So, I don't imagine the Mets will do particularly well next year. I mean, I'd love to think they will, and I'll be overjoyed to be wrong in that sentiment, but I just can't see the Mets overcoming all the obstacles that have already been placed in their path. Harvey will be out the entire season, payroll will apparently drop for the eighty-third consecutive year (thanks a lot, Mr. Simon), and the Braves are still a thing. So, I'm somewhat pessimistic that we can really turn our 70-or-so-win team into any sort of playoff club in a single offseason.
But, then, so were tons of Red Sox fans twelve months ago, right? As they were watching the Yankees fall to the Tigers, who in turn fell to the Giants, they were probably wondering when they could ever hope to be in a similar situation again. Not that Red Sox fans are prone to any sort of serial pessimism such that would embarrass Heraclitus, but they could be forgiven for assuming that their club's luck had finally run out, and a rebuild was in store.
The difference between the Mets and Sox, though, is that the Sox had a solid base of stars and superstars to build around, while the Mets have David Wright and the rehabilitating Matt Harvey. So, bupkis by way of comparison. But the Mets don't need to be the number-one seed next October, they just need a wild-card and a dream and some smallpox-infested Braves blankets. Ya gotta believe, and so forth. All we need is ninety wins next season, a mere sixteen more than we managed this year, and I think we can manage even more, if everything breaks the right way like it did for the Red Sox this year.
First, we have locked in David Wright and Jon Niese for 2014, accounting for $20.050 million. Not a ton of money for payers of their caliber, considering Wright was worth 6 fWAR and Niese 1.6 (I know that rWAR and fWAR each have their limitations, but I'm just going to use fWAR for continuity's sake rather than using one for pitchers and the other position players). If a win is worth roughly $5 million (and, for the purposes of this exercise, it will be), then Wright earned $11 million in 2013 but produced $30 million in value, while Niese earned $3 million and produced almost $8 million. Assuming those numbers at least hold for 2014 (a reasonable assumption, I think), both men will again outperform their salaries, but by shrinking margins.
Still, this exercise is about piling up wins, not cost-effective ones, so I'll gladly take those wins I expect from these two next year (assuming, of course, that Niese pitches an entire season the way he pitched 3/4 of 2013, if not better). That leaves many, many wins that need to yet be earned, but it's a nice start, these eight wins.
Next, let's look at the kids who are still cost-controlled, such that they haven't yet reached arbitration. Because we're Americans and love round numbers like we love round children, let's just say that each of these players will earn $500,000 for their troubles next season. Zack Wheeler, Carlos Torres, Josh Satin, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, Gonzalez Germen, Travis d'Arnaud, Juan Centeno, Andrew Brown, Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin, and Jenrry Mejia all have a spot on my team, at least partially because they're cheaper than Al Bundy.
Now, onto the arbitration-eligible players. Most of these jerks are going to be traided or jettisoned (some of them already have!), but some utility can be found in keeping them around. Speaking of utility, Justin Bleeping Turner. I don't actually hate the guy, he seems like a really cool dude, but I have this irrational distaste for his baseball-playing abilities. That being said, he is a useful sort to have around. He can fake it at multiple positions, he has a clue at the plate, and, if he weren't around anymore, we'd get more of this:
buckshot (via mike_zv)
Not that I want Valdespin on my team next year, but I have no wish to see the man put to sleep.
The other arb-eligible players I see keeping on the team are Dillon Gee, Eric Young Jr., Bobby Parnell, and Lucas Duda. I know, I know, what of Murphy and Ike? Well, that's for later. For now, I see these five gentlemen getting contracts with the Mets and, combined with the thirteen pre-arb players and two actual baseball players, gives us twenty men for twenty-five spots, with Murphy, Ike, and Tejada at least to be figured out.
First, I see Murphy as a wonderfully useful player and a favorite of mine, but as simply more expensive than I want to keep around. He was good in spurts last year, and nearly led the league in hits in 2013, but he's just not a top-flight player, and he's beginning to price himself out of his talent level. He's a 2-WAR player, and that's a great thing to have, but I'm fully confident that Flores, given playing time there and no nagging injuries, can be just that for a fraction of the price.
But, then, what to do with Murphy? TRAID, of course! But, where? The Dodgers just signed a middle infielder, will probably sign for or six more for eleventy-billion dollars in November, and clearly don't need much of an overhaul, considering how close they came to a champtionship this season. So, disappointing as it be to he who has no name, I'm going to say that no Murph-for-Joc traid is likely. I do, however, have in mind an outfielder who has talent but not a great reputation with his team, whose team is retooling and could use a guy like Murph at third, where he profiles best, and whose team would never look twice at the analytics that suggest Murphy might not be the guy they need: Domonic Brown and the Philadelphia Phillies. It may seem somewhat counter-intuitive that the Phillies would traid with the Mets, and especially their young outfielder, but consider:
1. A coaching change there makes for a reshuffled lineup more likely than not.
2. Murphy's Veteran Presents(tm) are just what the club needs, considering he's so much younger than most of their starters but still has ample service time.
3. Brown has recently cheesed off the Phillie "faithful" by rooting for a team he likes that they don't, making him persona non grata there for the umpteenth time.
As a failed prospect who suddenly failed to fail this year, it might be tough to convince the Phillies to traid away a young, productive outfielder for a less young, less productive infielder, but Ruben Amaro, Jr. You may also be worried that we would have to kick in some other young talent to make this happen, but Ruben Amaro, Jr. And if you are thinking that there's no way a team would take on a greater salary commitment in exchange for a lesser player, to you I would say: Ruben Amaro, Jr. Besides, when the Phillies give $100 million each to Choo and Ellsbury to play right and center for them, Darren Ruf (who the Phillies really love, for some reason) will make Brown expendable, and Sandy might convince Amaro to throw Jesse Biddle into the deal. If Amaro has a grown up who tells him Mr. Alderson is taking him for a ride, we can always toss Tejada into the deal, but Muscles will otherwise ply his trade in Las Vegas, where I imagine he'll totally be committed to baseball. 100%. Nothing but. Right.
So, now, we have our starters at second and third covered, but not first and short. Well, first base is just going to be a platoon, because we didn't sign Abreu and so the apocalypse is upon us. In reality, Duda has an .812 OPS against right-handed pitchers in his career, and Satin has an .862 OPS against lefties in his. If we can get scratch defense out of those two guys and they continue to OPS well over .800, that is a perfectly cromulent first base situation, which makes me very happy indeed. Duda's defense at first, by the way, should be at least scratch (his UZR/150 there for 2013 was 3.1, and it was 1.5 in 2011), and I can't wait to see what the metrics say about his defense when the outfield is subtracted entirely from the equation.
the dude (via mike_zv)
What of Ike Davis, you ask? Good question. I would live to keep Ike on, I really would, but I just don't see a role for him on this team. If he was cheaper, if he was younger, if he was less, ummm, streaky, then I'd say he has a shot of keeping his roster spot, but I just can't see dropping millions of dollars on Ike and expecting a real return. Is he that 30-homer guy? Maybe. Is he that sub-.400 OPS guy? Also maybe. Not worth finding out. Colorado may be interested in that answer, though, and I'm interested in Drew Pomerantz as a reclamation project of my own, so that's a swapperooni in my book. Problem solved, crisis averted, end of times postponed.
So, set all over the infield save for at short, where I just don't see why we don't sign Jhonny Peralta to a multi-year deal. Peralta is said to prefer to stay with Detroit and that he'd even be open to playing left field, but I doubt we couldn't pull him away by offering one more year on the contract than the Tigers would. Not usually a great strategy, but I'm thinking three years instead of two here, which is fine when one considers we won't see any reinforcements coming from the minors for three years at least.
Peralta's a consistently good player, having accrued 3 WAR in two of the past three seasons, and he's really not that old yet that his defense might fall off a cliff, even if they do decline.Yeah, yeah, I know he was on the Biogenesis list and so his numbers may be suspect, but I see a fairly consistent, slightly above-career that could be extended for three or four more years in Queens. Plus, his recent foray into PEDs has given him magical, bat-levitating powers, and who can say no to that?
Not this guy.
Now we have first, second, and third covered and accounted for, so what does it take to get Peralta? Well, he's made between five and six million annually for the last three years with the Tigers, which I think is a fine baseline for a contract. He might have been able to get more annually, if not more years, were it not for the whole Biogenesis thing, but that's a thing, and he got mired in its gyre, so let's say we get Peralta on the cheap, say three years and $13.5 million, with an AAV of $4.5 million. It's a pay cut, to be sure, but not a huge one (he made $6 million in 2013), but he only needs to be worth 1 WAR each season to pay for himself, and he's done that or come within a hair's breadth each of the last nine years. I'm doing it.
So, that's the infield, with Turner the backup MI, Centeno the backup catcher (I'll discuss this later), and Satin backing up third as well as platooning with Duda as needed (because I'm still not 100% convinced that's necessary). The way I see it, you can pull 5 WAR from the platoon at first in a perfect world (where this entire exercise exists, so I'll say that once and only once), another three from second and short (I know it's a reach from Flores, but I believe), and I'm going to go with a full eight from 2014 NL MVP David Wright at third, giving us 19 WAR from our infielders and, what the hell, an extra WAR produced by our subs for an even 20 WAR there, promising a last-place finish if we only field those four players. But, then, we can't give up any runs without pitchers, right? Not a bad plan to have in our back pocket...
A word about Centeno.
I see no reason why he can't be our backup catcher, with Recker in the minors... wrecking things. Centeno might not have Recker's power potential, but he is en excellent defensive catcher, and that's just the kind of guy you want on the bench, in my opinion. If your backup was a good-hitting catcher, he wouldn't be your backup. As for the notion of needing Veteran Presents(tm) in the reserve position to teach d"arnaud how to catch, John Buck already did that, and I'm sure he did it well. No need to drop unnecessary funds on some old catcher to caddy for Dr. No just because it's convention. If you can get Nieves, Molina, or Navarro to take that spot for the same price as Centeno, then do so by all means. If not, I don't give this a second thought.
Now, the outfield situation has already been somewhat decided by retaining EYJ, Andrew Brown, and Lagares, as well as acquiring Dominic Brown from that paragon of managerial competence, Ruben Amaro Jr. There is a fifth spot for an outfielder, though, I I feel like this isn't a bad place to spend some of our limited funds. The object of my affections, of course, is Carlos Beltran.
See? That guy gets it.
Beltran has been Beltran since he left the Mets. In fact, outside of 2010 (a year most of us would like to forget along with 2009, 2011, 2012...), Beltran has struggled to put up less than 3 WAR, managing to do so only twice this millennium. That one of those times was 2013 is something of a red flag, but his offensive numbers have been as good as ever, or at least they were as good as in 2012, suggesting his lower value is chalked up entirely to declining defense. I don't see that as a predictive number, though, so I'm willing to say this was just a down year, and that his defense will recover, his bat will sustain, and he'll be back to producing 4 WAR or better for the last two years of his spectacular, Hall-of-Fame (in a Mets Cap) career. For the privilege of having the good "NY" on his cap in Cooperstown, I'm willing to offer Beltran a two-year, $24 million contract with a team option for a third year at $10 million and a $1 million buyout. I doubt he'll get such length from St. Louis, if even even gets the AAV, and maybe it'll be enough to keep him from the evil clutches of the Yankees. Remember, perfect world.
So, Beltran in the fold, I see Domonic Brown holding down left field for the immediate future and Tron in right, at least until he retires as World Series MVP after the 2014 season. By then, I sincerely hope Cesar Puello is ready to take over in right. If he needs another half-season or so to gather himself, though, we'll be happy Beltran got two years. If he flames out altogether, we might even be grateful for my super-generous option year. The corners now covered, that brings us to centerfield.
Peralta, put him down, for chrissakes!
Anyway, as you can see above, the high-flying adventures of Juan Lagares will continue for at least 2014 at Citi Field, with fervent hope for many future engagements. Lagares was good for 3 fWAR in 2013 and 3.7 rWAR, which I only mention because it bolsters my point and that's how I roll. Lagares is clearly a talented defender, maybe the best in the system (blah blah blah MdD blah blah blah), and he could be an absolute monster if he were to get his bat under control and put up better than an 80 OPS+. I'm going to assume that he does just that, and takes a moderate step forward from the 3 or so WAR he produced in 2013 and give him 5 WAR for 2014. After all, not only do I expect 4 WAR out of Beltran in right field, but the effect he has on Lagares as a mentor will be huge, judging from what he was able to do with Angel "Crazy Horse" Pagan. Yet another reason to have Beltran around, in my humble opinion.
Combine those two with Brown, who only accrued 1.6 fWAR this year but, again, Baseball Refernce likes him better with 2.5 WAR, and you should get at least ten WAR from your outfield. I'm going to give Brown a similar jump in production to Lagares (but because Brown's defense lags behind his bat, not the reverse, Lagaresian way), in part because Beltran and in part because Lagares will shorten the field for both corner guys, and I'm going to say our new leftfielder will accrue 5 fWAR in 2014 and we'll give the Phillies the Reverse Dykstra. While we're at it, let's assume EYJ is able to put up another 1 WAR year with his legs and that Andrew Brown super-subs his way to 1 WAR of his own in relief the corner ourtfielders, and we can squint real hard and see 16 WAR being squeezed out of this outfield. If someone falls apart, Puello still lurks as a replacement, but let's hope we don't need to see him until we're passing out rings in April 2015.
So, now, we've got our infielders and outfielders, thirteen of our twenty-five players, all set to go, and they've given us 36 WAR so far, or roughly the same number of wins the Mets managed in 2013. See, this is easy, right? We totally got this! Add in Harvery's 8,000 WAR and fifty Cy Youngs in 2014 and we're gonna... goddammit, I just can't. Anyway, before even looking at our pitchers, we have a pretty reasonable chance of having a better season next year than we did this year, and that's not bad. Plus, we don't have to replace Harvey, really, just his production, which I've already done here. Well, me and some wishful thinking, but.... Anyway, we look to have a pretty serious hole in our rotation going into 2014, and I see only one real way to plug it:
No, you probably don't, do you? That's okay, he's probably not here to stay. But I absolutely extend a major league contract to Mike Pelfrey, with the very real possibility that he comes back strong in 2014. Don't believe me? Here are a few good reasons we should take a flier on Pelfrey:
1. He had a good 2013. He was worth 2.1 fWAR on a $4 million contract, which means he far outearned what he was paid.
2. He does his best work in even years. His 2008, 2010, and abbreviated 2012 were his best years as a Met, and even though he somewhat bucked that trend by being pretty good in 2013, maybe that's his new baseline and we can count on a 4 WAR year in 2014.
3, The Mets wHLAR+ has been absolutely abysmal since he left, and we really need his clutch skills in that regard. Plus, Baseball Reference hated him almost as much as Fangraphs loved him in 2013, so he should still come rather cheap, maybe even on a minor league deal. And he did K 100 last year, too.
And so, as much as I expect to get absolutely lambasted in the comments for this decision, I'm going to give Mike Pelfrey a minor league contract if I can and a major league contract if I must. If they don't get major league deals elsewhere, I'd also give a minor league deal to Dice-K (who really showed us something toward the end of the season), Scott Kazmir (who can probably do better, but I'm not sure I'd give him a guaranteed contract, so maybe no one else will, either), Roberto Hernandez (same as Kazmir, though maybe even less likely to get a guarantee), and Johan Santana (who I imagine will not get anything better, but maybe we get something for all that DL money somewhere down the line).
If a qualified offer is not part of the equation, and the money and years aren't atrocious (I doubt either of these will happen, let alone both), the only guaranteed contract I'd be willing to give out would be to Ricky Nolasco. I imagine he'd be looking for somethning like five years and $75 million, but he might not get anything near that. If we 7uld wait him out, and get him for three years and, say, $33 million, I think I would make that move. He's a near-lock to accrue 3 fWAR each year, which means he out-performs his contract, and he's a reasonable traid chip should Montero, Syndergaard, or any other pitcher in the system push his way into the rotation in Queens. So, let's say we get Nolasco for $11 million next year, with Pelfrey and Roberto Hernandez as AAA depth to go along with Montero and de Grom, giving us nine starting pitcher from which to choose.
Nine, you say? And the other four are? Clearly, they are Niese, Wheeler, Gee, and Mejia. I think those four are very solid as pitchers and, barring injury (a significant concern for three-quarters of that rotation, hence the nine pitcher thing), they should all have good, productive years and lead the Mets to the World Series. If Dillon Gee can be post-Yankees series Dillon Gee all year long, he should easily be good for 3 WAR. If Mejia can extrapolate his .7 fWAR from five starts over twenty-five more, that gives him 4 WAR (I know he's unlikely to pitch that many innings, but Montero...). If Jon Niese can be the guy he was in the second half, and we can avoid playing in Greenland again next season, he is in store for a breakout, 5 WAR season. If Zack Wheeler can improve upon his .6 fWAR 2013 and take the kind of step Harvey did in his first full season (asking a lot, I know), he can also be a 3 WAR pitcher at the least, with room for more.
Nolasco's 3, Wheeler's 3, Niese's 5, Mejia's 4, and Gee's 3 combines for 18 WAR out of the starting pitchers, which is entirely possible if we suggest that the four subs in AAA will come up and contribute accordingly. ;ufsxchlo'kmnbx 32,mol;pp[itvc gbvxcc xzz`= (I left that last bit in because my two year old son typed it while I walked away to make his dinner, and now this is a collaboration with a toddler, and what kind of monster doesn't want my little angel son to get an autographed Carlos Beltran baseball? Vote your conscience!) Even without Harvery's 6 WAR, this can still be a productive group if everything falls right, as it did for the Red Sox this year.
So, if we can assume a replacement-level team garners 41 wins per season, and this team can put together, as currently constituted and, ahem, generously prognosticated for next year, will accrue 54 wins above replacement, which would be good for 95 wins.
That's right, we have seven more player who haven't even been counted! Their mission, should they choose to accept it: don't f$@& this thing up. That's it. We have plenty of wins, six to spare from what we'll need to capture the wild card, so all we need is this group not to provide negative value. I see a bullpen comprised of Familia, Black, Parnell, Edgin, Torres, and Germen as being young, cost-controlled, and relatively trustworthy (as much as any other group of relievers can hope to be). To this, I would add a single major league contract, one Edward Mujica, and call it a day. Mujica has been an extremely consistent reliever, only once in his career providing negative value for his services (according to Fangraphs, at least), and his 2013 was exemplary at the back of the World Cahmption St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen. He only made $1.6 million this year and, assuming no one grabs him to be their closer next year, I think he can easily be had for $2 million, with maybe a second option year to put us over the top i negotiations. I don't need him to be our closer, but a seven-eight-nine combo of Black, Familia, Parnell, and Mujica means we won't ever see Luis Ayala, Closer(c) listed anywhere, ever again. And if Mujica gets closer money from some idiot, roll with Leather Rocket or Jeff Walters. Plenty of guys coming up the pipe who profile as relievers and can make an appearance in 2014.
So, that's that. If those mooks can put together a few wins between themselves, we could actually pull off 100 wins with this crew, and there are ample reserves i the minor leagues to replace anyone who goes down. Unless it's a shortstop. Or a catcher. Or a second baseman. Or....
Anyway, this team has a chance, and it's cost-effective, too. These players should only cost about $72.6 million before the buyouts for Bay and Santana are counted (recounted?), which would put us at $80 million for the year. If reports of no longer being impecunious slumlords turn out to be true, then the Wilpons will even have some spare cash to take on a contract or two mid-season, should an injury or some other variable derail this Promise Train. In the end, though, I think this is a team that, with Red Soxian levels of luck and bounce-back, could easily make the playoffs next year. Hate not in my optimistic projections for this player or that, but instead rejoice in the wonderful season about to unfold before your eyes, one where the Mets flirt with 100 wins and take the division from the heathens in Washington, Philadelphia, and Atlants. After that, of course, it's a crapshoot.
As a postscript, I'd like to lobby that we officially move forward with giving Matt Harvey a nickname befitting of someone of his stature. I lobby Mr. FANtastic, not just because he's a super hero (Dark Knight silliness) and because he's superlative, but because we'll always be able to look at the name and its spelling and smile lightly as we remember that time Matt Harvey went kablooey on television and radio. Plus, Qualcomm gives me ten cents every time someone uses it. Happy Offseason, folks!
|Player Name||Salary (in millions)|
|Eric Young Jr.||$1.9|