My plan focuses on trying to give the Mets an outside shot at the wild card in 2012 while setting the team up for a Division title run in 2013. To do so I continued with the incentive based high upside signings of the past years while trying to rebuild the bullpen and acquire enough depth to account for inevitable injuries. I also wanted to, for the sake of realism, limit the number of trades (how often to front offices make more than 5 trades in an offseason?) and the scope of those trades (how often are multiple top players traded to or from a single team in one offseason?).
Sign Jose Reyes (6 year 105 million dollar contract with club option for a 7th year)
The first order of business would be to make a strong move in order to re-sign Jose Reyes. To do so, I suggest a heavily frontloaded contract with an out clause after three years (similar to CC Sabathia contract). This contract would be for 60 million over the first three years (18, 20, 22) and ~45 over the next three (~15 a year) with a club option for a seventh year (20) to push the deal into the Carl Crawford range (ish) of 125 million over 7 years. Jose Reyes would benefit from this as he gets his guaranteed 100 million over 6 years, with ability to secure one last long term contract or extension before he is over the hill (31). The Mets win in this contract as it allows them to buy time and perhaps increase revenue before committing to expensive years at the back end of the contract. If Jose performs up to his peak ability the Mets have him at a fair market value. If he does not we overpay for three years and then get 3 years of Jose Reyes at a 3 win rate, which likely wouldn’t be more than a 1 WAR overpay (Ruben Tejada in less than 100 games was worth nearly 2). If he decides to test free agency after 3 years hopefully the Mets have built up enough revenue to extend him, if not they had 3 years to figure out a suitable replacement.
Next I would trade for Koji Uehara.
Trade: Koji Uehara for Manny Acosta, (re-signed at 1 milllion) Robert Carson and Brad Holt, (add a lower tier prospect if needed, such as Darin Gorski)
Texas is facing a big spike in payroll before they even make a single move for a free agent. They have 10 arbitration eligible players in addition to any players they plan to replace via free agency. While Koji Uehara peripherals were impressive, his time with the Rangers has not produced similarly impressive results. Additionally, the Rangers have Mike Adams and Nefetali Feliz, making a 4 million dollar expense for a second set up man a bit excessive. We give them Acosta who is younger cheaper and also has similarly good peripherals and another two cost controlled hard throwing relievers giving them financial flexibility without leaving their bullpen short of options. For the Mets the case is clearer, Koji Uehara has quietly been one of the better relievers in the game since his move to bullpen, he has an 11.5 k/9, 1 BB/9, and as he has closer experience we can turn to him if our next signing fails to pan out.
Sign Jonathan Broxton (2 million base with incentives up 5, and second year club option for 8 million)
Jonathan Broxton is 2 years away from being a dominant closer and has lost some velocity. However, even at his less dominant 2010 performance he would be a useful high strikeout reliever and there is a chance he regains his previous form and becomes the dominant closer we need.
Trade Jason Bay, Fernando Martinez (and if needed a low level prospect such as Chris Schwinden or cash to be paid in 2013) for Jake Peavey.
The White Sox need a left fielder and Kenny Williams has suggested they have no plans of rebuilding. There is a chance that Jason Bay’s bat comes alive again and he can be the power hitter that they thought they signed when they inked Adam Dunn. As everyone is fond of pointing out Kenny Williams is known for taking these types of risks and this would certainly not be the riskiest upside trade he has done over the last few years. As a hedge the White Sox also get a once top prospect who could potentially add lefty power in the outfield or from the DH spot. The Mets get an oft injured pitcher who has underperformed his peripherals the last two seasons. While expecting a full season from Peavey at this point is a bit unreasonable he should hopefully provide a stop gap until the Mets top pitching prospects are ready to join the club. Even with his nearly five ERA he accumulated almost 3 fWAR.
Trade: Mike Pelfrey, Daniel Murphy, Pedro Beato (potentially Matt Den Dekker as well if necessary) for Drew Stubbs, Todd Frazier (and hopefully if possible Brad Boxberger...although in my AAOP I only stash him AAA for depth.)
For all the reasons it doesn’t make sense to cut Mike Pelfrey, (200+ innings league average innings are expensive on the FA market, one year away from being a 3 win pitcher) the Reds will be happy to trade for him. The Reds need an inning eater with all the uncertainty in their rotation. Instead of pursuing those innings through high end free agents (that might cost multiple years and certainly more dollars per year), or bargain basement free agents (that have significant risks as well as limited upside) the Reds would be happy to take Mike Pelfrey who is cheaper, more likely to throw 180 innings, and not without some upside. Daniel Murphy value despite his injury remains as I high as I foresee it being in the near future. Yet he does have value, as even though that value is tied almost entirely to his BA, he did hit .320 and acquired more fWAR than stubbs this year all while in at his pre-arbitration salary. The Reds have uncertainty with Rolen at third (due to injury) and Brandon Phillips at second (due to free agency). Daniel Murphy would give them an potent bat at either position at a very affordable rate. Pedro Beato can either plug a hole in late inning relief or be sent down to the minors in order to start, while Den Dekker if included has an upside similar to last years’ version of Drew Stubbs and offers the Reds an outside chance of fully replacing that production in a year. The Reds have Bruce, Heisey, Sappelt, and Yonder Alonso, and as such would be dealing from depth to fill holes. The Mets get Drew Stubbs who seemed like a super star in the making in 2010 but regressed considerably this past year. The Mets have a few outfield prospects but none with the upside of Drew Stubbs, and with the current Reds’ fan and management dissatisfaction with him, now would be a great time to buy low. At worst he is a defensively competent cost controlled centerfielder and at best he is much much more. Todd Frazier is like a better defensive, less contact more power and speed right handed Daniel Murphy. He spent three straight seasons at AAA and seems to be slightly overlooked within the organization. He doesn’t seem likely to be a star but he does have a Daniel Murphy-esque upside and provides the team with more flexibility in case of injury. Boxberger is a high strikeout relief arm that might be pricing himself out of this deal with his recent performance both in this past season and in the AFL now.
Sign Hong Chih Kuo and Joel Zumaya (1 year 1 million base each, with incentives)
To further shore up the Bullpen I would sign both Hong-Chih Kuo and Joel Zumaya to incentivized deals with base salaries near one million.
Sign Chien Ming Wang (1 year 1.5 million base with 3 to 5 million in incentives)
For depth in the rotation I would sign Chien Ming Wang to a similar deal to the one Chris Capuano got last year. If he is healthy he could replace the low strikeout innings of Mike Pelfrey but with the added benefit of actually being a heavy groundball pitcher. I doubt that he would be able to recover his form from his early Yankee days but I believe if healthy he could easily replace last years’ version of Pelfrey for less guaranteed money.
Sign Chris Snyder (1 year 1 million base)
For a righthanded complement to Josh Thole I would sign Chris Snyder. He has had trouble staying healthy the last few seasons and is currently recuperating from another back surgery, but when healthy he walks a ton and has some pop in his bat. His current rehab is going well and he should be healthy for spring training.
Sign Grady Sizemore (4 million base with incentives up to 8 million, second year club option for 11 million)
Continuing with the theme Grady Sizemore has been great when fully healthy, but hasn’t been fully healthy in a long time. This is a gamble but one that could pay huge dividends. Sizemore would be the starting rightfielder as his range has taken a hit due to the constant injuries.
Go to Arbitration or Re-Sign Angel Pagan (~4.7 million)
He was one of the secretly more valuable Centerfielders for two seasons but struggled last season. If he can be convinced to take a lesser role and to be available to be a fourth outfielder and inevitably a starter when Grady Sizemore goes down, I would pay him his arbitration salary as there aren’t many players only a season removed from a 5.5 fWAR season on the market for less than 5 million. It is a bit of luxury to have such an expensive 4th OF but one I think the Mets should gamble on. If Stubbs struggles continue, CF could become a straight platoon as even struggling Stubbs hits lefties well while Pagan in the last two season has hit righties much better than Stubbs. If he can’t be convinced to take a lesser role, than I would sign either Endy Chavey or Scott Hairston to be the fourth outfielder.
Sign Kelly Johnson (4 million base with a second year 8 million dollar club option, and third year 10 year player option.)
I don’t have a good feel for what Kelly Johnson would make in Free Agency but if he can be had with the remaining 4-6 million I have in my budget I would go out and sign him. He could essentially replace Daniel Murphy as a poor fielding lefty second base, except he, from his increased experience at the position, might not blow out his knees within 20 games. Ruben Tejada would still get his fair share of at-bats as he would be a regular defensive replacement and a sometime platoon partner with Johnson.
Depth: Dillon Gee, DJ Carrasco, Matt Harvey, Jenry Meija, Jeurys Familia, Colin Mchugh
Potentially in a pinch Koji Uehara,
My Bullpen (potentially nearly 10 K/9 as a Unit)
Hong Chih Kuo
Depth: Boxberger, Elvin Ramirez, Herrara. O’Connor, Hampson, Familia, Meijia (While I would non-tender Taylor Buchholz, I would try to resign him to a minor league deal)
My lineup (potentially 10% BB walk rate as a Unit)
SS Jose Reyes
2B Kelly Johnson
1B Ike Davis
3B David Wright
LF Lucas Duda
RF Grady Sizemore
CF Drew Stubbs
C Josh Thole
OF Angel Pagan
C Chris Snyder
UTL Todd Frazier
2B/SS Ruben Tejada
IF/OF Nick Evans
Depth: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordanny Valdespin, Reese Havens, Joshua Satin, Mike Nickeas, Juan Lagares, Allan Dykstra, Justin Turner
According to my math this team’s payroll comes in at a little over 108 when factoring in base salaries alone. If you replace Pagan with Hairston or Chavez, that number goes down three million to 105 million. If player hit their incentives, the payroll could be significantly more than that but not likely on a team that isn’t competitive. To calculate the team’s cumulative fWAR I used each player last representative season, which to me meant the last season in which the player either played a full season or in the case of oft injured players enough of a season to judge. I think the effect of this was ultimately to drive down the cumulative WAR as I expect better than .2 WAR from Sizemore, 2.6 from Stubbs, 1.1 from Broxton or .9 from Pagan. Also I think Ike Davis might far exceed his 2010 numbers and I think Duda’s 2011 numbers are brought down by his slow start and etc. Even using these numbers this team projects to win around 87 games which should put them well into contention for the Wild Card. If, however, just a few of the many gambles pay off the team could very well be in 90 win range.
Also I did not rob the prospect cupboard bare so that if on the one hand one thinks my trades are implausible one is free to mentally include one of the remaining prospects and on the other hand if one thinks my trades are plausible than the team will have some additional depth in case of a rash of injuries or a midseason trade.
If a fair number of these high upside signings bear no fruit and the team is not in contention I believe that there will at least be some saleable parts on this team should the Mets need to build for 2013. Additionally some of the one year contracts could potentially net the Mets compensation picks if the player performs well. In either case there is very little long term money committed (outside of Reyes) and even if the gambles on 2012 do not pay off they don’t do so at the cost of 2013.
As for 2013 if my AAOP was undertaken the team payroll could drop to as low as 80 million dollars if none of the second year options are picked up. To do so would leave two spots in the rotation to be filled, a hole in RF or CF and a need for some Bullpen arms. The first two could be filled by some combination of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jenry Meijia, Jeurys Familia, Dillon Gee, or Colin McHugh. RF or CF could be filled internally by either Nieuwenhuis or Lagares. While the bullpen can be filled at least in part by Boxberger, Elvin Ramirez and the losers of the rotation spot competition. While I would hope that at least a few of signings would justify their option being picked up, in any case the Mets will likely have at least 15 million (and as much 30 million without raising payroll) to spend on free agency or extensions for a younger players.