Take this post for what it is, subject to change and wishful thinking. I intended this plan to be realistic in the sense that all the trades and signings are possible, but not realistic in that I think it's what the Mets will actually do--that's another post for another time. So without further ado:
The Major Moves:
- Sign Matt Holliday to a 6/$110 Million contract, starting salary $17MM--Maybe he will only sign for five years, but I think at age 36 he would still be at least an adequate outfielder given his skillset. I already made most of the case for Holliday here, but especially in a year where the Mets have a protected first round pick, he seems like a perfect fit. Jason Bay will be a DH in a few years, given how precipitously his fielding has declined. He's an acceptable backup plan, only if he'll take significantly fewer years, which he probably won't. The way Mets fans deified non-entities like Xavier Nady makes me think a they'll go crazy having a legitimately great corner-outfielder for the first time in a long time
- Trade Bobby Parnell and Wilmer Flores to the Rays for Carlos Peña--I don't understand why Mets fans think it is smart or even efficient to resign firstbase to being played by someone like Daniel Murphy, if we sign Matt Holliday. It's not like the Mets were just middle-of-the-pack offensively last year, they were bottom of the barrel. With the largest payroll in the National League, why not try and fill all the team's holes with at least players who are average or better at their position? The Rays are motivated to sell Peña, being in his walk-year and making $10.5MM. They have a few a infielders on their bench, who could start on most teams (Aybar, Rodriguez), so they'll be most interested in a cheap set-up caliber reliever. Parnell fits that description easily--he's still making league minimum and posted a 3.80 tRA in the bullpen his rookie season. Wilmer Flores makes up the difference in value; he's the kind of super-athletic shortstop prospect the Rays love to hoard. For the Mets, Pena solves the "not enough homers" problem; he tied Mark Teixeira for the AL homerun crown, despite missing nearly all of September with a fractured hand. He has elite plate-discipline and the batting average will probably rebound a bit. If healthy, Peña is also an above-average defender and could easily be worth 4 WAR over a full season.
- Sign Rich Harden to a 1-year/$10 million contract with incentives and a mutual option for a second season--See the above link on Matt Holliday for why I also don't want John Lackey. The best way to not get locked into bad contracts is to not give them. A one year deal to Rich Harden is the type of gamble a team with the Mets payroll should take. He's injury prone, having pitched just 140 innings the last two seasons, but in just 140 innings he can be worth 4+ WAR. He was just 1.8 WAR this season according to fangraphs, but that was due to bad luck with homers, which is reflected by his xFIPs being extremely consistent from year-to-year. Any argument to sign Lackey instead of Harden proves how overrated past durability is with pitchers. Coupling Harden with a good above-replacement contingency plan(s) likely costs less than Lackey, is incredibly more valuable than Lackey, will likely provide more innings than Lackey, and doesn't carry the huge risk of giving an injury prone pitcher in his 30s a multi-year contract.
- Trade Jeff Francoeur to the Cubs for Mike Fontenot.--The Cubs will eventually dump Milton Bradley, and will look to replace him with an "RBI-guy" in rightfield. RBI's are Jeff Francoeur's specialty. Mike Fontenot magically amassed 3 WAR in under 250 plate appearances in 2007. In 2008, the Cubs gave him more responsibility then leaned toward trading him when his batting average sunk. As mentioned in that article, they still view him as trade bait. With such high BABIPs in past seasons, his batting average will likely rebound. I'd bet his true skill is somewhere in between .296 wOBA player of last year, or the .395 wOBA player of the year before, maybe the league average hitter of 2006. Even if he is only an average hitter, though, his fantastic defense (9.6 UZR/150) will make him more valuable than Castillo. Having a good defensive secondbaseman will be even more important with the young groundball pitchers Pelfrey and Niese in the rotation next year.
The Minor Moves:
- Sign Carl Pavano 1 year/$6 million dollar contract--Pavano will likely half to accept another short-term commitment, because of his surface numbers and lingering injury concerns, but he actually pitched quite well last season. His 4.00 FIP reflects all-around good peripherals, consistent with his career numbers. Citi Field might help suppress his high HR/FB%, and a move to the National League can only help his strikeouts. At 3.7 WAR last season, he would have easily been the most valuable pitcher on the Mets. He'll likely be the best value on the market, and would solidify a rotation with a lot injury risk.
- Sign Kiko Calero 2 years/$5 million dollar contract--Calero quietly posted a 2.38 tRA this season. Here's a pretty good summary on his attractiveness as a free agent, if 2.38 didn't convince you. He would be a definite upgrade over Parnell. I see him signing with the team that offers a multi-year deal.
- Sign Adam Everett 1 year/$1 million--Here, I want a player that can step in and start, without dragging the whole team down with his poor play, if Jose's injuries become complicated. His defense isn't what it used to be but it's still great.
- Sign Greg Zaun 1 year/$800,000--I waffled on this, but Omir Santos needs to go back to the minors. He's a minor league player who can't hit anything but fastballs, and pitchers will make the adjustment eventually. Zaun provides plate discipline and defense that is negligibly worse than Santos' and somewhat better than Bengie Molina's. Thole may be an adventure in the field, but if it gets too bad, Zaun has the bat to be a starter, without costing Molina-money.
- Sign Endy Chavez 1 year/$1.5 million--Our hero. He's like Adam Everett for the outfield! He'll be coming off surgery, so it probably would not even cost this much to sign him. Even if he's lost a step, he's eons better than Francoeur in the field, so much better suited for a bench role.
- Sign Shawn Hill 1 year/$400K--He was recently released by the Padres, but he's got a 4.11 career FIP. He's injury prone, but keeping both him and Maine around is a pretty good insurance plan for an already filled-out rotation.
- Sign Mike Sweeney 1 year/$600K--Sweeney got his PhD in fixing fractured, mutli-cultural clubhouses from the 2009 Mariners (not that those things are necessarily related, or exactly describe the Mets). Anyone who liked Francoeur for his attitude will love Sweeney. His skills as a right-handed platoon bat are redundant with Nick Evans also around, but he'd be brought in just as much for his intangibles than abilities.
- Sign Kelvim Escobar to a 1 year contract with incentives/max value $2.5 million--The former Angels ace is on the recovery path and would add dimension to the pitching staff as a cheap, worthwhile gamble in the bullpen.
- Trade Luis Castillo to the Royals for virtually nothing--I'd bet they'd take him. Getting rid of Castillo is a priority, as I think he is a huge risk to totally bust in 2010. His continuing diminished range caps his value at ~1.5 WAR, and indicates his knees really aren't getting any better. He compensated for the lack of speed last year by taking an absurd amount of pitches and hitting a career-high percentage of line drives. There's no reason to expect him to repeat either of those feats in 2010. Sell high.
On the hitting side, the lineup has patience, power, speed, and contact skills without any obvious holes. Never watching that squad would I think, "here's Santos-Cora-Valdez, 1-2-3." The bench re-emphasizes defense, something severely lacking from last year's backups, and features all players good enough to start on some team, but who aren't expecting starting jobs. Of the 26 players listed, 8 could be considered rotation candidates, which gives flexibility on who makes the opening-day roster and in case of an injury, no Pat Misches or Livan Hernadezes have to start. There's no obviously crappy reliever who fits in under the guise of "long man" but has no other usefulness or upside. Most importantly, this roster allows the AAA class of prospects (Davis, Martinez, Mejia, and Holt) to stay in AAA as depth options or emergency trade candidates, in case Harden, Pavano, Maine, and Hill all blow out their elbows. I could see 95 wins, and with good health, the upside for much more. Now go wild with your own proposals.