There is a choice to be made this offseason - tear it up and build for 2016 or get to work and win now. We did not necessarily want this choice. My view was that 2013 would be a lost year and 2014 is the year we are aiming for to start winning. This choice is gone now - if we want to keep Wright and Dickey we must give them a reason to stay. If we let them leave, we have little chance at competing in 2014. Because of the emergence of Matt Harvey and the excellence of Zack Wheeler in the upper minors last year, I have come around to the idea that we should start trying to win now.
Why Gordon? He was accumulated over 5 WAR each season the last two years without getting much attention doing it. Miguel Cabrera's victory with 22 of 28 first place MVP votes proves that many major league front office and scouts (who influence the journalists who vote on the award) have not stopped loving HRs and RBIs and valuing it higher than defense and on base percentage. Alex Gordon is the epitome of an underrated skill set: he does not have a lot of RBIs, home runs, or a particularly high batting average. His value comes from defense, OBP, and solid power. If you were to make up a high value player from scratch who would be underrated by backwards-thinking front offices, you would end up with Alex Gordon.
And, indeed, he does play for a backwards-thinking front office. So I say we go get him.
In return, I'm offering Jon Niese and Jordany Valdespin to start with. Niese gives the Royals a much needed rotation upgrade and Valdespin's power and atheleticism are sure to entice Dayton Moore at a position they need help with. To make the deal happen, I'd be willing to toss in a prospect of solid value as well - Rafael Monteros, Domingo Tapia or Aderlin Rodriguez all come to mind as solid prospects on the rise who are a few years ago.
The Rest of the Plan
With Gordon in the fold, the next steps are for beyond 2012: extending Dickey and Wright. I would do that without adding to 2013 payroll, since dollars are still scarce. I'm thinking Wright gets 7 years, about $135 million. Dickey, I'd try to get for 2 years $26 million and some sort of vesting option. But even if they don't sign, they are here for 2013.
Next up, we tap Melky Cabrera for RF. I'd offer him one year $7 million and consider going as high as $10 million if necessary (and financially feasible). (note: Cabrera has since signed with Toronto).
To fill right field, I would try to get the hated Shane Victorino. He should have the defense to handle RF and add a decent bat. I'd try to get him for 3 years, $30 million. Some estimates have him going higher, some lower, but I'd bet this is the type of contract he signs somewhere.
My next step is to get a new face at catcher. If I am the Mets, I am going after Hank Conger of the Angels. Conger seems to be held in low regard there, as the Angels have recently extended Chris Ianneta. Conger was once considered a pretty valuable prospect, has hit well at AAA and has not gotten many major league at bats. To get Conger, I would offer the Angels Jenrry Mejia - the team needs more near-ready major league pitching, so I think they make this deal. In Mejia they also get a once highly regarded prospect who has not had a chance at the major league level.
As for Mets internal options, I would non-tender Mike Pelfrey and Andre Torres. I would then try to resign both. Ideally, Pelfrey signs a minor league deal, but if he refuses, I'd offer him $2 million at the major league level. Torres, I think, would sign for $1 million. He is very underrated as a 4th OF type - he mashed lefties last year and played solid defense. My plan would be give him the short end of a platoon with Kirk Niuewenhuis, who would play against right handers.
For the bullpen, I would look for cheap options and I would start with Ramon Ramirez who outperformed his ERA last year and could do a lot better in 2013. Ramirez seems to be getting no love in the free agent lists, so I believe he would come cheap, perhaps one year, $2 million. I'd also look for an additional pitcher, aiming for no more than 2 years at $3 million per season.... perhaps Koji Ueihara who has excellent control and apparently only struggles with giving up the long ball, a weakness that would be masked in Citi Field.
Finally, I'd try to get Scott Feldman on a one year, $3 million deal, as either a starter or reliever, depending where the Mets need him.
Lucas Duda goes back to AAA to play 1B and we use him as trade bait once his wrist heals and he starts hitting.
Zack Wheeler starts in AAA and takes over for an injury in the rotation, or if Pelfrey is terrible. Or if he is so dominant that we want to kick someone (probably Pelfrey) out for him to take over.
So here is our team:
C - Hank Conger
1B - Ike Davis
2B - Daniel Murphy
SS - Ruben Tejada
3B - David Wright
LF - Alex Gordon
CF - Kirk Niuwenhuis/Andre Torres
RF - Shane Victorino
Carson/Elvin Ramirez/Colin Hughes
And, your 2013 payroll. $74 million to start with
+ $9 million for Alex Gordon
+ $10 million for Shane Victorino
+ $7 million for Melky Cabrera
+ $3 million for K Ueihara
+ $3 million for Scott Feldman
+ $2 million for Ramon Ramirez
+ $2 million for Mike Pelfrey
+ $1 million for Andre Torres
-$5 million for Jon Niese
Total Payroll $100 million
And if the Mets start winning, then I use Wilmer Flores, who is blocked by the Wright extension, as my main trade bait for upgrades.