Sandy "50 Cent" Alderson and nymgb44 present:
AAOP: GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’
As we all are well aware, our fearless leader has capped our payroll at $110 million for the 2012 season. With approximately $80 million already doled out to previous commitments—and most of it going to just three players—Mr. Alderson certainly has a difficult road ahead of him if he wants to bring the Mets back to prominence. We all have our pipe dream trades and unrealistic signings that would immediately blast the Mets back into baseball’s stratosphere. "Let’s move Ike David to right field and sign Albert Pujols for 3/36!" "Trade Akeel Morris and a McDonald’s Happy Meal for Zack Greinke!" While this is obviously hyperbolic, the fact is that contention for the 2012 New York Mets is highly improbable, if not completely impossible. This plan focuses primarily on staying within while pushing the limits of the $110 million payroll cap (i.e. "gettin’ rich"), developing a solid roster of complementary players, minimizing long-term commitments, and making room for our top prospects and potential free agent grabs next year. I expect somewhere between 80-85 wins out of this team, with the improved pitching cancelling out the weaker hitting and a little more luck going our way.
It’s important to note that Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ assumes that Jose Reyes is unaffordable for the Mets. By "unaffordable" I don’t mean that the Mets do not have the finances to secure Reyes’ services—they certainly can physically pay him anything he wants. I mean that I’m only willing to go as high as five years and $90 million with a team option for a sixth year for Jose, and he will get a better offer than that on the open market. Someone (probably San Francisco or Boston) will pour open the pocket book for Reyes. It’s not that the Mets can’t match that offer—I simply wouldn’t. If the Bay contract wasn’t on the books, I’d give Jose as much as he wants, but we are just too tied down right now to think about hamstringing our books for the long term. 5/90 is perfectly reasonable for a player of Jose’s age, caliber, and injury history. If he doesn’t take that, and he won’t, then we need to move on. It sucks, but it’s necessary. And just as a caveat, Jose is my second-favorite player on the team behind Johan Santana. But baseball is a business, and keeping Reyes beyond five years is just not the smartest option.
On with the plan! Let’s see who will be In Da Club this year. (See what I did there?)
The Acostalypse was surprisingly good in 2011 after putting up a decent performance in 2010. He slashed his walks from over 4 BB/9 to under 3 last year, and while it didn’t quite correspond to a change in ERA, his newfound control gives us hope going forward. Manny is probably the best reliever on the roster right now (as sad as that is), and he’s a virtual lock to return next year. Let's hope he doesn't pass those germs onto the rest of the team.
Buchholz deserves another shot as well, and hopefully he’ll come back and pitch well after struggling with personal issues this year. I grappled with the Angel Pagan move for a while. I understand that it would save us a few bucks to get someone like Rick Ankiel instead, but I think Angel deserves another chance. While his 4.8 fWAR in 2010 was certainly inflated by the disproportionate weight the statistic puts on defense, he’s still a very valuable guy when he’s playing up to his capabilities, and I put no stock into the nonsense about him being a headcase. While I expect the Mets to target Matt Kemp after the 2012 season (especially if Pagan struggles again), it’s definitely worth it to hang onto our Angel in the Outfield for one more season. We’re already losing an AA favorite in Reyes—no need to let Pagan go as well.
STEP 2: Non-tender RHP Mike Pelfrey and C Ronny Paulino.
From the AAOPs I’ve read so far, the decision on Pelfrey seems to be split down the middle. The finger-lickin’ former first round pick simply isn’t that good, and he definitely isn’t worth the $5-6 million we’d have to pay him to stick around. Pelfrey’s best asset is his sinker, and he drew Brandon Webb comparisons coming up from the minors. However, he simply refuses to throw the ball down in the zone. Big Pelf’s groundball rates have fallen each of the last three years while his flyball rates have increased in every season since 2007. His GB/FB has dipped from 1.71 in 2009 to just 1.31 last year, and as long as Dan Warthen is the Mets’ pitching coach, indications are it’s only going to get worse. There’s a significant chance Pelfrey will put up the worst season of his career in 2012 if he stays with the Mets, and he’s never really pitched that well to begin with. Let him have a change of scenery, experience some fresh air, and hopefully find a pitching coach that helps him re-discover his sinker. Good luck, Mike.
Paulino is a capable enough backup catcher, but here’s where we save the money we lost by keeping Pagan. Ronny will be due at least $2M next year, and there’s no way we’re paying that. Let Mike Nickeas come up and earn his spot, and we can throw a minor league contract at C Ramon Castro just for the hell of it. Let ol’ Shrek come back and blastro some balls before the sun sets on his career.
This is the big move. If the Mets don’t sign Reyes, they will have money to spend on a starting pitcher that can help them in 2012 and beyond. Floyd is incredibly undervalued by the White Sox—he’s put up ERAs in the mid-4s every year since his breakout in 2008, but his FIP and xFIP have been well under 4 in each of those seasons. White Sox fans claim he is bad from the stretch, but that’s an issue that can be fixed. Additionally, a change to the National League’s easier pitching environment would likely help turn his good process into good results. For a guy in the prime of his career—he’ll be 29 on Opening Day—Floyd provides solid value for the Mets as next year’s number 3 starter and a solid, relatively inexpensive back-end presence down the road when the kids come up. Floyd is the kind of complementary piece that Omar Minaya completely failed to bring in while he was general manager. We’ll go ahead and extend Floyd for three years and $33 million, picking up his $9.5 2013 option and giving him $11M for 2014 and $12.5M for 2015. It’s a risk, sure, but not nearly as expensive a risk as paying for Reyes. Floyd has also been extremely durable and is a proven innings eater, throwing at least 187 innings each of the last four years. However, the thought of having to pitch in Philadelphia again has made our new starter a bit queasy:
I'll be okay, Gavin, I promise. Charlie Manuel isn't gonna try to eat you again.
Now, as for what we give up here…Murphy is a risky piece to lose, I understand. He hit .320/.362/.448 last year and was probably our third best hitter over the course of the season. But second base, even without Reyes, is a position of strength for the Mets. If we give Ruben Tejada a full year at short, we still have Justin Turner, Jordany Valdespin and Reese Havens waiting to play second for the big club. I will sign a stopgap second baseman later in this plan while we wait for the kids, but losing Murphy doesn’t deal a huge blow to the Mets in the short or long term. Whitenton had a solid year in the SAL and is nice depth for the Sox’ farm system to compensate for the value disparity between Floyd and Murphy. From Chicago’s perspective, the White Sox have a ton of batting busts in their lineup, and Murphy is a perfect fit on the South Side. He’s an offensive upgrade at third over Brent Morel, he can step up at first when Paul Konerko retires, he can play second if Gordon Beckham gets hurt, and he can DH in a pinch. Kenny Williams will be looking for that sort of bat. He can also trade from pitching depth, as the Sox appear primed to bring Mark Buehrle back into the fold with John Danks, Philip Humber and Zack Stewart already under contract. Dealing Floyd saves them some cash while allowing them to slide Chris Sale into the rotation. It’s a win-win for both sides.
STEP 4: Re-sign LHP Chris Capuano to a two-year, $12 million contract.
We’ll backload this deal so Cap gets $5M this year and $7M next year. Chris was a solid low-risk/high-reward addition for the Mets last season, pitching to a 3.67 xFIP and a career second-best 3.17 K/BB. With this year’s poor starting pitching market, Cap will command at least two years in order to retain him. I’m willing to give him that kind of cash to be our fifth starter, with the full intention of dealing him for a bullpen piece at the trade deadline when Jeurys Familia or Matt Harvey is ready to step into the big league rotation. Capuano is a fine fifth starter, and the Mets have the money to keep him, so why not?
STEP 5: Sign RHP Jonathan Broxton to a one-year, $3 million contract with incentives making the deal worth up to $6 million with a $7 million team option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout.
HEFTY HEFTY HEFTY!
Seriously though, Broxton was a beast for the Dodgers as recently as two years ago, and I’d love to bring him in as a cheap reclamation project. Give him the closer role to start the year, and let him try to win it. Brox has a nasty injury history and was abused by Joe Torre back in LA, but the beefy righty still has tremendous pure stuff, and I’d love to see what he can do. Of course, signing just Broxton isn’t enough to fix our LOLpen (though it does give it significant girth), so as a dual insurance policy, the Mets…
STEP 6: Sign LHP Mike Gonzalez to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a $3 million team option for 2013, sign RHP Todd Coffey to a one-year, $1 million contract.
Rockin’ Mike Gonazlez is an established veteran. I know you guys like to take shots at the "veteran presence" meme that cropped up during the Minaya administration, and for the most part I agree. However, I need a proven track record in my LOLpen. If I’m building a bullpen, I want guys that have struck out over a batter and inning over the course of a full season and have had success at keeping the ball in the park. Gonzalez fits this description. Gonzalez is coming off a career-worst year for the Rangers, but his xFIP was under four and his control actually improved significantly from last season. He has a career .75 HR/9, and last year was the first full season in which he didn’t strike out a batter an inning. I’m also adding Coffey to the back end of the pen as a ROOGY/mop-up guy. He’s way better than a lot of the guys the Mets have been throwing out there—looking at you, Ryota Igarashi—and he can be had for cheap. These guys provide solid insurance in the somewhat likely case of a Broxton injury, and they push crappy pitchers like Pedro Beato and D.J. Carrasco back into the minors (or the streets, for I am releasing Carrasco) where they belong.
STEP 7: Sign 2B/SS Clint Barmes to a one-year, $4 million contract with a vesting option for a second year at $4 million at 600 plate appearances.
Let’s get this out of the way: Clint Barmes is not worth 3 wins. His 3.1 fWAR in 2011 is (like Pagan’s 2010) inflated by a solid 7.9 UZR at shortstop. His wOBA sat at a paltry .308, and that’s five points above his career line. So why am I signing him? He and Ruben Tejada create potentially the best defensive middle infield in the National League, and he’s a perfectly capable stopgap for Valdespin/Havens. If Tejada goes down, he can easily fill in at short—in fact, it’s his natural position. Perhaps he can even play there and let Ruben handle second. SPRING TRAINING COMPETITION ALERT!
Excited Terry is Excited!
Barmes even has a little pop—he mashed 23 bombs for the Rockies in 2009 and had a .141 ISO with 12 homers for Houston last year. Barmes fits in nicely with the Mets, and while he won’t come close to making the pain of losing Jose Reyes go away, he will play above-average defense, hit competently out of the 8 spot, and strengthen the bench (or the farm system via trade) once one of the kids is ready.
STEP 8: Sign OF David DeJesus to a two-year, $16 million contract.
This is my other "big" move, though it’s not as headline-making (or unrealistic) as the Floyd trade. Jason Bay is almost worthless, but he has one talent—mashing lefties. He had an absurd .397 wOBA against southpaws last season, right in line with his career average of .392. Of his 12 home runs last year, Bay hit nearly half of them against lefthanders in less than a third of the plate appearances he had against righties. Why not pick up a platoon partner for our oft-maligned Canadian? DeJesus had a down year in 2011, but that was due to a pitifully low .274 BABIP, way below his .316 career average in that statistic. Once his luck tips back to normal, DeJesus is a solid hitter and fielder, and guess what? He’s crushed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .356 wOBA for his career. With his speed and gap power still intact, DeJesus makes a solid two hitter for the Mets. He’ll play left field against righties and will either sit or spell Lucas Duda or Angel Pagan against lefties. The move isn’t expensive, gets Bay out of the starting lineup (woo-hoo, a $66 million pinch hitter! Go Omar!), and it improves the Mets lineup significantly. Platoon splits are important, and I don’t know why more general managers don’t attempt to play to players’ strengths. Regular rest will also keep all four outfielders healthy over the course of the season.
Just finishing off our bench here. Hairston was productive and serviceable last year, and he’ll return for another season with the Amazins. Counsell is an older player and annoys the shit out of me, but he can still play the middle infield positions and bat from the left side, two qualities lacking from my bench. He’ll be cheap, he’ll produce what we need him to, and he’s a "veteran presence." It’s grission! Hooray, grission!
He even looks like a douchebag. A douchebag I want on the Mets' bench, of course.
Note: Two key players from last year’s team, RHP Dillon Gee and INF Justin Turner, are starting in Buffalo this year. Turner’s a decent player, but he’ll never be more than a utility guy. He could challenge Evans for that corner job in spring training (and his positional versatility could win him the spot), but I value Nick’s bat more. Gee is a perfectly capable major leaguer, but I would contend that healthy, this Mets rotation is above average, and so Dillon is a sixth starter. However, with an injury to Santana, Niese or Capuano fairly inevitable, it’s likely Gee will get called up to the big league club sooner than later. Other players seen last year that will return to Buffalo are Josh Satin, Pedro Beato, and Mike Baxter.
And now, your 2012 New York Mets!
C Josh Thole $0.4
1B Ike Davis $0.4
2B Clint Barmes $4.0
SS Ruben Tejada $0.4
3B David Wright $15.3
LF David DeJesus $7.0
CF Angel Pagan $4.7
RF Lucas Duda $0.4
C Mike Nickeas $0.4
1B/3B Nick Evans $0.4
2B/SS Craig Counsell $0.8
4OF Jason Bay $18.1
5OF Scott Hairston $1.2
SP1 Johan Santana $24.0
SP2 R.A. Dickey $4.8
SP3 Gavin Floyd $7.0
SP4 Jon Niese $0.5
SP5 Chris Capuano $5.0
CL Jonathan Broxton $3.0
SU Bobby Parnell $0.4
SU Mike Gonzalez $2.5
LS Tim Byrdak $1.2
RP Manny Acosta $1.0
RP Todd Coffey $1.0
RP Taylor Buchholz $0.8
RP D.J. Carrasco $1.2
There it is. The 2012 New York Mets are not quite built to compete—they are built to survive. They wait for the day when they payroll can expand, when young guns like Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia (damn, I love the our trio) come up and pitch us back into prominence. This team will be respectable, they will be fun to watch, and who knows? If they stay healthy, maybe they can surprise us.