Most Mets fans think our team is a few shrewd moves away from being a "contender." I’m going to give you the bad news first: the Mets haven’t won 80 games in three seasons. The worst news is that only company they keep includes four teams associated with mediocrity (Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Pittsburgh.)
Wait, what was the good news again? Sandy Alderson.
I have the utmost faith in Sandy and his superpowers.
The truth is that this team isn’t as far off as the four teams previously mentioned. We have solid players in their prime and guys who we hope aren’t too far from that coveted break-out season. My plan is to fill holes with cheap, undervalued players and spend as little money as possible. It'll take good years from a lot of guys, and that's not usually going to happen, but ya gotta believe!
Before I start, it’s time for some goal-setting! I’ll cover individual players later, but this is pretty simple: I want a team that will win 85 games. That’s what I consider a "contender" for this team. I want the Mets to be in the race in September. Once we get to that part of the season, any number of events could shake up the league and allow us to sneak into the playoffs.
I plan tendering contracts to Manny Acosta, Angel Pagan, and Taylor Buchholz. I like Mike Pelfrey, yadda yadda, the truth is I don’t want to spend 5-6 million on a player of his caliber. I wanted to keep him until recently, but I can’t allow it. Pagan and Acosta are no-brainers. I’ll take a flier on Buchholz, if he plays he can be good. I’m going to pass on Paulino for Ramon Castro for a similar price mainly for sentimental reasons, but he should be inconsequential to how the season plays out.
Unlike most, I’m not a trade guru. I don’t think we have much of a chance to get anything worthwhile back for Jason Bay. I looked for a good match and an obvious one is the Rays. They need a bat, we need pitching. Here’s my attempt, and it’s not for the usual suspects:
INF Ruben Tejada, OF Fernando Martinez, INF Jordany Valdespin and LHP Mark Cohoon for LHP Jake McGee and INF Sean Rodriguez
It’s hard to know what spare parts may get a deal done and perhaps any trade with the Rays is better suited to acquire James Shields or Jeff Niemann, but I like Jake McGee. He’s fallen off the radar as a starter for the Rays and has been projected for the Rays' bullpen in 2012. They’re viewing him as the closer of the future, but lefties with his stuff should be in the rotation. Fortunately for the Mets, the Rays just have no use for him in the rotation. Turning back around and making McGee a starter means he’ll start the season in AAA., but it won't be a huge shock considering he pitched 100 solid innings in AA in 2010. His future sits somewhere between a late-inning reliever and frontline starter, but at the very least McGee is already a strong bullpen arm. He's been ranked as high as 15 by Baseball America.
Sean Rodriguez is a capable infielder and will fill in when needed, hopefully not very much.
As for the parts we're giving away, the Rays probably favor Tejada's skills to those of Reid Brignac or Rodriguez and they need to get their shortstop production up to mediocre. Unless Tejada can't hit .240, he should be an upgrade to those they gave time to last season. Valdespin is an intriguing player, but with the guys we have in the bigs and minors, someone is the odd-man out. If this move weren't made, I'd probably be trading him away next offseason anyway. F! is still someone who I want to see stuff from, but not with our organization.
The Offseason to sign Jose Reyes
The most important thing for the Mets to do is resign Jose Reyes. Simple.
Most aren’t willing to give Jose 7 years, but I think he’s as likely to be playing in year 7 as in year 6 of the deal, and the extra year should sweeten things up for Jose. Part of my plan was to save money, and one big reason is Jose. I hope a largely front-loaded deal will be good for him, because I know it will be essential to have more payroll flexibility in the upcoming years (a tiny bit more each year), far more important than during this offseason.
FA Signings: Position Players
Endy Chavez: 2/4
-500K per 150 PA
-500K per 50 GP
Ramon Castro: 1/1.3
Well, these are the only guys I’m going with in free agency. I’m a boring guy, what can I say? But, Endy Chavez is still an underrated player and Ramon Castro can still hit. And I like them. And they'll always be Mets.
FA Signings: Pitchers
Joe Nathan: 1/5
-750K per 20 IP
Takashi Saito: 1/2
Rich Harden: 1/2.5
-750K per 50 IP
-1.5M Base Salary should he make the opening day roster
-750K per 50 IP
Joel Zumaya: Minor League Contract
-3M Base Salary should he make the opening day roster
-750K per 20 IP
Oliver Perez: Minor League Contract
-Oh what the hell?
I have long fought for the anti-closer brigade, but recently I’ve come around to the idea that there is something to the closer role, i.e. the role that gives one guy the 9th inning. I wish the relief ace idea would work, but it would probably take a very unique type of pitcher, one that I don’t think we have. You expect to pay a premium for elite relievers, and I thought about Papelbon and K-Rod, but I know they’ll be too expensive. I went with Joe Nathan here for the 9th inning role, likely between 6 and 7 million.
My philosophy with the starting pitching this offseason is to play it like the Yankees. They got lucky with Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, maybe we will too! Actually, all of these guys are candidates to have a nice year. If Cook pitches well he’s Pelfrey, Davis is comparable to Capuano, and Willis looked pretty good last season. I know how risky this is because all of these guys could end up being terrible or hurt, but I don’t want to spend a boatload on CJ Wilson because a 4-5 year deal looks pretty bad. I decided to give these guys a chance to make the team, but I’m also unsure how likely it would be that a group of guys would all agree to try out for a few spots, but this is my AAOP and that’s the way it’s gotta be.
Even though the biggest position player signing was Endy Chavez, someone expected to be a 4th or 5th outfielder, I’m going to make him my starting center fielder. I know, it’s crazy, he hasn’t been a starter since he was with the Expos, but I believe this would be the best way to take advantage of the platoon splits Mets players have.
These are career stats. Bay was much worse last year against righties, and as his skills decline I’d guess his splits would become more severe. Even if Endy only hit to career norms (and he's been incredibly consistent for years) I believe his defense would make up for the difference and he'd be a solid player. None of these should be strict platoons. Try to get Duda a day off against lefties: put Evans in right. Lefty starter: play Bay over Pagan every once in a while. Play a game with Pagan in center and Endy as a defensive replacement for whoever takes his place in the lineup. Giving Pagan less time in center and having Endy back gives us the potential for two plus defenders to help Duda out, and we also take better advantage of Bay’s and Evans’ bat.
Everything is here.
I gave the last spot to Dontrelle Willis, who I feel is the best of the guys I brought in. The only reason Gee made the rotation over Willis is because Gee apparently takes a long time to warm up. I'm hoping he can get over that, though.
I think this team will win more than 80 games, breaking our three-year drought of finishing just below .500! I'm optimistic it could compete for the playoffs, but this idea to give Endy 500-ish PAs is risky, but I think trying to control platoon splits and getting Pagan back to left field will help maximize a lot of out players' strengths. Counting on a bunch of question marks for the rotation is risky as well, but we'll hit on one of them. I feel good about my goal of 85 wins. Thanks for reading!
There are 12 million or more in incentives in this plan, but I’d be shocked if more than, well, if the plan comes to fruition, 8-9 million in incentives will likely be handed out., mainly given to Endy and Nathan.
The 40-man roster currently sits at 36. One or more of the guys headed to the minors may be added at the beginning of the season or later on. Guys like Schwinden and Stinson are DFA candidates. This should leave enough spots for the guys who absolutely need to be put on the 40-man: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, and Reese Havens, and Cesar Puello. One of them may have to be sacrificed, and I'll go with N! as the first man off the list. I'll take my chances on the rest.
WAR projections are mine. I tried to be conservative, but sometimes things like that are influenced by (my) excitement!