Before I begin, I'd just like to welcome you to my AAOP! I invite you to look around, get comfortable and stay awhile because I am going to take you on the ride of your life (okay, maybe not) through what could be an alternate universe version of the 2012 and beyond New York Metropolitans. In this AAOP, I'm looking to make moves here that can help the 2012 club but the ultimate goal is to bolster the Mets in 2013 and beyond, when it's more likely that they'll have the money and the talent to make a legitimate run at overtaking the Braves and Phillies. NOTE: This may not be the most realistic of AAOPs out there but I'm just trying to be as creative as I can in reconstructing the team.
And now, without further ado, onto the moves...
LF Jason Bay ($16M in 2012/2013, with $17M vesting option or $3M buyout in 2014) to the Chicago White Sox for SP Jake Peavy ($17M in 2012, $22M club option for 2013 or $4M buyout).
We all know about Jason Bay's awful contract and I believe that one of Sandy Alderson's biggest goals this offseason should be to rid himself of it. The problem is that Bay has little trade value, meaning you're not going to be able to save much money by trading him. So, it'd probably be best to try to reallocate that money towards a need. With a shortage of starting pitching on the big league roster, I've seen others suggest John Lackey, who was an outright mess in 2011. Peavy, however, would be a much more palatable option in my mind and what's better is that the contracts line up a bit better than Bay and Lackey. Peavy makes a million more than Bay in 2012 but the commitment is a season less, making the guaranteed monetary commitment $21M for Peavy and $35M for Bay. However, the Mets could certainly send a little money over the White Sox to even that out, an amount which shouldn't count against the team's listed payroll.
So why does this deal happen? White Sox GM Kenny Williams is known as a wheeler and dealer and he's not afraid to make a controversial deal. Plus, it's said that he's looking to deal away starting pitching, as they have an overload of starters on the big league roster, especially if lefty Chris Sale is going to move into the rotation as planned. Peavy's had his own injury issues over the past two seasons, so perhaps Williams would be looking to deal him to open up space. For the Mets, just getting rid of Bay and getting out of the extra season of commitment makes a ton of sense. Peavy has a $22M team option but it can easily be declined at the end of 2012, in essence making the acquisition of Peavy into a one year gamble. You hope that he stays healthy and you hope that his excellent peripherals from 2011 translate into tangible results. If so, then perhaps you've got a truly excellent rotation. If not, then that spot goes to one of the young guys in 2013 and you free up payroll for next offseason's loaded free agent market.
INF Daniel Murphy, INF Jordany Valdespin, OF Fernando Martinez and RHP Domingo Tapia for SP James Shields (Club Options for $7M in 2012, $9M in 2013, $12M in 2014)
Looking back at this deal, I'm going to preface it by saying it would be tough for me to pull the trigger. Murphy and Valdespin are and have the potential to be excellent hitters and this deal torpedoes some of the buildup of infield depth the team has. Plus, if you haven't heard of him, the 20 year old Tapia is a flamethrowing starting pitching prospect who was hitting 100 MPH in Kingsport and ended the year in Brooklyn. That's a lot of potential to give up. But, with other similarly talented pitching prospects like Akeel Morris, Michael Fulmer and Juan Urbina making up the lower levels of the system, I'm okay with dealing Tapia in a deal for the Rays righty Shields, a proven front of the rotation starter. With the wave of pitching prospects that are making their way up through the upper levels of the system, the Mets could use somebody to front the rotation and take the pressure off the developing pitchers and I think Shields would be perfect for that role.
So why does this deal happen? Simply, the Rays have their next ace Matt Moore on the cusp of big league stardom. The stunning lefty tore apart AAA in 2011 and dominated in his few big league outings after a callup. Further, Tampa got a big bounceback season from Shields in 2011 and they may feel that this is the peak of the 29 year old's value, coming off one of the best seasons of his career and may look to move him to capitalize on that. Plus, Murphy can slot in at 1B or DH for them, depending on what they do with Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon, while Valdespin would represent an offensive upgrade on what Tampa has at SS and Tapia is yet another arm for the future added to an already pitching loaded Tampa farm system. And though Martinez is a busted prospect, he's basically a lottery ticket for them, as he's not the focal point of the return. Meanwhile, it's certainly buying high for the Mets, but I believe Shields is equipped to put up a few more seasons similar to this one and with the three club options he has, he's under control at a a very low rate for a pitcher of his caliber. Frankly, if he gets hurt, he won't be an albatross and I think that the value and flexibility of the contract is something to consider here. To top it all off, he's an innings eater who can easily take over Mike Pelfrey's frames at a much higher quality, enabling the Mets to move Pelfrey in a different deal.
SP Mike Pelfrey and Jefry Marte to the Dodgers for RP Kenley Jansen.
So I'll just say it up front but I imagine this one would be a tough sell, even with Ned Coletti still manning the phones in LA. Everyone can see the gigantic strikeout numbers that Jansen put up in 2011 as a 23 year old and be wowed by that. However, the reason why I suggest this is that perhaps there's a chance that the Dodgers don't value Jansen as they should. Why? While Jansen was in the midst of his incredible season, the righty was passed on the depth chart by 25 year old rookie Javy Guerra, who was solid as the Dodgers' closer but likely pitched a bit over his head if you value FIP and strikeout rates and such. You would think that if the Dodgers saw Jansen as their future closer, they would've given him the job at some point during his incredible second half run where in 23 innings, he struck out 48, walked just 6 batters while allowing only 8 hits and 2 runs.
So why does this deal happen? From the Mets standpoint, it's obvious. They're getting a 23 year old possible closer candidate with big time strikeout stuff who's under team control for years. Also, Pelfrey is expendable with the acquisitions of Shields and Peavy, to go along with Santana, Dickey and Niese. For the Dodgers? While I ran down my hunch about why they may not value Jansen correctly, I also looked over their roster and they're probably going to need some starting pitching. Behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly, the Dodgers have a mix of young arms and retreads, along with injured veteran Jon Garland, who's option for 2012 was recently declined and free agent veteran Hiroki Kuroda, who's rumored to be going back to Japan. If neither of those two sign back in LA, Pelfrey could fit in nicely as a back of the rotation innings eater for a team in search of just that. While Marte is a gamble on pure upside, his upside is still quite high at only 20 years old. NOTE: This is probably not the most realistic move out there but don't forget that this was also the same front office that dealt Carlos Santana, the current young star Indians catcher for a mid-30's Casey Blake and then non-tendered Russell Martin to sign Rod Barajas. I can dream, can't I?
Jose Reyes, SS--6 years, $110 million
Sure, there are reasons to be scared off by Jose's injury history but I believe that this is almost as close to a no-brainer as you can get. Jose Reyes is just 28 years old and is right up there with Troy Tulowitzki atop the shortstop rankings across Major League Baseball. There's risk here but isn't there risk with every big contract? Why is it that we can ignore the risk that Jason Bay becomes a replacement level hitter or that Johan Santana might go down with an injury that's torpedoed many careers but when it comes to Reyes, we have to live in fear? I know...it's important to see the obvious risk factors. It's just that Jose is ours and I want him to stay ours, forever and ever, amen.
Joe Nathan, RHP--1 year, $4 million with incentives.
Nathan is a veteran closer and at his peak, was one of the best in baseball. Now at age 37, he'll be 2 years off of Tommy John surgery by opening day and should be recovered enough to assume the Mets closer job. Off of TJS, his fastball velocity dropped about 1 MPH from 2009 and that, along with probably trying to regain fastball command, seemingly led to a lower than normal groundball rate and a home run rate that jumped above his career norms. If his fastball can recover its previous veloctiy and command, I think Nathan would be a solid gamble for the Mets. Nathan also went to High School and College in New York, so perhaps he'd want to return to the area.
Josh Willingham, OF--1 year, $7 million
Willingham will slot into left field and though his defense leaves something to be desired, he gets on base and he hits for power, as evidence by his 29 home runs while playing half his games in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum. Willingham will likely be an upgrade on Bay for a fraction of the price and if he isn't, then the Mets should have Captain Kirk Nieuwenhuis waiting in the wings to take over. The only problem with Willingham is that he projects to be a Type A free agent. However, weighing between the offensive boost he'd give and the fact that the Mets would only lose their 2nd round pick, I think I'm okay with this signing and to top it all off, the Mets would likely gain a first rounder in a year should he have a good season and walk away as a free agent. Win win win.
Endy Chavez, OF--1 year, $2.5 million
Besides being a New York Mets folk hero, Endy Chavez is an excellent defensive outfielder and with a starting outfield comprised of Willingham, Pagan and Duda, the Mets will need all the late inning defensive help they can get. Endy would be a great choice for an extra outfielder and his bat is more potent than Jason Pridie's. While this is partially a sentimental signing, I think it also makes great baseball sense to acquire an outfielder like Endy who can play defense with the best of them and give Pagan a rest without having to lose much with the bat or the glove.
Jose Molina, C--1 year, $1.3 million
The middle catching Molina brother has always been just a backup but he's also always been an excellent defensive catcher. While his bat is nothing to excited about, his glove and arm are a gigantic leap over Ronny Paulino's and his batting skills are less anemic than 3rd string catcher Mike Nickeas.
Angel Pagan, OF--Re-signed at 1 year, 4.5 million
I toyed with letting Angel go but in the end, I think one more year of Pagan is preferable to the other free agent options on the market. There's also the very real chance that he can somewhat replicate his 2010 season, which would make him nice trade bait at July's trade deadline or potentially a Type A or B free agent after the season, should the compensation system still be in place a year from now.
Taylor Buchholz, RP--Re-signed at 1 year, $800,000
Before his issues with arm fatigue (and later depression) cropped up, Buchholz looked to be a steal of a signing, averaging a strikeout per inning through his 26 innings of April and May work. If Buchholz has worked his issues with depression out, he would be a real asset in the 7th inning in front of Jansen and Nathan, so I re-signed him to a one year deal with a slight raise from 2011.
Ronny Paulino, C--Non-tendered
Sorry, Ronny. Your defense wasn't very good and your offense was relatively poor outside of those first couple of weeks of your season, which were likely BABIP-induced. Jose Molina isn't much of a hitter but he's a much better defender than you are. See ya!
D.J. Carrasco, RP--Released
It was nice knowing you, DJ! You weren't technically a non-tender candidate since you had a guaranteed contract taking the place of your last year of arbitration, but I'll just throw you in here anyway. Take it as a consequence of your terrible pitching.
The 2012 Opening Day Roster
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2012 (and beyond) Salary Commitments
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In the end, this is a much improved team for 2012 and the long haul. The rotation, especially, is a lot better than last season's, as Capuano, Gee and Pelfrey are replaced by Shields, Santana and Peavy. Santana and Peavy are both injury risks but you've got Dillon Gee and Chris Schwinden behind them to fill in if needed and Familia and Harvey should hopefully be ready later in the season. There is also some name cache brought in to try to help increase interest in the team. The lineup is a little weak at the bottom with Tejada and Thole but Willingham should be an improvement over Bay for less money (and I'll admit that I considered Carlos Beltran for RF, but that likely would've eaten up too much of the cash that I used on the fringes of the team). I also spent time considering a David Wright for Drew Pomeranz/Nolan Arenado swap, along with signing Aramis Ramirez to replace him but ultimately decided that with Shields in tow, I'd rather try to bank on a David Wright comeback in 2012 with the adjusted fences.
A lot of this team's success would obviously depend on the rotation and specifically on what Peavy and Santana end up being but the offense should be solid, the bullpen should be much improved and there aren't many long term commitments here, aside from Reyes, Wright and Santana, so things can continue to stay fluid for next season's free agent market, which looks like it's shaping up to be a good one.
Before I close out, I'd just like to mention that my headline references Champtionships, RINGZ and an EDGE and I would be remiss to say that I believe that this team, as I've constructed it, could be a playoff caliber club. If not, 2013 could be even better considering the arrival of Harvey, Familia and Mejia, among others. Perhaps we'll win a ring by that point and be treated to Ford's new series of Edge commercials, featuring everyone's favorite knuckleballer R.A. Dickey!
Dickey with his cool, panoramic vista roof.
Hey! It's Dickey's Ford Challenge! Have you seen his outtakes yet?
Dickey's got an edge!
And that's it! Thanks for reading!