dillon Gee - .43M
Bobby Parnell - .45M
Pedro Beato - .43M
Josh Satin - .43M
Mike Pelfrey - 5M
Taylor Buchholz - 1M
Manny Acosta - 1M
Jose Reyes - 16M (96M 5yr w/20M option for 2017 or 5M buyout)
Grady Sizemore - 3M (1 year)
Endy Chavez - 2M (1 year)
Kelly Shoppach - 2.5M (1 year)
Jonathan Broxton - 1.5M (1 year with incentives up to 3M)
Joel Peralta - 1.5M (1 year)
Darren Oliver - 2M (1 year)
Cory Luebke - .45M
Total Payroll - $106.5M
Lineup WAR (projected)
C Thole 1.5
1B Davis 4
2B Murphy 3
3B Wright 4
SS Reyes 5
LF Bay 2
CF Sizemore 3
RF Duda 2.5
L - Santana 2.5
R - Dickey 3
L - Niese 3
L - Luebke 3
R - Pelfrey 1
R - Parnell
R - Acosta
R - Buchholz
R - Peralta
L - Byrdak
L - Oliver
R - Broxton
Projected WINZ - 42.5 WAR + 43.5 Base = 86 Not a bad starting point for some rough WAR estimates. This is a team that could definitely outperform that win total, and it would be an exciting precursor to a championship caliber team in 2013. It has some players on it with the potential to be "snakebit", but thats why you only sign them to short inexpensive contracts otherwise known as "anti-venom" (of course I don't think Reyes is snakebit. Pay the man!). Hopefully this team will win enough games and draw enough people that the Mets will not lose money on another season and payroll can go back up because next year you know who we will have to resign. That's right Mr. Wilpon, our SUPERSTAR third baseman!