As a general rule, I don't like to see the Mets using their trade chips in the off-season, which I feel causes us to rush prospects and damages the depth in the upper minors. With the financial advantage the Mets have from playing in New York, I feel that the best approach for Omar to take is to use the free agent market to fill any holes he can and to make trades only to fill holes that the free agent market can't address (as was the case with Santana). I feel he has a tendency to use to many assets to fill most holes when he trades away young talent for guys with large contracts, when those chips should be kept or used on guys making less money. With that in mind, I don't want to make any trades in my proposal that involve the Mets sending away young talent, as I feel that there are perfectly adequate solutions to every hole we have on the free agent market (only one of whom costs a compensatory pick). I'm going to break down the roster position by position, even the ones that we are already set at. J.J. Putz will contribute 1 million in dead weight to the payroll with his buyout which was just paid. That leaves us roughly 149 million to spend. I attempted to estimate slightly high on all of the contract renewals and arbitration raises to compensate for any signings that may cost slightly more than I anticipated.
I've said I don't want to trade away any prospects, but I have two trades I'd love to see us do. I believe the Cubs would do a straight swap of Luis Castillo for Milton Bradley. For this proposal, I'm going to assume the Cubs pay 1/2 of the difference between the two players salaries, leaving Bradley with a 2010 salary of 8.3 million and a 2011 salary of 9.775 million. I honestly think the Cubs would pay more, but I'm attempting to be conservative. After acquiring Bradley, I'd try to find a taker for Jeff Francoeur. I feel a return similar to what the Marlins got for Jeremy Hermida would be very fair, but I'm going to non-tender him anyway so I'll take minor league filler. Ideally we get a relief pitcher who could step in at replacement level if needed this season (a Lance Broadway type), and a young pitcher who could develop into a replacement level pitcher down the road. I've grown to like Francoeur and truly hope he continues to play well, but I don't feel he's worth the money he'll get via arbitration this year and feel that money could be better spent elsewhere.
Currently the Mets have Josh Thole and they control the rights to Omir Santos. I don't feel comfortable going into opening day with this duo, but there are no exceptional players available in the free agent market this off-season. Next year potentially offers a very good free agent class and Josh Thole will hopefully continue to improve this year, so I want to make a one year deal a priority. Luckily for us, the market is flooded with veteran catchers who fit this description. Bengie Molina hits for decent power, but his .OBP and speed leave much to be desired. With his expected pricetag I'll pass. Miguel Olivo is of some interest, as he also has good power and a good arm. He walks at roughly the same rate as Jeff Francoeur, but that's easier to stomach from a catcher who hits 20 HR's than a right fielder who hits the same amount. I'd monitor him, but in the end I'll pass. I'm going to sign the switch hitting Gregg Zaun to a one year 3.5 million dollar deal. He doesn't have the power that Olivo or Molina has, but he walks in roughly 12 percent of his at bats, and we should be able to rely on him to .OBP at .333 while hitting 10-12 HR's if he starts 110 games for us. I'm going to extend a one year 1 million dollar offer to Brian Schnieder to stick around as a backup, as I feel buying low on him may not be an awful idea. His roughly 11 percent walk rate and acceptable defense make him a more appealing backup than Omir Santos. Josh Thole will be my AAA starter, with Omir Santos backing him up. If Santos won't accept that assignment, I'm not going to be heartbroken. Either way, I bring Thole up to start if Zaun gets hurt. That commits 4.75 million to the catcher position, bringing our total spent so far to 5.75 million. A good year from Zaun should make him at worst a type B free agent in the coming offseason, and quite possibly a type A.
This is a weak position in the free agent market this winter, Nick Johnson is the only player in the bunch that I'd have any interest in. I'd offer him a one year deal at 4.5 million (plus some incentives), which I think he'll end up taking. Daniel Murphy will be on my bench at 450,000, Nick Evans at 410,000, and we'll have Chris Carter and Ike Davis in AAA . A healthy season should see Johnson have a realistic chance at being worth a compensatory pick, likely only a type B, with Ike Davis hopefully ready to take over in 2011. I've spent 5.36 million on first base, bringing our total spent to 11.11 million.
I've traded Castillo, so I now have a hole to fill. Switch hitter Felipe Lopez is my player of choice, and I'm going to offer him a two year deal at 5.25 million per season to sign him. It's fair to expect an .OBP of around .350 from him, which is a downgrade from Castillo. His vastly superior defense more than makes up for that, and we can probably expect 10 HR's from him. Placido Polanco also interests me, but in the end I feel Lopez offers comparable defense with a better walk rate and is younger. With Lopez in the fold for two seasons, Ruben Tejada and Reece Havens should have some time to develop. I'd also like to see Shawn Bowman play a little second this year, as I feel he may be a sleeper in the Mets system and his bat would play much better there. Nick Green was just released by Boston, so I'm going to offer him 500,000 to back up the middle infield. Anderson Hernandez will be sent to Buffalo. I've spent 5.75 million on this position, bringing the total spent to 16.86 million.
I think it's safe to say we're set here with Jose Reyes. If he is unable to play for any reason all of the players backing up second can play shortstop. I think after the bulk of the off-season work is done would be a fine time to work on extending Jose, as we'd actually be buying low and hopefully getting a better value. For this season though, Jose will make 9.375 million, bringing our total up to 26.235 million.
David Wright is under contract at 10.25 million, and Murphy, Green, and Evans should all be able to fill in if he needs a day off. Wright is the only player in my proposed starting lineup with a negative UZR/150 (-2.4). Wright's salary brings us to 36.485 million for the infield and four bench spots.
The two trades listed above have left us with the switch hitting Bradley replacing Francoeur at a cost of 8.3 million. It's safe to assume that Bradley will be an improvement over Francoeur in every aspect of their play, most notable being their on base percentage. Angel Pagan would round out my bench here, and I'd guess 1 million would be a fair pricetag for him in arbitration. These two bring our total to 45.785 million.
Carlos Beltran is ours for the bargain price of 20.071 million. Pagan can back him up, and Fernando Martinez is in Buffalo if we need him. That brings us to 65.856 million with left field to go to round out the thirteen positional players.
This was the easiest choice for me...offer Matt Holliday 7 years at 17 million and give up our second round pick to sign him. Holliday is the only type A guy I want to sign, so this pick is the only one we'll lose this year. Evans and Pagan can spell him, and Chris Carter is hiding in AAA if needed. I've spent 82.856 million for our everyday lineup, and have 12 pitcher slots left to fill.
We have three spots already filled. Johan Santana will front our rotation for 21 million dollars, Oliver Perez is signed at 12 million dollars, and Mike Pelfrey was renewed for 500,000. I don't feel Ollie can be traded without taking on an even worse contract, and I believe he'll return from surgery to pitch closer to the 2008 Ollie. I'm going to give Rich Harden a one year deal paying him 7 million (with an 11 million dollar mutual option), and I believe John Maine will take the same 2.6 million he made last year. If Harden's option is not picked up, which it isn't likely to be, a healthy season will likely result in him being worth at least a draft pick. Jon Niese will be in Buffalo, along with minor league signees Fernando Nieve, Noah Lowry, Mark Prior, and Nelson Figueroa. I'm not willing to take a risk on Ben Sheets (My risk/reward move comes later), and Erik Bedard is my backup plan to Harden (I think he'll cost about the same). That's 43.1 million for our starting rotation, bringing the total 125.956 million.
I'm not a big fan of committing large amounts of money to the bullpen, but we already have Francisco Rodriguez signed at 12.167 million. Bobby Parnell will be brought back at 425,000 and I'd give Pedro Feliciano 1.8 million to rejoin the team. Brian Stokes will be renewed for 500,000, and Sean Green should get about 600,000 in arbitration, and I feel bringing Pat Misch back at 425,000 would be a smart move. I'm going to take a chance on Kelvim Escobar on a 1 year 1.5 million dollar deal to round out the bullpen, while taking some arms in the rule 5 draft and signing Chad Cordero and B.J.Ryan to minor league deals. Feliciano will almost definately net a compensatory pick, and Escobar performing well this season could well earn one too (as he only pitched 5 innings in 2009). My bullpen cost is 17.417 million dollars, bringing the total to 143.373 dollars for the 25 man roster. We've only sacrificed a 2nd round pick to fill all of these holes. There's some good starters in the minors that could be looked at in September (and hopefully useful into November) that will likely be higher upside than the guys who are starting the season in the pen.
I'm a few million shy of the 150 million dollar limit, but I still have one move to go. I'm going to make a 4 year 35 million dollar offer to Aroldis Chapman (with two team options at 12 and 13 million for years 5 and 6 that void his arbitration eligibility if declined) . That deal will pay him 7.5 million this season (putting us at 150.873 million), and I think that will be enough. Its an expensive risky move, but players that young with that talent don't hit the open market very often. I'd send him to Binghamton, where he'd join Jenrry Mejia, Havens, Jeurys Familia, Brad Holt, Scott Moviel, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (that might be the best rotation in the minors). Buffalo would have Niese, Carter, Davis, Bowman, Martinez, Tejada, and Thole. Throw in guys like Wilmer Flores, Juan Urbina, Steven Matz, Eddie Lora (I think I'm his only fan) and Jefry Marte and the system is starting to look pretty good. With all of our holes filled and the farm system in better shape than it was prior to the start of the off-season, things don't look so bad for 2010. I'd check in with Wagner Mateo after his eye surgery, and we also have the 7th pick in the draft so we should add another top flight prospect to this group. With Johnson, Zaun, Harden, Escobar, and Feliciano all likely to be free agents at the end of the seson, we can safely expect some compensatory picks in the following draft. If we suffer injuries such as we did this past year we should have some internal options, and the farm system is certainly improving.
I think both Roy Halladay and Adrian Gonzalez will be shopped this winter, and both will likely be available in July if they're not moved before then. I could see Prince Fielder, Felix Hernandez, and Joe Mauer also being available if their teams fall out of the race. These 5 all fit in nicely with the Mets, and we still have plenty of chips to get any of these guys in July without gutting the farm system to do so. I hope there is no need to, but we should take comfort knowing it's possible. If the Mets have the chips to get these guys, they should be able to add whatever complimentary pieces mid-season they need to.
Bill James has this particular Mets lineup getting on base at a .379 clip, ahead of the .362 mark that the Yankees led the majors with last season. It's a significant improvement over the .335 mark the Mets had last year. Keith Hernandez will have some nice long rants during the Mets long turns at bat. James also has this proposed Mets team hitting HR's at a clip to reach 181 for the season, nearly doubling the 95 they hit last year to finish last in the majors. Fangraphs averages this Mets squad at a 4.0 UZR/150 (I used their career marks to utilize a larger sample size), a dramatic improvement from the -7.3 mark they posted this year. The defensive improvement alone should result in an additional 8 wins. James has our 6 top starters (Santana, Harden, Pelfrey, Perez, Maine, and Niese) combining for 1013 innings pitched at a 3.66 ERA and 3.92 FIP. If our bullpen (which is largely the same as last year) can post a line similar to its 3.89 ERA and 4.23 FIP from last year, we should be in very good shape there. A pitching line like that would have had us among the top 5 in baseball this past season.
All in all, I think going after this group of players will provide the team with the ability to contend this season within the budget, while allowing them to build their farm system into one of the better ones in baseball. Like the other guys, I'm not overly tech savy and don't really have the knowhow to make nice looking graphs or tables. I'll add the same type of poll that everyone else has, let me know what you think.