My plan this year is going to follow the general scope of what Sandy Alderson has told us in the media about how he is going to try to improve the Mets in 2013 albeit in a slightly exaggerated style that we will probably not see happen in real life. This means more or less that I will try to follow the budget limit set in 2012 keeping payroll around $100M. However by cutting Bay and deferring $15M of his salary I think Alderson has shown that this will not be another offseason where only small moves are made and 2013 should not be a throwaway year while waiting to compete in 2014. So everyone watch out because Hurricane Sandy Alderson is gonna make some serious changes to the NL East coast and the NY Mets.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of trades and contracts lets first take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the 2012 Mets and see where we can improve and maybe deal from. One big area of strength this past season at least for the first half was the starting pitching. Our starters well outperformed expectations with Santana and Dickey pitching like dual aces and Niese and Gee taking big steps forward. With all four of them still under team control next year and Matt Harvey breaking out the Mets appear to be sitting pretty with their starting rotation. There are also other options in Mike Pelfrey and Chris Young and several near ready pitchers in AAA so depth should not be an issue either.
With regards to position players the Mets have solid starters at all four infield positions and not much else. The outfield right now is three question marks and Thole, while he should bounce back, may not be the best option to start the majority of the games at Catcher. The internal options we do have for all of these holes all share similar weaknesses. The main one being they all feature heavy platoon splits against left handed pitching to varying degrees of terrible. Add to that that they all have problems with high strikeouts, and none of them hits for enough power or plays good enough defense to cover up for it. The Mets can probably get away with keeping a couple of these guys around and supplementing with some righty hitting platoon partners, but not all of them. The outfield and catcher positions need to improve this year for the Mets to have any chance of competing.
The bullpen will have to be another patchwork job this year, but that might not be a bad thing. Bullpens are probably one of the most inefficient was to spend money and trade value for as we saw in the Pagan trade and the Francisco signing this past year. So I say take what good pieces we have and spend as little as possible to fill the rest of the holes. That means giving more minor league guys like Edgin, Carson, Familia shots while looking for veteran guys coming off of bad years who we could sign for very little or ideally minor league deals.
On to the good stuff.
David Wright: will be extended to something in the 7 years $18M per year range although his salary for 2013 will remain at the $16M of his option. This is really a no brainer. The Mets have to keep their best player or else just do what the Astros or MarLOLins are doing and start from scratch, but I don’t think anyone really wants to see that happen. Wright should be a very good if not MVP caliber player for most of the extension, which will hopefully include several years of making it to the playoffs. Enough said.
R.A. Dickey: This is something I agonized over for a long time and flip flopped many times while working on this. I think they have to resign Dickey as long as it’s to a somewhat reasonable deal. I would propose something like 3 years $40M with a signing bonus and an option year. A $2M signing bonus would be added to his 2013 salary raising it to $7M and then his annual salary would be $12M for the next 3-4 years with another $2M buyout of the $12M option year. I think Dickey either wants a long contract with a decent salary or a shorter one with a much higher average annual salary. I chose to go with more years because I don’t think Dickey will lose his effectiveness like most other aging pitchers do when they start to lose velocity. Not only that, but Dickey has been getting steadily better over the past three years so I would be surprised if he were not able to at least repeat his average performance from 2010-2011, with the ceiling being his 2012 Cy Young season. I do worry about the other nagging injuries Dickey has dealt with the past two seasons, but he has been able to deal with them so far, and there have been no signs pointing to any catastrophic arm injuries so it’s a risk I would be willing to take. Plus Dickey has become so endeared to the fanbase that not extending him would be a pretty big blow.
Unfortunately someone has to get traded to fill some of the other holes on the roster. The debate for me was between Dickey and Niese and although Niese is already signed to a very team friendly contract, he has nowhere near the ceiling that Dickey has. Also before his 2012 breakout season, Niese has not had the most encouraging start to his career with injuries and underwhelming performance. With his contract and the outstanding past season though Niese’s trade value is at an all time high.
The Twins are in desparate need of starting pitching and are loaded in the outfield as Steve Schreiber wrote about in his 2013 outfield trade targets series. This trade sends them an established affordable starter in Niese, a major league ready guy in Mejia, and a prospect with moderate upside in Verrett. The Mets get two guys who are expendable to the Twins in Span and Doumit and a pretty good CF prospect in Hicks.
Span is affordable like Niese for the next couple of years so no money would have to go either way in the trade. He will cost $4.75M in 2013 and $6.5M in 2014 with a $9M option year in 2015. The Twins already have an arguably better center fielder in Ben Revere and another outfield top prospect in Oswaldo Arcia who will be ready very soon, not to mention Byron Buxton in the lower minors. Span could man CF for the Mets for the next year or two with Hicks in AAA next year. Hicks is a switch hitter with a good defensive reputation and a good speed/power mix.
Ryan Doumit is a switch hitting catcher with a slight platoon split posting a 112 wRC+ against RHP and a 91 wRC+ against LHP. Since the Twins also have some guy named Joe Mauer and Drew Butera at catcher, Doumit is not a necessity as you can see that he played most of his games at DH and in LF last year. The fact that he can play in the outfield or 1B on his off days from catching is a nice bonus as he has an above average bat. Doumit can take the majority of the starts at catcher except for Dickey starts obviously, and he makes $3.5M per year for the next two years.
Mike Pelfrey: Non-tender and resign to something like Capuano got two years ago. $2M with incentive bonuses. He might not be ready until a month or two into the season so out of spring training one of Familia or McHugh will get a redo on their Major League audition. If either one performs better than expected Pelfrey could be an option for the bullpen. If the fifth starter struggles or there are any injuries Pelf will be put back in the rotation. I like the potential flexibility that Pelfrey brings.
Scott Hairston: To balance out the lefty heavy outfield bring Hairston I would bring Hairston back. He’s done a good job so far as a 4th outfielder who can play all three spots without embarrassing himself and he has power, something the Mets lack. I would try to limit his exposure to right handed pitching as much as possible giving guys like Nieuwenhuis and Baxter starts, while realizing that Hairston might be better than either of those guys. I would give Hairston a 2 year $6M deal at $3M per year.
Juan Rivera: What’s this? Another right handed lefty masher for the outfield. If you haven’t figured it out yet, for my plan the corner infield spots will be pretty much a straight platoon with Hairston and Rivera getting the starts against lefties and Kirk and Baxter getting the starts against righties. Rivera will get $2M on a one-year bounce back deal.
That leaves Lucas Duda and Jordany Valdespin as the odd men out for the time being. In Duda’s case I just think it would be a mistake to force him into the outfield again this year. However the Mets will almost certainly need depth and they will both get another chance to prove themselves this year as injury replacements.
Kyle Farnsworth: Farnsworth will get the Jon Rauch deal at something around $3M. He’s another reliever with previous closing experience, but unlike Rauch he has higher strikeout rates and a higher career walk rate although in recent years he has been able to control the walks. Also he comes with the nickname "I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass" so how can you argue with that.
Shawn Camp: I would give Camp $2M. He’s a righty reliever sort of in the Rauch mold with lower strikeouts, but also lower walks. Not much else to say, he’s sort of low risk moderate reward investment.
Ryan Theriot: Finally I would sign Theriot to a one year $1.5M deal because otherwise there is no SS backup beyond Valdespin who is not really a SS or Wilfredo Tovar who is in AA and may not be able to hit his weight at the major league level yet without some more time in the minors.
Minor League Deals:
The Mets have already signed ROOGY candidate Greg Burke, but I would also look to sign several other guys to minor league deals. Alderson has been pretty good about stacking the minors with depth for the major league team so far with guys like Baxter, Hefner, Quintanilla, and Willie Harris all playing roles on the major league squad coming off minor league deals. I would continue with Kyle McClellan and Fernando Abad who could both fill bullpen roles this year. I would also keep an eye out for middle infield depth and spare outfielders. While Fred Lewis never played a big role last year he was still a good signing, and with one more injury or a deal at the trade deadline players like him could come in handy.
So without further ado here is my 2013 25-man roster and payroll estimate. Salaries are including 2014 buyouts and arbitration raises are based on MLB Trade Rumors arbitration estimates. I assumed an even half million for pre-arb guys and the minor league deals.