AAOP: You Down With AAOP?

It's almost here. Ever since the Mets hired Sandy Alderson, the focus has been on the 2014 season. That's when the Mets are supposed to be contenders. Except, the 2013 offseason is now underway, and the outlook for next season isn't as optimistic as it had seemed prior to this past season. Yes, the Mets have $50M coming off the books, but the Wilpons are getting cheaper and cheaper by the year. It seems very likely that the Mets payroll will drop yet again. Beyond that, there is a Matt Harvey-sized hole in the Mets' rotation (and my heart). However, there is some hope. With that aforementioned $50M coming off the books, the Mets will have about $50M to spend, setting up for the Mets' first big free agent signing since Omar Minaya signed Jason Bay (ugh). Bay, as we all know, was a humongous waste of money and space for the Mets. But nobody could see Bay's prodigious disappointment coming. Nobody, except for me, that is. You see, back in fall 2009, I made an offseason plan for the Mets on an Excel spreadsheet that represented what I would do if I were the Mets' GM. Allow me to show you a part of said plan:


Can you see it? Do you see it? No, it's not Orlando Hudson! It's not Carlos Beltran's bizarre salary (that probably has something to do with his selfishness). It's not Yorvit Torrealba either. It's not even Jeff Francoeur (although that is still hilarious). Allow me to spell it out for you:


What does this prove? I posses both infinite wisdom and foresight. You see, not only did I prefer Matt Holliday to Jason Bay, but for reasons I cannot remember (but will gladly take credit for), I fervently disagreed with signing Bay. I didn't want Jason Bay. I didn't want him in a house. I didn't want him with a mouse. I didn't want him here or there, I didn't want him anywhere. And as proof that I actually was vehemently against signing him here's a Facebook group I made right after he was signed. Alas, back to my main point of all this: I am a genius and y'all best listen to my plan. Unless you want stuff like this to happen:





So you've got David Wright making $20M, Jon Niese making $5.05M, and a total of $8.5M of buyout money thanks to Johan Santana and Jason Bay. And that's it. With our payroll starting off at $33.55M, that gives us a little over $46M to spend on the last 23 roster spots. That's not a ton of money, but it's enough to make some key moves.

So, let's assume the Mets renew the contracts of Scott Rice, Jenrry Mejia, Josh Edgin, Anthony Recker, Travis d'Arnaud, Josh Satin, Matt den Dekker, Vic Black, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres, and Zack Wheeler for $500K each, adding 11 players to the roster and $5.5M to the payroll. Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner will be renewed, taking up an additional $1M, but they'll be on the DL the whole season. Anyone not mentioned that is eligible to have their contract renewed (such as Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Wilmer Flores) will start in the minor leagues. This leaves us with around $40M to fill the now 12 remaining spots.

On to arbitration. The Mets offer arbitration to Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda and Eric Young Jr. Justin Turner, Omar Quintanilla, and Scott Atchison are non-tendered. That leaves the Mets with ~$30M for the final 5 roster spots.


1. Get a quality outfielder (or two!)

2. Get either a starting shortstop, or one to compete with Tejada

3. Fill the missing spots in the starting rotation

4. Pitching depth, pitching depth, pitching depth

5. Figure out the first base situation

6. Fill out the bench

7. World domination


1. Sign Shin-Soo Choo

This one is the big splash of the offseason for the Mets. The Mets absolutely need to spend big time on an outfielder, and their options are very limited. Jacoby Ellsbury is great, but not only will he be too pricey for the Mets, he will likely get a 6 year deal which is way too risky given Ellsbury's injury history. With Hunter Pence already off the market, the next best option is Shin-Soo Choo.

Choo is a terrific fit for the Mets, who need an outfielder with a good bat, which Choo just so happens to be. This past season, Choo posted a slash line of .333/.423/.462, with his .423 OBP being the 2nd best in the NL, behind teammate and hitting deity Joey Votto. His hitting would be a welcome contribution to a Mets offense that finished 25th in the MLB in on-base percentage last season. A major detriment to Choo's value is his defense, which fielding metrics rated very poorly last year. However, Choo spent most of last season playing center field for the Reds, but he'd be primarily playing in right field on the Mets due to the presence of Juan Lagares. Choo is a MUCH better fielder in right field, so the move should only augment his value. Another knock on Choo's game is that he can't hit lefties, which is partially true given that he hits over 100 points higher against righties. However, his OBP against lefties was still .347 (Daniel Murphy's overall OBP was .319) and not until last year was there such a disparity between his splits. So, to summarize: Shin-Soo Choo is really good at baseball and the Mets should acquire him. The Mets sign Choo for 5 years, $80M ($16M AAV).

2. Sign Jhonny Peralta

The Mets need a shortstop. Ruben Tejada was just abysmal last season and I can't even think about Omar Quintanilla without having the urge to projectile vomit. The two best free agent options at short are Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta. I prefer Peralta. *GASP* B-b-but steroids!! Yes, Peralta did serve a 50 game suspension as a result of the Biogenesis scandal, but frankly I don't care. All I care about is building a good baseball team, which Peralta helps me do. In fact, Peralta's tag as a PED-user might actually increase his value, as he will likely be forced to take a pay cut from last year's already kind of low $6M salary. In addition to being cheaper than Drew, Peralta is also a much better hitter. Peralta, who was an All-Star this past season, posted a slash line of .303/.358/.457, which is pretty good for any hitter, let alone a shortstop. It's certainly better than Drew's .253/.333/.443 line. Peralta has the best wRC+ of any MLB shortstop not named Troy Tulowitzki (min. 400 PA) this season and had the 6th highest fWAR (3.6) amongst MLB shortstops, despite only playing in 107 games. So yeah, Jhonny Peralta is pretty dang good, which is why it will be an absolute steal when the Mets sign him for 2 years, $10M ($5M AAV) with a player option for a 3rd year at $5M.

3. Sign Nate McLouth

I know what you're thinking. Nate McLouth? Wasn't that guy awful? Yeah, but that was when he looked like this:



Ever since he left the Braves, he's been much, much better. Now, he receives such strong endorsements as this:

McLouth is not anything amazing, yet his 1.7 fWAR this past season was good for 5th among all free agent outfielders, and 1st among all free agent left fielders. McLouth is an average defender in left and a good baserunner, finishing with 30 stolen bases last year. In a lot of ways, McLouth is like Eric Young (who also had a 1.7 fWAR), except he's not quite as fast and has more power. Oh, and more grission. He's got loads o' grission. So you might be thinking: "Why would we want white Eric Young?" The reason is that McLouth and Eric Young would make good platoon partners in left field. In 2013, McLouth hit .272/.342/.411 against righties, but only .209/.283/.357 against lefties. Conversely Eric Young was a slightly better hitter against lefties than righties (.319 OBP vs .305), but is still much better against lefties than McLouth is. Put those two together and all of a sudden you have a pretty decent left fielder. Plus, if one is starting and the other is on the bench, one of them will always be available to pinch run. Of course, the most important reason for signing McLouth is his last name; it's got a lower case letter! McLouth and the Mets get a deal done for 2 years, $10M ($5M AAV).

4. Re-sign LaTroy Hawkins

I think this one is pretty much a no-brainer for most Mets fans. LaTroy was surprisingly terrific last year and would be missed if he didn't return. I'm a bit reluctant to give a pay raise to 40-year old, however it's the least the Mets could do after they let this happen to him:



The Mets bring back Hawk for 1 year, $3M.

5. Sign some pitchers

After taking into account all the moves above, there's not much payroll left to go around. However the Mets still need to fill the void left by the injuries to Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner in the rotation. I'd like to believe Jenrry Mejia can fill one of those spots given how well he pitched in his brief 2013 season, but I can't bank on Mejia staying healthy all year. However I will still pencil him in as the fourth starter for the beginning of the season. For the fifth starter slot, I will sign Tim Stauffer. Stauffer had a 3.75 ERA and 3.55 FIP pitching exclusively in relief for the Padres in 2013 after missing almost all of 2012 due to an elbow injury. In 2011, Stauffer was a pretty decent starter for the Padres, tossing over 180 innings to the tune of a 3.73 ERA. Given the elbow injury and him having pitched as a reliever this past season, I believe Stauffer can get signed to a pretty cheap, incentive-laden deal. Of course, five starters is never enough, especially considering the last two of them have had elbow issues. I invite back Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang on minor league deals, assuming that they would be willing to accept them. Both pitched adequately in their brief stints as Mets this September. Additionally, I take flyers on some mix of Edinson Volquez, John Lannan, Jeff Francis, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito, seeing who would take a minor league deal. If the pitching staff proves to be ineffective or suffers an injury, the Mets always have Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom (lowercase letter!), and Noah Syndegaard waiting in the wings.


Catcher: Travis d'Arnaud will be the starting catcher, and I don't think that anyone will dispute that. While d'Arnaud struggled overall in his brief time in the major leagues, he showed some flashes of good play (like this walkoff hit) and started to play much better down the stretch. As for his backup, I'm fine with bringing back Recker. Recker will be cheap and performed adequately in the backup role last year. Just don't let him pitch again.

First Base: Ike Davis was pretty awful for a good chunk of last year. Then he got sent down and played reasonably well after being called back up. After Davis was sent down, Josh Satin surprisingly performed very well, especially against lefties. Then there's Lucas Duda, who should never even been considered to play the outfield ever again. Ever. None of these guys appear to be a definitive answer, which has caused some fans to clamor for Wilmer Flores, Jose Abreu, or Corey Hart, among others to man the position.

However I believe in Ike Davis and am willing to give him the first base job to start the year. While Ike was pretty terrible to begin the season, he turned it around big time after being recalled on July 5th, hitting .267/.429/.443 in 48 games. With Ike getting injured at the end of August, we were unable to see if he could have kept that up for the last month of the season. I saw enough out of Ike Davis in the second half of last year to warrant his return and start at first base, albeit only against righties because Ike is just atrocious against southpaws. Against lefties, Josh Satin will play first. Satin hit .317/.404/.476 in 94 PA against lefties in 2013. Satin can also play third base and supposedly second (although I hope we never have to witness that). Unfortunately, this leaves no room for Lucas Duda. Duda will be optioned to AAA for the beginning of the season and would be recalled if Ike struggles.

Second Base: Some people aren't fans of Daniel Murphy. I think he's an OK second baseman. Which makes him the least of our problems. But seriously, Murphy finished 7th in WAR amongst all second baseman in the MLB this past season. Plus, Murphy has basically been our only consistently healthy player over the past few seasons.

Shortstop: Ruben Tejada was just abysmal this past season. Just the mere mention of Omar Quintanilla makes me nauseated. For that reason, I brought in Jhonny Peralta, who as I mentioned above, is a very good offensive shortstop. A knock on Peralta's game is his defense, although I don't think he's nearly as bad as some people think he is in the field. Peralta appears to be an average fielding shortstop to me, and defensive metrics have rated him as such. Additionally, I keep Tejada around to be the backup shortstop and second baseman. Let's hope that last year was just an anomaly for Tejada and he is not really that awful.

Third Base: Clearly this is a gapi - Just kidding; David Wright is the best. Here's a graph:


Plus, just look at him, he's adorable!


(Photo Credit: Michael Baron @michaelgbaron)

Outfield: The 2014 Mets outfield will make #WOITHOB a thing of the past. Juan Lagares will reprise his role in center field, this time the full-time starter right from the beginning. In only 97 starts, Lagares finished the season with a 2.9 fWAR. Most of that value was due to his terrific fielding (Lagares had 28 defensive runs saved, good for 3rd amongst all outfielders) however, and he needs to step up his offensive game. Lagares showed some flashes of being a competent hitter but finished with a meager 75 wRC+ overall. Although, Lagares' defense alone might make him one of the more valuable outfielders in baseball, so anything you could get from him at the plate would be gravy. Shin-Soo Choo, our big free agent signing, will step in and immediately improve our lineup by leaps and bounds. An interesting thing to watch will be how Choo handles right field at the spacious Citi Field, although I believe he will do just fine. In left field you have the platoon of Nate McLouth and Eric Young Jr. who will combine to create a decent left fielder with excellent baserunning. On the bench will be the young Matt den Dekker, who brings to the table not only three lowercase letters, but terrific defense. Some Mets officials believe that den Dekker is a better fielder than Lagares. The one ‘if' on den Dekker is that he needs to prove he can be a decent major league hitter. If he fails to do that, he will be sent down in favor of Andrew Brown.

Starting Pitchers: With 2/5 of the Mets' 2013 rotation scheduled to miss the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, there's a couple of open slots to fill behind the sure-things in Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Zack Wheeler. Then of course, you can NEVER have enough pitching depth. Jenrry Mejia pitched absolutely fantastic (2.30 ERA, 2.46 FIP) in his brief 2013 season, and can hopefully stay healthy for 2014. Tim Stauffer begins the year as the fifth starter, although he may eventually get replaced in the rotation by Dice-K, Harang, Montero, Syndergaard, deGrom, or Carlos Torres.

Bullpen: Surprisingly, the Mets bullpen was actually pretty good last year. I don't think any many changes are needed, so I don't bring in anyone on a major league deal. I think it would be wise to add some guys on minor league deals as insurance, as you can never, never have enough pitching depth. The staff I start the year with comprises of Bobby Parnell, LaTroy Hawkins, Vic Black, Scott Rice, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen, and Carlos Torres. Parnell really stepped up and pitched great until he went down with an injury, establishing himself as a Proven Closer™. Rice was doing a great job as the LOOGY until the Mets broke him because LOLMETS. Edgin began the year awfully, but started pitching very well after spending some time in the minors, but he too suffered a season-ending injury. Germen and Vic Black both pitched well in their brief stints in the Mets pen and both seem to have some potential. Torres was terrific out of the pen and OK as a spot starter. Then there's LaTroy Hawkins, who was everything the Mets could have ever hoped for and more.


Vs. Righties

# Player Position Salary
1. Shin-Soo Choo (L) RF $16M
2. Jhonny Peralta (R) SS $5M
3. Daniel Murphy (L) 2B $5.8M
4. David Wright (R) 3B $20M
5. Ike Davis (L) 1B $3.5M
6. Nate McLouth (L) LF $5M
7. Travis d'Arnaud (R) C $500K
8. Juan Lagares (R) CF $500K
9. Pitcher P -
# Player Position Salary
BE Eric Young Jr. (S) LF/2B $1.9M
BE Ruben Tejada (R) SS/2B $1M
BE Matt den Dekker (R) OF $500K
BE Anthony Recker (L) C $500K
BE Josh Satin (R) 1B/3B $500K

Vs. Lefties

# Player Position Salary
1. Shin-Soo Choo (L) RF $16M
2. Jhonny Peralta (R) SS $5M
3. Daniel Murphy (L) 2B $5.8M
4. David Wright (R) 3B $20M
5. Josh Satin (R) 1B $500K
6. Eric Young Jr. (S) LF $1.9M
7. Travis d'Arnaud (R) C $500K
8. Juan Lagares (R) CF $500K
9. Pitcher P -
# Player Position Salary
BE Nate McLouth (L) LF $5M
BE Ruben Tejada (R) SS/2B $1M
BE Matt den Dekker (R) OF $500K
BE Anthony Recker (L) C $500K
BE Ike Davis (L) 1B $3.5M



# Player Position Salary
1 Jon Niese LHP $5.05M
2 Zack Wheeler RHP $500K
3 Dillon Gee RHP $3.4M
4 Jenrry Mejia RHP $500K
5 Tim Stauffer RHP $500K


# Player Position Salary
CL Bobby Parnell RHP $3M
SU LaTroy Hawkins RHP $3M
RH Vic Black RHP $500K
RH Gonzalez Germen RHP $500K
LH Josh Edgin LHP $500K
LH Scott Rice LHP $500K
LR Carlos Torres RHP $500K

If you add up all those players plus the dead money, it's around $86M, a little over the $80M payroll limit, but with a little bit of backloading, that limit can easily be met. Based on my WAR projections, I have this team at 94 wins, which should definitely be enough to make the playoffs, especially with the second wild card around. Obviously, those projections will vary and so will the win total, but hopefully this team can make the playoffs. If not, the team should still be set up solidly for 2015, when they get Matt Harvey back. I hope you enjoyed my offseason plan. Let's go Mets!

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