Step 1: Pay the Man
A 12-Step Plan for Recovery
Let me start by saying that I know very little about other teams, their finances, their prospects, and their players, so I'm going to cheat a little bit. Judging from the other AAOPs I've read, cheating reality is the accepted norm. This one won't be pretty, and these Mets won't be winning the World Series, but it's a step in the right direction (followed by a stabbing pain and a stint on the DL).
I'm not going to do any crazy trades or big free agent signings (though I have stolen liberally from other AAOPs). With enough big contracts on the books for a couple more years and (hopefully) some pitching help due in a year or two, 2012 is going to be an audition year to determine who stays and who goes. And that's the last serious paragraph in this plan.
Re-sign Jose Reyes for $111 million over 6 years (17/18/19/20/19/18) with a team option for $22 million that, if exercised, would require Fred Wilpon to refer to Reyes as "J-Craw" for the entire season (we'll give him a $9 million discount due to financial hardship, and there should probably be a buyout in there somewhere, but who's counting?). The team option becomes a $15 million player option if the Wilpons sell the team before the end of the contract, with a stipulation that the stadium gift shop sell a special "Jose's Werth It" t-shirt during the regular season.
Step 2: Bad Contract Swap-o-rama
Jason Bay gets dealt to whoever takes him for whatever bad contract will leave the team paying the same amount as Bay's expected $18.1 million 2012 salary. Which bad contract doesn't matter because whatever player we get will be injured in Spring Training and will miss the entire season, but let's say Peavy or Lackey. Or Bay sits on the bench, gets injured himself, or whatever. The bottom line is that Bay is out of Left Field and his money goes into a black hole. We'll assume he isn't on the bench to free up a roster spot.
Step 3: Tender or Non?
Pagan and Pelfrey, yes for $5 million each. Paulino no. Everyone else who can be back cheap will be back at the expected price because I'm lazy. Pelfrey and non-Paulino will be dealt with in Steps 6 and 4, respectively. Pagan gets another chance because nothing else out there looks that much better for the money, might as well see what he's got. When he falters and/or suffers a concussion when colliding with David Wright and/or Daniel Murphy, Nieuwenhuis or someone else in the minors gets a call-up.
Step 4: Discount Shopping
Jonathan Broxton for $3 million and Kelly Shoppach for $1.5 million. Broxton will be in the mix for closer with Parnell and more (see Step 6), with the role eventually falling to... Manny Acosta. Shoppach's contract will become $2.5 million with incentives that will be met when Josh Thole is out for the season after a collision (on defense) with Buster Posey in June. Thole will walk away apparently uninjured, but a precautionary MRI will reveal an unrelated injury that requires immediate surgery, which Thole will get six weeks later after the Mets' new "medical staff" (see Step 5) tells him to "just walk it off." Posey is also injured on the play, but is still elected to start the All-Star game. He attends the event in a protective boot and will be reevaluated in three weeks.
Step 5: Let's Get Medical
Trade the medical staff to the Giants for a bag of practice balls, an old pitching machine, a portable "reading room," and a talking hot tub. It seems that the Giants need help keeping Beltran healthy after re-signing him for $23 million over two years (immediately followed by a DL stint starting in Spring Training and lasting a couple of weeks into the regular season), so it's the Mets Medical Staff to the rescue! The talking hot tub is made the interim medical staff until a replacement can be assembled at the All-Star break.
Step 6: All-Star Game
Since I need some AL All-Stars on the team (I have my reasons), we'll work a sneaky and underhanded deal with the Mariners to get Brandon League and Michael Pineda. The first offer will be Mike Pelfrey and Chris Schwinden, but the team will leak word that Justin Turner is the current favorite to be the 2012 starting second baseman because the Mets' leadership still isn't convinced that Tejada can hit at the major league level and Murphy is seen as a defensive liability and injury risk. When the Mariners press for more, someone lets it slip that Turner could be added, though it would create tension in the front office. Seattle insists on it and presses their advantage for more, while another leak suggests internal conflict over whether or not Fernando Martinez should be untouchable, with an unnamed source stating that he could be available with enough arm-twisting. Seattle twists away and Martinez completes the trade. The Mets cannot confirm or deny that they created a Director of Information Management position in the offseason.
Step 6: Shuffling the Deck
Move David Wright to Left Field, put Daniel Murphy at Third Base. No, scratch that, that would never work. Wright and Murphy are assigned to a new position called 3LBF (or L3FB) and play rock-paper-scissors to decide who plays where each inning. This is soon abandoned after racking up 32 errors in the first 13 games. Murphy and Wright quickly elect to wear helmets in the field, a la Olerud.
Step 7: Second Chances and First-Evers
Chris Young is signed to a $1.5 million one-year deal with Infinity Bazillion dollars in incentives that won't be met (the dollars here matter as much as the points on Whose Line is it Anyway?, the real one, not the watered-down Drew Carey version); Dillon Gee's number is kept on speed-dial. Young is sharp in his first start, going 7 innings and giving up only two runs, one earned and one on an error by 3LBF when Wright and Murphy couldn't figure out where they were supposed to be playing. In his second start, Young throws the first-ever Mets no-hitter in a 3-2 nailbiter with three walks, one HBP, and five batters reaching on errors. Wright and Murphy make the last out with the bases loaded when they trap a pop fly to shallow left field between their gloves. The ball and gloves are enshrined in Cooperstown. Young is lost for the season two days later when he trips and falls while eating an ice cream cone in Central Park, impaling his hand on a fallen tree limb. This will be only the second strangest injury in MLB this season.
Step 8: No Relief in Sight
D.J. Carrasco is sent to the minors, freeing up a spot for, um, let's say Danny Herrera. Whatever. He has a 1.2 ERA in 41.2 IP for Buffalo when he gets called up to fill in for Taylor Bucholz, who is recovering from a minor hot tub electrocution. He is sent back down after one appearance and 0.0 IP.
Step 9: Spin Cycle
In a surprise move, Jordany Valdespin makes the major league roster out of Spring Training to solidify the infield. Detractors worry that sitting on the bench could hinder his development a la Mejia, but everyone else figures that between Murphy, Reyes, and Tejada, someone's getting hurt pretty soon. All three are healthy for the entire season and Valdespin gets so bored that he almost drowns after falling asleep in the hot tub. Due to reports of a lullaby being heard in the clubhouse at the time, foul play has not been ruled out.
Step 10: PiTBNL
Let's face it, starting pitching is a crap shoot. Forget the free agents, they'll get too much money and break down more likely than not. Capuano wouldn't be bad to bring back, but I have a feeling he'll get greedy (wouldn't be surprised to see him re-sign though). Still, the best way to grab pitching these days is via mid-season trade, so we'll set aside $5 million for a PiTBNL (Pitcher To Be Named Later), either one starter/closer or 2-3 relievers (Wandy Rodriguez maybe?). Expect some low-level prospects to go the other way to a team desperate to dump some salary (and willing to eat some of it in the process) after a hopelessly lost season. I have no jokes here, I guess I lied back in the second paragraph.
Step 11: Desperation in a Pinch
Disaster strikes just after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline when Willie Harris, giving Lucas Duda a day off, is lost for the season in a freak collision with David Wright and Daniel Murphy while fielding a pop fly in foul territory. With the last of the payroll spent on the PiTBNL and the front office split on who to call up as a replacement, Sandy Alderson has a revelation while taking a soak in the clubhouse and puts the hot tub on the roster. Purists cry foul, but with attendance and television ratings falling, Bud Selig allows it. The tub's impossible-to-find strike zone results in a bizarre .000/.955/.000 in 22 pinch hit appearances with 15 walks, 6 HBP, and one strikeout, after which it is ejected for disputing a called third strike and later banned from baseball when its expletive-laden tirade results in a $50 million FCC fine, later reduced to $500,000 on appeal on grounds that most of the words used were too obscure for children to recognize as foul language.
Step 12: Curses, Foiled at Last
A late-season surge helps the Mets finish in second place in the NL East with 87 wins, three games out of the Wild Card and four behind the NL East champion Braves. The Nationals finish a close third with 85 wins and the Phillies finish tied with the Marlins at 77 wins after a historic collapse when every Phillies player suffers a ruptured Achilles tendon in late July. Coincidentally, Ryan Howard reported waking up one morning in July with at least two dozen different locks of hair glued to his head. Roy Halladay throws two no-hitters in September sitting on the mound, accounting for Philadelphia's only wins that month.
That leaves us with:
|Josh Thole||C||0.4||Mike Nickeas|
|Angel Pagan||CF||5.0||Kirk Nieuwenhuis|
|Willie Harris||OF||1.0||Talking Hot Tub|
|Chris Young||SP||1.5||Dillon Gee|
|Taylor Bucholz||RP||0.9||D.J. Carrasco|
|D.J. Carrasco||RP||1.2||Danny Herrera|
Add in $5 million for the PiTBNL (which may slot in just about anywhere in the pitchers, Niese gets stuck with it for now) and about $2 million for injury replacement call-ups (those listed or current/trade equivalents) and there's your $110 million payroll. Oh, crap, I forgot to put Bonilla in there...