Since this is my first AAOP ever, I figured I would keep it pretty simple. From my estimates, everything the Amazin’s need this off season is available in the Free Agent Market. There’s no reason to mortgage the future now by trading our youngsters and our major league roster offers little of any value at the moment. I don’t think you can build a dynasty in one off season, but you certainly can start laying the groundwork. I believe that even with our limited payroll flexibility we can build a team that can compete this season and will have a great foundation for the future. Step 1 – The arbitration decisions I would non-tender Pelfrey and Paulino. Pelfrey has showed how unbelievably inconsistent he is over the last three years. I think we can get the same production from the FA market for a bit cheaper. Paulino seems to have pissed off the entire front office that his 5 for 6 debut seems like a distant memory. Another possible scenario would be to tender Pelf a contract and trade him for something more useful, such as, I don’t know a bag of balls, a R.A. Diculous T-Shirt and a pound of bacon (hmmm….bacon). However, I would tender contracts to Pagan, Acosta and Bucholz. Acostalypse at $1mm doesn’t hurt us and we have a need. Same goes with Bucholz. He was once a dominant 8th inning guy that only cost us around $600k (probably won’t get much more in arb) so he doesn’t kill the payroll either. Tender Pagan, because even though he was awful last season, he was a superstar the year before and the other options on the FA market are not that strong. At $5mm he’s worth it based on speed and the position he plays. 3 players that fill needs at roughly $7.2mm and all of them have potential. Step 2 – Do not sign Jose I can’t believe I’m writing this but, Jose Reyes is a goner. The amount of money that needs to be allocated to a SS with such a spotty injury history, and a need for speed to be successful, just doesn’t jive with what this front office is trying to accomplish. Give the job to Rueben and we can decide if he is the next long term solution or a just a stop gap. Here’s the thing, all Tejeda has done is get better, and not by a little bit. He’s gone from a teenager pushed into action, who hit .213/.305/.282 in 255 ab’s and looked completely overmatched to a confident 20 yr old who hit .284/.360/.335 while improving his K% and BB%. He was worth 1.8 wins in 376 ab’s. The best part is he’s only 20 years old and he’s getting better every day. He will never be Jose, but he could quietly become a very good shortstop. Step 3 – Let’s get some Royalty Sign Prince Fielder. I’m thinking 7 years $160mm (structured 20, 21, 21, 23, 25, 25, 25) get’s this done. I know that Sandy & Co hate long term deals and we have a potential stud at 1st base but hear me out. I like Ike, and one of the things I like about Ike, is that for a 1B, he’s versatile. His Sr. season at Arizona State he played 1B, RF and RP. That’s right; he even pitched, getting up to 94 mph on the gun. So, what I would do is, sign Prince and move Ike to RF. His bat plays there, his arm plays there, and I’m sure with the new dimensions at Citi, RF won’t be as challenging as in the past. As for the length and $$$ of the deal, I don’t see big issues. Prince plays the least physically demanding position on the diamond and at 27 the length would take him through age 34-35. I don’t mind a 35 yr old 1B as much as I do a 35 year old shortstop. These kids coming up are going need some run support and not many are better at that than Prince. Step 4 – Closing out games Sandy said next year’s closer isn’t on the roster and there are a ton of closers out there this year. I think we can get some real bargains. How ’bout we sign Broxton to a 1 year $5mm deal to let him re-establish his market value. At 28, Broxton is not over the hill and has shown to be dominant in the past. If this isn’t feasible I don’t see why we can’t get someone who is proven (albeit maybe returning from injury) at $5mm or cheaper. Step 5 – A Battery Mate Look, I like Josh Thole, but I don’t see him as an everyday catcher. I feel like catcher is a position that should have some power, and let’s face it, Josh does not. I would sign Kelly Shoppach to a 2 year deal worth $6mm (2.5, 3.5) and a club option for 2014 for $4.5mm. That might not be enough, but seeing as the Rays may choose not to pick up his option ($3.2mm) this season I don’t think it’s out of reach. If he’s not available, Pittsburgh just released Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit who both would be upgrades over Thole or at least good enough to split time 50/50. Both of them should be cheap enough to not spend more than $4mm (that’s what I would expect the high side to be). Shoppach has had an up and down career , however he has a much greater power potential and has thrown out nearly 40% of base runners over his career. If he doesn’t hit, put Thole back in, at least he’ll get on base and Shoppach can provide extra pop off the bench. Step 6 – But who throws the ball? I would sign Aaron Cook to a 1 year 2.5mm deal with some incentives. Sound crazy? Jeff Francis signed a cheaper deal with the Royals last season and profiles similarly (4.40 career xFIP to 4.39 career xFIP). Also, I would bring in Dontrelle Willis on a minor league invite with an opt out clause if he doesn’t make the team. I’d let him and Gee fight over the 5th spot in the rotation. Dontrelle showed signs of life with Cinci last year, let’s see if he can build on that. Seems like upside to me. I would also bring back Batista for some depth in the minors. Step 7 - The rest of the Bullpen I know Sandy says he’s going to remake the bullpen, but I see many of the same guys back next year. We extended photo bomb genius, Tim Byrdak. Everyone knows Bobby P. will be back. We already tendered a contract to Acostalypse and we have $1.2mm sunk in Carasco so let’s see if we can get some value out of him plus he can be the long man. If not, cut him…no biggie. So far we have Byrdak, Parnell, Bucholz, Carasco, Acosta, and Broxton on the big league team. We’ll throw Beato and Herrera at AAA for some depth and seasoning….leaving us with one more BP spot on the Big League team. Let’s go scrap heap for this one, but not the very bottom of the heap. Look who’s sitting right on top…Brad Lidge. Sandy wants options at closer, he said he’d be open to a 8th inning role and how great would it be to have him shut down the boobs down I-95? I say, give him $3mm with a club option at $4mm, maybe an appearance incentive or vesting option if necessary. He’s getting a $2mm buyout from the Phils so this doesn’t seem unreasonable. One other nice thing about Broxton and Lidge is that if we fall out of the race they could be very nice trade pieces at the deadline. Step 8 - The Bench The o-so important bench. Why do we always save you for last? Because unfortunately with payroll down, we’ve got to go on the cheap. We already have Thole as the back up catcher, Turner who’s proven he can play and adequate 2B & 3B, not everyday (and also ups the team’s grission quotient cause he’s a ginger), and Duda, who will add some much needed pop off the bench and can spell Ike against tough lefties. I can envision, as the season goes on, Duda taking over full time in LF if Bay continues to suck. So to round out the bench we sign Rick Ankiel for $1.5mm to backup Pagan and add some more pop, and David Eckstien, I mean Aaron Miles for $750k to backup Tejeda and possibly other IF positions. So, if you’ve followed me this far, it’s too late to turn back. Here’s what we have: Lineup - $65.05mm 1 - A. Pagan, CF - 5mm 2 - D. Murphy, 2B - 400k 3 - D. Wright, 3B - 15.3mm 4 - P. Fielder, 1B - 20mm 5 - I. Davis, RF - 400k 6 - J. Bay, LF - 18.1mm 7 - K. Shoppach, C - 2mm 8 - R. Tejeda, SS - 400k 9 - Pitcher BN - J. Thole, C - 400k BN - J. Turner, 2B, 3B - 400k BN - L. Duda, LF, RF - 400k BN - R. Ankiel, OF - 1.5mm BN - A. Miles, 2B, 3B, SS - 750k Rotation - $33.2mm SP - J. Santana - 24mm SP - R. Dickey - 4.8mm SP - J. Niese - 500k SP - A. Cook - 2.5mm SP - Gee - 400k Bullpen - $12.55mm RP - Acosta - 1mm RP - Byrdak - 1.2mm RP - B. Parnell - 400k RP - T. Bucholz - 750k RP - D. Carasco - 1.2mm RP - B. Lidge - 3mm RP - J. Broxton - 5mm Total salary = $107.8. So let’s see what we accomplished: - We came in under budget and filled all of our glaring needs. - We didn’t spend big to keep Jose, but we got two draft picks for him. - We did commit to one long term contract in Prince Fielder, but he is only 27, hits for average, power and gets on base. He’s a type A free agent, but our 1st round pick is protected so we’ll only forfeit a 2nd. - By shifting Ike to RF we’ve made F Mart expendable and if he can stay on the field, will be a possible trade chip next off season. - We added a catcher with upside and power - We filled out our rotation without blocking anyone in the low minors - We added a little depth, and could easily add some more with minor league deals before camp begins. - We have a bench that is flexible both in terms of lefties and righties, but also can play multiple positions adequately. - We have a team that can compete especially if Johan can come back strong.