I was debating whether I should go through with doing an AAOP this year, partially because I'm lazy but also because I'm not totally sure what I'd do to make the Mets better. I mean, I have a general idea: acquire really good baseball players and jettison really bad baseball players. It's simple! Sandy you should listen to me. SANDEE!!!! LISTEN!!!! But in terms of the specifics of putting that plan into practice, I didn't really have anything in mind. Then I figured, oh what the hell, I'll try it anyway. So here you are reading this. It might be good, it might not be. I don't know. So enjoy it. Or don't enjoy it. Whatever you do, just make sure to (rec)ommend my Fanpost!
Just to run down what I'm looking to do here, I'm hoping to get the 2014 Mets to around 85 wins and to at least be involved in the Wild Card race down the stretch. It's not a lofty goal but it's improvement. I see the Mets' greatest position player holes to be shortstop, left field, right field, and first base (in that order). For me, the loss of Matt Harvey means that the rotation has at least one, if not two holes to fill. I'm okay with one of those spots being filled internally but not both of them, and if I had to place starting pitching on my list of needs, it'd place 4th right behind the two corner outfield slots and ahead of first base. With the lineup, my goal is to fill all of the spots with at least some semblance of league average production. I want a lineup with as few automatic outs as possible with guys who can get hits and get on base. Finally, the bullpen could always use some arms, so I'll look for a few guys to fill spots in there and to push some pitchers in the system into depth roles (at least to start the season).
So here is my AAOP!
I'll start with the players that the Mets currently have under their control for 2014:
David Wright – $20 million
Jon Niese – $5.05 million
Total Guaranteed Contracts: $33.55 million
Daniel Murphy – $5.8 million
Ike Davis – $3.5 million
Dillon Gee – $3.4 million
Bobby Parnell – $3.2 million
Eric Young Jr. – $1.9 million
Lucas Duda – $1.8 million
Ruben Tejada – $1 million
Justin Turner – $800,000
Total Tendered Contracts: $21.4 million
Farewell, Scott Atchison! I SAID FAREWELL! I SAID...oh, forget it.
SP Tim Hudson – 2 years, $22 million
Hudson is 38 years old but with the way he's pitched, you wouldn't realize it. Assuming Eric Young doesn't break his ankle again, the veteran is a pretty solid bet for 200 quality innings in place of Matt Harvey and becomes the de facto ace of the staff for 2014, tossing groundballs and putting up a league average or better ERA. Personally, I'd bet he ends up a better buy than fellow free agent veteran Bronson Arroyo.
LF David Murphy – 2 years, $10 million
The 32-year old Murphy isn't the sexiest name on the free agent market but the Mets do need a corner outfielder and I'm willing to bet on a bounceback from the former Ranger. Of course, Murphy hit just .220/.282/.374 in 2013 but his batted ball data isn't all that different from his career averages and his .227 BABIP is fluky for a guy who hit line drives at a near 20% clip. Murphy seems a decent bet to hit righties well, play good defense in left field, and he won't break the bank. Sort of a Shin-Soo Choo-lite (less OBP but more defense) who can platoon with Andrew Brown (yes, the platoon will be named Murphy Brown). Brown is cheap and he's beat up on lefties in the minors, so he gets the job.
RF Marlon Byrd – 2 years, $10 million
Okay, so it's not the outfield that I've been dreaming of but with a tight budget and some cash already spent, I really want to save money for one big acquisition for the offense. I'll bring Byrd back on a deal identical to David Murphy's. Both deals are clearly a little risky due to age and recent performance but at $20 million total and for only two years, they shouldn't be lead weights around the neck of the team if they go bad. Both deals keep the payroll flexible and are done after 2015. We all know how great a year Byrd had in 2013. I'm not sure if it's repeatable but 2/10 is low enough at this point for me to gamble. And if it isn't repeatable, here's hoping that Cesar Puello is raking in Las Vegas and ready to step in. I'll cross my fingers and hope that we can get 4-5 wins from the combination of Byrd & Murphy/Brown.
LHP Manny Parra – 1 year, $1.5 million
The soon to be 31-year old lefty spent his entire career in the Brewers' organization before inking a contract with the Reds in February 2013. Parra struggled in Milwaukee moving between the rotation and bullpen but his low to mid-90's fastball gave him plenty of opportunities and he started to show some improvement in 2012 with a 3.62 FIP. The improvements kept coming in 2013, as Parra tossed 46 innings with a 3.07 FIP and 3.33 ERA for the Reds. Most impressive was his swinging strike rate, which sat at an outstanding 14.2%, a career best mark thanks to his getting more swings at pitches out of the strike zone. Parra is more of a LOOGY but his struggles in Milwaukee might allow him to come to the Mets a little cheaper and it seems like there's a solid lefty reliever in there to pair with Scott Rice in the pen (this also allows Josh Edgin to go down to Vegas as depth and hopefully be able to find his slider).
RHP Jamey Wright – 1 year, $1 million
Jamey Wright has been around forever as that replacement level guy who gets a minor league deal and then soaks up innings when a team needs an extra arm. Well, the Rays brought him in in 2013 and performed their voodoo magic on him and suddenly at age 38, became a great big league reliever with a 3.09 ERA and 3.13 FIP. How'd they do it? They had him throw cutter after cutter, forsaking his four-seamer for that pitch, while also tossing in sinkers. Wright has always been great at getting groundballs but started getting more strikeouts in 2012 and that only improved in 2013.
RHP LaTroy Hawkins – 1 year, $2 million
The 41-year old veteran comes back to assume his job in the Mets' pen. Hawkins was fantastic in 2013 and the hope is that he can continue to throw like he did. Gonzalez Germen will head to Las Vegas as bullpen depth.
Octavio Dotel – Remember when he was at the top of Mets' prospect lists? Well, he turns 40 in a month and missed most of 2013 with an elbow injury. When healthy, he's still an excellent reliever.
Mike Morse – He had an awful season between Seattle and Baltimore, hitting just .215/.270/.381 with typically poor defense. He had arthroscopic surgery on his wrist last week, which doesn't seem like it'll help his value. I'll bring him into camp and see if he can fight for the first base job or a bench job with Lucas Duda.
Jeff Francis – Once upon a time, Francis was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball coming up through the Rockies system. He's mostly struggled in the majors, though, and has boarded the replacement level journeyman train (even though he's only pitched in the majors with the Rockies and Royals). His FIPs have typically been better than his ERAs and maybe moving out of Coors Field will help the soft-tossing lefty channel his inner Jamie Moyer (though Las Vegas might not help all that much).
Ryan Vogelsong – Vogelsong was a failed prospect with the Pirates but came out of obscurity in 2011 to put up a great season for the Giants and then duplicated that in 2012. 2013 was a different story, as he struggled to replicate that success. The Giants hold a $6.5 million option on him but I'd imagine they'll decline that. It looks like Vogelsong lost 1.5 MPH off his fastball last season but let's sign him up for the Vegas rotation and see if he can recapture that 2011-12 magic.
Mets acquire SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rays acquire SP Rafael Montero, SP Drew Pomeranz & OF Tim Wheeler, Rockies acquire SP Jon Niese, 1B Ike Davis & SS Hak-Ju Lee, RHP Jeurys Familia
Troy Tulowitzki is the star player that I'm looking for, a shortstop who hits for average & power, gets on base, and plays fantastic defense, and I'm betting that the Rockies ultimately would like to get out from under his contract in order to start a rebuild (in essence, I bet the owner gets talked out of keeping the 29-year old Tulowitzki by the team's GM and front office). This move accomplishes that for the Rockies, as the Mets take on the entirety of Tulowitzki's contract while giving up a solid big league starter in Niese along with Davis and Familia. The Rays, meanwhile, serve as a way to get the Rockies a talented shortstop in Lee and this also helps Tampa, as they get Montero, who can serve as additional starting rotation depth for when they inevitably deal away David Price. The Rays also get a pair of still young projects in Pomeranz and Wheeler.
Just ignore Jon Niese in there.
With Niese dealt away, the Mets need another starting pitcher. Rick Porcello doesn't turn 25 until the end of December. He's barely four months older than Matt Harvey. Yet it feels like the former first round pick has been around forever and looks like he pretty much is what he is – a back of the rotation guy. But is he? Well, looking at his peripherals, Porcello may yet have some development left. Underneath the mediocre 4.32 ERA in 2013 was a 3.53 FIP and 3.19 xFIP, thanks to a growing strikeout rate (19.3%, with help from an improving 8.6% swinging strike rate) and a very low walk rate (5.7%). Porcello has always gotten a lot of groundballs (52.8% for his career) but he's started getting more swings and misses as well. With Omar Infante a free agent and the Tigers potentially looking to save money to use to lock up Max Scherzer, the Tigers could deal Porcello for a solid second baseman in Murphy and fill Porcello's spot by sticking lefty Drew Smyly into their rotation. I'll take a bet on Porcello at age 25 continuing to realize his potential.
|Position||Player||Salary||WAR (rough estimate)|
|1B||Lucas Duda||$1.8 million||2|
|3B||David Wright||$20 million||6|
|SS||Troy Tulowitzki||$16 million||5|
|LF||David Murphy||$5 million||2|
|RF||Marlon Byrd||$5 million||2|
|BN||Eric Young Jr||$1.9 million||1|
|SP||Tim Hudson||$11 million||2|
|SP||Dillon Gee||$3.4 million||2|
|SP||Rick Porcello||$7 million||2|
|RP||Bobby Parnell||$3.2 million||1.5|
|RP||Manny Parra||$1.5 million||0.5|
|RP||Jamey Wright||$1 million||0.5|
|RP||LaTroy Hawkins||$2 million||0.5|
|SS||Ruben Tejada||$1 million||0.0|
|Total||$86.1 million||41.7 WAR|
Overall, this roster feels more balanced than the 2013 edition. Assuming he stays healthy for the majority of the season, the offense and defense should be helped out immensely by the acquisition of Tulowitzki. If Tulowitzki can give the Mets a 5 win season (something he's done in 5 of his 7 full seasons), he'd be a nearly 7 win difference over what the Mets got at the position in 2013. Travis d'Arnaud and Wilmer Flores, meanwhile, are thrust into big league starting jobs and a lot of the success of the offense will be based on how they continue to develop. While Byrd and David Murphy are wild cards, I don't think league average production is a ton to ask out of either and if they can do that, along with d'Arnaud and Flores developing into useful big leaguers, you have a lineup where every spot has a chance (Juan Lagares is probably the weakest link there and he'd primarily hit 8th).
The pitching, meanwhile, is hurt by the loss of Harvey. There's really no way to go about adequately filling Harvey's shoes in the rotation (unless somebody internal takes a huge step forward), so I went out and grabbed two starters in Hudson and Porcello to help pick up the slack. Harvey's 2015 return means the Mets may possibly have a pitcher to deal, which can only help them in continuing to improve the team. The loss of Niese is also tough but I think the offense is better for having Tulowitzki and I'll take a chance that Jenrry Mejia can do what he did last year for more than 5 starts (or that Syndergaard or deGrom can eventually step in and give some decent innings). The trade of Montero takes a bite out of the depth but I'm okay with it as well. We needed offense badly and I'm excited to have Tulowitzki playing shortstop.
I don't think this is a championship caliber team but if all goes well, it's a team that could certainly make some noise in the Wild Card race down the stretch. I added some loose WAR values by each player in the chart, based on a minimum of what I hope each player could do (this is not at all scientific, so stop it). Obviously, some players will reach those goals, some will surpass them, and some will not. But in that projection, this team comes out to 41.7 WAR, which when added to the minimum of 48 WAR gets to around 90 wins. A lot will have to go right for them to get there but I think this roster could be a nice base to build off of and hopefully be an adequate stepping stone to an even more competitive team in 2015.