This year is the turning point. This year is when the goals shift. We have the young talent. We have the right front office guys. The right managers. It's time to stop prioritizing prudence and build a winner. This AAOP is designed to stockpile as much talent as possible for the Mets at the big league level, while not committing too many future dollars to free agent acquisitions.
1) Sign Shin-Soo Choo to a 4-year, $72 million contract, with a $5 million buyout for the 5th year or $18 million team option. I think the market for Shin-Soo Choo is largely going to come down to the Mets and Astros. The Giants, Rangers and Yankees all could use Choo, but will have more pressing needs elsewhere and will look to fill their outfield gaps more quickly to take care of other needs. The Mariners will also be in the market for Choo, but ultimately I believe they will be much more comfortable with Jacoby Ellsbury, if they can manage to lure a big name outfielder to the organization. The Cubs have reported interest in Choo, but are unlikely to go neck and neck with the Mets and Astros due to the presence of Jorge Soler, Junior Lake and Albert Almora. The Astros have unlimited cash, and not many outfielders to play the corner when George Springer takes over in center, so I'd have to believe they'll put up a good fight. If they offer the 5th year, they'll get him. Here's to hoping they won't.
2) Sign David Murphy to a 2 year, $12 million contract. Murphy is a jack of all trades. He hits for reasonable power (.166 career ISO, albeit in Arlington mostly), has decent speed, has a serviceable glove in the corner, walks at a league average to above level (8.7% of plate appearances) and makes good contact (15.5% for his career). Coming off of a poor BABIP year in 2013, Murphy would be lucky to get two years from anyone, and this salary is a modest upgrade from what he made in 2013.
3) Sign Jhonny Peralta to a 3-year, $36 million contract with a fourth year option for $12 million or a $2 million buyout. Peralta doesn't look like a shortstop, this much we know. We also know that he is not exactly the Rock of Gibraltar when it comes to being consistent. What we do know is that he has a track record of being a capable defender at short while also being a contributor with the bat. This is very valuable to a contending team, especially when the alternative is Ruben Tejada. I thought a while about signing Drew, but his injury history and even more volatile offensive performance turned me to Peralta. Also, it appears that Peralta can play third capably and even left field in a pinch, so that can't hurt.
4) Sign Jose Molina to a 2 year, $6 million contract. This may seem a little pricey for a backup catcher, but Molina is the best receiver in the game by a longshot, and the extra year or a few million will pay dividends with the value he'll bring with his framing, instruction to d'Arnaud and handling of young pitchers. Besides guyz, Molinas are part of TEH WIN METHOD.
5) Sign Scott Baker to a 1 year, $3 million contract. Baker is a great fit for Citi Field and the Mets organization. He's a command pitcher who, if his elbow is healthy, can log in innings and become a big potential trade asset. He got his first few big league outings since 2011 in at the end of 2013, and his velocity wasn't quite where it was pre-surgery, but with a good spring, he should be a bargain. I prefer Baker to Johnson because Johnson has an extensive history of forearm and shoulder issues, and his performance lagged even though there were few signs of change in his velocity, movement, command or approach, and that is scary. Optimally, the Mets give Baker the first two months of the season to build up his value, and then he can hand the ball off to Syndergaard or Montero.
6) Sign LaTroy Hawkins to a 1-year, $1.1 million contract. A veteran with experience in every part of a pitching staff except maybe lefty specialist, his steady velocity and solid numbers last season make him a key part of 2014 success.
7) Trade Daniel Murphy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Zach Lee and Chris Reed. Joc Pederson is a pipe dream for the Mets, especially with Alex Guerrero manning second for the Dodgers. Still, the Dodgers have a third base vacancy open and it would likely be an attractive option for them to have a long term solution like Murphy at the position in lieu of re-signing Juan Uribe. The market for third basemen is scarce and isn't going to get better for a long time, so the Dodgers should be pretty happy with trading for and extending Murphy. The Mets, in return, get two power arms capable of doing some damage in the big leagues in 2014, adding to an already incredibly deep glut of young pitching.
8) Trade Ike Davis to the Colorado Rockies for Chad Bettis. The Rockies don't have many options for first base right now, and acquiring Davis will give them a shot to get some power and defense from the position. It's also the best possible Change of Scenery for Ike. For the Mets on the receiving end, they receive a prospect who has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter or a bullpen piece. Bettis can get a trial starting in April and be moved to the bullpen when Mejia is ready to start full games.
9) Trade Justin Turner to the Cubs for Trey McNutt. Turner is capable with the bat, cheap, and can play anywhere in the infield for the Cubs, where every position except first base is a question mark. Easy deal to make for both sides. The Mets' roster is too crowded for Turner.
11) Sign Daisuke Matsuzaka to a minor league deal and allow him to compete for the rotation. He did perfectly fine in his stint with the Mets and to have him around doesn't hurt.
12) Give Johan Santana and Pedro Feliciano Spring Training invites. Perhaps they can still play a role on the 2014 team.
The Opening Day Rotation:
1. Jonathon Niese, LHP ($5.05 Million) - Obvious Opening Day starter.
2. Dillon Gee, RHP ($3.4 Million)
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP ($500,000)
4. Scott Baker, RHP ($3 Million) - If all goes according to plan, he hands the rock off to Syndergaard in June, or Montero earlier, and is either kept around in a different capacity or traded elsewhere.
5. Chad Bettis, RHP ($500,000) - Bettis will get an April rotation trial. If he does alright, he is kept around in the big league bullpen and he hands the rock off to Jenrry Mejia in May. Mejia will be in extended Spring Training to stretch his arm out until then. Otherwise, Bettis will be demoted and Daisuke can make some emergency starts.
"Teh Clozer" Bobby Parnell ($3.2 Million)
"The 8th Inning" LaTroy Hawkins ($1.1 Million) - The relative youth of the others makes LaTroy Hawkins a go-to for the 8th.
"The Fireballer" Vic Black ($500,000) - He looks pretty good in his 2013 stints, and will likely insert himself into the 8th inning role quite quickly.
"The Changeup" Gonzalez Germen ($500,000) - Generates strikeouts and weak contact with his solid command and great changeup.
"The Long Man" Carlos Torres ($500,000) - A phenomenal reliever and a usable spot starter.
"The Edge" Josh Edgin ($500,000) - The hard-throwing lefty should have it all together by April 2014.
"The Rice" Scott Rice ($500,000) - A solid, durable lefty reliever
Travis d'Arnaud ($500,000) - slated for 400-450 plate appearances, this year is about getting d'Arnaud acclimated to the pitching staff, fine tuning his receiving, having him get used to a full big league season, and getting him reps against big league pitching.
Jose Molina ($3 Million) - Slated for 200 or so plate appearances, Jose will mentor the young pitchers as well as d'Arnaud, and perhaps get a few extra strike calls.
Lucas Duda ($1.8 Million) - Will start against right handed pitching. Clearly a capable offensive player, some conditioning and a more aggressive approach. Already owns a career .354 wOBA against right handers.
Josh Satin ($500,000) - Will start against lefties. Hit a .381 wOBA against them in 2013. Satin will also likely be used in pinch hitting situations when not started and could also see time at second or third if there are injuries.
Wilmer Flores ($500,000) - Flores will be the everyday second baseman, but may see some of his playing time cut into by Eric Young Jr. against righties if he struggles for a while.
David Wright ($20 Million) - Everyday third baseman. End of story.
Jhonny Peralta ($12 Million) - Everyday shortstop. Can also fill in in left or third if there are injuries.
Ruben Tejada ($1 Million) - A backup middle infielder until further notice, could be called on to spell Flores if Wilmer is sent down.
David Murphy ($6 Million) - Starts in left against right handed pitching. .352 wOBA against righties for his career, and abut 90% of his career home runs. Should be a good asset in the lineup.
Eric Young ($1.9 Million) - Starts in left against lefties, main pinch runner, could see time in center if Lagares is struggling, or time at second in the wake of the Murphy trade.
Juan Lagares ($500,000) - Everyday centerfielder due to his glove. He hits the ball hard so he may seem improvement offensively. If he struggles, Eric Young, Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Matt den Dekker could all see some time in center.
Shin-Soo Choo ($18 million) - Will start against right-handed pitching and may see some time against lefties but very limited. Obscenely good .438 wOBA against righties last year. Should flourish due to ability to produce runs with power, speed and patience.
Andrew Brown ($500,000) - Will see some starts in the corner outfield spots against lefties and will be a useful pinch hitter. Lots of right-handed pop, capable defender.
Other notables players: Jenrry Mejia, RHP, Rafael Montero, RHP, Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP, Zach Lee, RHP, Jacob DeGrom, RHP, Anthony Recker, C, Wilfredo Tovar, SS, Matt den Dekker, OF, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF.
My plan leaves this team with a potent offense combined with a very deep pitching staff, and arguably the best collection of young arms in baseball. Best of all, I have the payroll at $87 million (including salaries to Jeremy Hefner, Jenrry Mejia, and Matt Harvey), which gives the team flexibility to make a mid-season move to bolster the offense or acquire a veteran starter. By the end of the season, the rotation could very well consist of Wheeler, Syndergaard, Niese, Montero and Mejia, with a surplus of even more pitching prospects such as Bettis, Lee, Reed and DeGrom all ready to fill in and likely competing for bullpen work. Just imagine what the team will look like with Harvey back for 2015...Absolutely filthy.