Here´s a belated AAOP that is based on the assumption of a 100 million $ range budget and the current market for Jose Reyes. Hoping the Marlins can´t & won´t go nuts on Reyes but “merely” reach the 100 million $ type range over 5 years (or 115 million $ over 6 years guaranteed) which the Mets can / will hopefully match – even with all the current payroll restrictions, I´m assuming Reyes stays in this scenario.
I´m not going to bitch & moan about the Wilpon´s, past contracts handed out by Omar Minaya, how life is sometimes unfair or what a large market team should look like. All I´m doing is trying to combine realism with at least the modest hope of a return for the franchise SS, trying to manage the payroll, try to balance keeping the team competitive enough for 2012 without mortaging the future in terms of player development / future finances. So, that said, here´s the plan:
1. Re-sign SS Jose Reyes to a 5-year, 100 million $ contract (15-18-21-21-21 + 4 million $ buyout or club option 6th year at 22 million $, with Reyes getting a CC Sabathia type opt-out clause after year 3 of the deal, i.e. after the 2014 season).
2. Non tender C Ronnie Paulino.
3. Select OF Jordan Danks (CWS) in Rule V draft.
4. Sign P Frank Francisco* to a 2-year, 9 million $ contract (4.5 million in each 2012 and 2013)
6. Trade OF Jason Bay (16 million in 2012), P DJ Carrasco (1.25 million in 2012), P Danny Herrera and OF Fernando Martinez to CWS for OF Alex Rios (12 million in 2012) and P Matt Thornton (5.5 million $ in 2012).
7. Sign C Jason Varitek** to a 1-year, 2.0 million $ contract.
8. Re-sign OF Scott Hairston to a 1-year, 1.0 million $ contract.
10. Re-sign P Miguel Batista to a minor league deal and give him a NRI to spring training.
* patented “proven” closer
** patented “veteran winning” catcher
Your 2012 New York Mets:
SP: Santana – Dickey – Niese – Pelfrey – Gee (or backup plan: Cook)
RP: Francisco – Thornton – Parnell – Byrdak – Acosta – open competition between NRI Batista, plus Stinson – Beato – Schwinden – maybe even Carson for final middle relief spot on staff – Cook or Gee is the long man, if both are needed in rotation, then Batista is long man
Costs for pitching: about 48 million $ in 2012
Opening Day lineup:
1) Reyes, ss
2) Tejada, 2b
3) Davis, 1b
4) Wright, 3b
5) Duda, lf
6) Pagan, cf
7) Rios, rf
8) Thole, c
Murphy, super sub at 1b-2b-3b-lf-rf who starts twice per week and DH in AL
Danks, of (competes against Loewen for a bench spot in ST)
Costs for hitting: about 53 million $ in 2012
Total payroll: 101 million $ for 2012, assuming Pelfrey & Pagan combine for about 10 million $ in arbitration, i.e. barely over the budget and with “danger” of getting up all the way to 104 million $ in Cook reaches his incentives.
All in all, this mock team obviously needs health from Johan Santana – which of course is a big “if”and better health overall as it is. I am aware that the rotation is shallow if something goes wrong but Cook and maybe Batista / Schwinden will have to suffice for now while hoping that internal re-inforcements with upside are ready to help by mid-season. The bullpen adds two quality veteran relievers who have closing experience in the AL and will hopefully thrive in the NL and help stabilize the bullpen. Parnell & Acosta can share the 7th inning with Byrdak being restricted to LOOGY use and a cheap pitcher or two completing the middle & mop-up relief spots to be settled in spring training.
The defense is much improved with Tejada taking over at 2b fulltime, Rios starting most of the time in RF and Duda shifting to LF with Ike Davis returning fulltime to 1b. On the bench, Rule V pick Danks provides speed & defense off the bench, especially as a late game replacement for Duda. Murphy & Hairston are excellent pinch hitters while Turner can be a jack of all trades who doesn´t play a lot but can hold his own if needed. Varitek is there to tutor Thole and the young pitchers and also serve as a “payback” for Bobby V. now managing in BOS.
All in all, I don´t see why this team can´t win 85 games in 2012 with good health and maybe a little luck – and possibly sneak into the Wild Card hunt. While Rios is guaranteed 12 million in 2014, the Mets get out the ugly Jason Bay vest for 2014 easily while Thornton is cost-neutral with Rios for 2012 and 2013 vs. Bay financially. And since Rios is more than two years younger than Bay and certainly a better athlete, maybe he can return to his 2010 form and be a solid complementary player. At worst, he can be part of a platoon with maybe Nieuwenhuis once he´s up or Murphy if he manages to handle RF defensively. I am aware that Rios is a big risk, has OB skills similar to Jeff Franceour and will not create a lot of enthusiasm here. However, if he can return to 2010 form, he´ll be a nice contributor and help improve the defense a lot. Plus create room on the 2012 & 2013 payrolls to add a quality reliever in Thornton.
Most of all, besides Reyes´ becoming more expensive from 2014 on, there are no longterm contractual obligations, so basically, 2014 commitments are essentially 33 million $ for Reyes & Rios that year with only Reyes remaining for 2015 and 2016. And except for trading the brittle F-Mart to CWS as basically the price for Matt Thornton, all the young talent here is kept intact.
Finally, sorry for potential spelling issues as a non-native speaker....