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AAOP: I once thought Eric Young Jr. was a long-term piece so you should read more of my Baseball opinions

So it's AAOP season. It's the season where stupid people like this can trade Dilson Herrera for Ender Inciarte instead of signing Yoenis Cespedes, and still somehow be a finalist. That wasn't very smart in hindsight, and I don't know who wrote that, but I'm sure whoever did is a really handsome guy and an overall cool dude regardless.

Despite the relative success of the Mets' 2016 season, the roster is in anything but ideal shape going into 2017. Just take a look at the projected lineup and pitching staff as of right now and all of the concerns that are there:

Player:

Reason(s) to be concerned:

1. Jose Reyes, 3B

Inconsistent defense, aging, injury-prone, makes crappy rap music.

2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Can't be relied on to put up another 120 wRC+, questionable taste in hair color.

3. Curtis Granderson, CF

Not a true center fielder, inconsistent season, 36-years-old.

4. Lucas Duda, 1B

Good, but coming off back surgery.

5. Jay Bruce, RF

Jay Bruce

6. Michael Conforto, LF

Could literally OPS .600 or .900 and nobody would be surprised either way.

7. Wilmer Flores, 2B

Breaks out into hives whenever he sees a right-handed pitcher; EpiPen costs are increasing.

8. Travis d'Arnaud

Was possessed by the ghost of Josh Thole, but couldn't stay on the field even before that.

?. David Wright?

PLEASE COME BACK DAVID

Pitcher:

Reason(s) to be concerned:

Matt Harvey

Coming off surgery

Jacob deGrom

Coming off surgery

Steven Matz

Coming off surgery

Zack Wheeler

Coming off surgery

Noah Syndergaard

Coming off surgery HEY!

Jeurys Familia

Oh god damn it

So that's cool. Yeah, this team could use some fixing up. Here are a few things to note, though, before we begin:

- I am assuming Neil Walker rejects his qualifying offer. He might actually take it, but I'm pretending it essentially doesn't exist for this exercise.

- I am not, however, signing Walker long-term. This is partly due to the risk involved and the unsustainability of his 2016 numbers, but mostly because it makes this way more fun and interesting.

- I am assuming health to David Wright, Zack Wheeler, and all other players. At this point, both are on track to be ready for Spring Training, and nothing has happened yet to actually prevent that, so I have to assume both are on my roster.

- Jon Niese is NOT on this team. Controversial decision, but allow me to explain:

Okay, moving on.

Non-Tenders

Rene Rivera: A projected $2.2 million for a guy who won't be on my MLB roster? Nah, I'm good.

He's my only non-tender. So that means my starting payroll is down to $102.8 million, and I have a cap of $140 million. Before I get to the creative part of this, let's just get the two really obvious moves out of the way first:

Trade Jay Bruce to Japan for one yen and a spare broom

No wait, sorry. What I meant to say was

Trade Jay Bruce to the Blue Jays for RHP Yennsy Diaz and 1B Ryan McBroom

That play on names was brought to you by Dave C™. A charge to your bank account has been issued for this service.

Anyway, yes, these are real players. Both guys are in the back 10 of Toronto's top 30 prospects. Yennsy is a 19-year-old pitching prospect, (who was born on 11/15/96, just 7 days before I was) and he's an undersized right-hander who sits in the low-90s, but can get it up to the upper 90s. He just posted a 5.96 ERA in rookie ball, so he's all projection right now. McBroom is a 24-year-old first baseman in Double-A who can play average defense at first, but most of his value comes on offense. That said, MLB.com has is hit and power tools as future 50s. But his name is McBroom, so it's all good.

These are almost nothing prospects. This is a pure salary dump, but some of you may still be wondering why the Jays would give up anything for a full-priced Bruce. Well, the Jays are showing interest in him right now, and even though they've signed Kendrys Morales to DH, they still need a first baseman and a corner outfielder desperately, and it is very likely that they won't sign Edwin Encarnacion. So a lottery ticket pitcher and a 24-year-old first baseman in Double-A would probably be a small enough price that they'd be desperate enough to pay the full salary for Bruce to fill one of those positions. Not to mention what he could do in the launching pad that is the Rogers Centre.

Current payroll: $89.8 million (-$13 million)

Sign Yoenis Cespedes to a six-year, $150 million contract

Wow good job Dave really thinking out of the box here

Thanks. You can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Current payroll: $114.8 million (+$25 million)

Alright, so I got those things out of the way. Now on to the rest of the team.

Sign OF Carlos Gomez to a two-year, $18 million contract with an opt-out after one year

Contract structure: 2017: $7M, 2018: $11M

This move will probably be in a lot of AAOPs as well, but it really does make sense, especially with the poor market for center fielders. Carlos Gomez did not have a good time of it in Houston; we know this. He went to the Rangers at the end of the season, and in the small sample size of 33 games, appeared rejuvenated and put up a 134 OPS+ for Texas. He looked like his old self.

Gomez will serve as more of an indirect platoon partner with Conforto. Again righties, Gomez will play center field. Against lefties, Gomez will move to right field and Lagares would come in to play center. A Cespedes-Lagares-Gomez outfield is a pretty damn good defensive alignment.

Sure, it's a bit of a gamble to sign him, but it's a relatively low-cost, low-risk gamble that the Mets would (hopefully) be quick to pull the plug on if it goes poorly. This is the type of risk the Mets should be taking right now; one with an actual high upside, and one with a viable safety net—Juan Lagares.

Some may like the thought of a Nimmo/Lagares or a Granderson/Lagares platoon in center field as the primary option and not waste money on Gomez, but I'm not confident in Nimmo in being able to handle the majority of starts, and I'm not confident in Granderson's ability to play center field nearly every day at 36.

This isn't another Bruce or Cuddyer, either. Gomez's floor will always be high due to his still-solid defense and elite baserunning, which this team sorely needs. He brings more necessary speed to the team, and of course, the elite offensive upside.

Gomez will probably be a highly-contested free agent, so the team that gets him will probably have to give him at least two guaranteed years. The opt-out is also to entice Gomez, allowing him the opportunity to cash in if he rebuilds his value this year.

Current payroll: $121.8 million (+$7 million)

Trade Curtis Granderson and $5 million to the Mariners for RP Steve Cishek and RHP Nick Neidart

With Gomez in the fold and Conforto needing to start against right-handers, Granderson is left out in the cold without much of a role. He'd be quite an expensive 5th outfielder, and an awkward fit. So we'll send him to the Mariners, where they have a void in the outfield with Franklin Gutierrez hitting free agency and Nori Aoki being claimed off waivers by the Astros last week, and they'd probably prefer to stop playing Nelson Cruz in the field. The Mariners have a little bit of depth in their bullpen, so they can give up a piece.

Cishek fits nicely into the Mets' bullpen as set-up man. He has a good track record and had a great season last year, striking out a career-best 29.5% of batters and posting a 2.85 ERA as Seattle's closer for most of the year. With Familia possibly missing time due to a suspension, this makes it much easier to survive that loss.

Neidart is a 19-year-old pitcher (who was born 11/20/96, just two days before I was) who was a 2nd-round pick in 2015, and projects to be a number four-ish starter in a few years.

I think this is a rather fair trade, given the rising cost of relievers and that I am paying for some of Granderson. I really did not want to have to trade the nicest guy in Baseball, but I desperately needed to fix the bullpen and clear some more salary, and he was a tad excessive.

Current Payroll: $117.8 (-$4 million: Subtract $10 million from Granderson and add $6 million from Cishek)

So now I've solved the outfield and greatly improved the defense there. The past few years, the Mets' defense has been one of their Achilles heels. Luckily, it hasn't come back hurt the Mets in a big spot that I can rememb-

Oh, right.

Some believe that a run saved is actually equal to a run earned. Now, whether it's actually a one-to-one correlation or not, there is no denying that defense has value, and defense can add wins to a team. And defense is cheaper than offense. So perhaps the most cost-efficient gains possible for this team would be through dramatically improving the defense, and, in turn, allowing the pitching and offense more room for error. So let's try doing that.

Trade Robert Gsellman, Marcos Molina, and Jhoan Urena to the Angels for SS Andrelton Simmons

Hey, Andrelton Simmons can play defense! He once again led all shortstops in UZR/150, with a 25.1. He would've led them in DRS if he had played a full season. With that, he was worth 3.1 fWAR in just 124 games—a pace of 4.0 WAR/162 games.

For the Angels, they're in a terrible spot right now. Of course we all know about their barren farm system, and their terrible MLB team. If they want to build a winning team for 2017, they'd need to make up at least 15 wins entirely through free agency, since they have no imminent prospect help, and very little to trade. With this free agent class, that's almost impossible; they have a ton of holes. The Angels would probably be best off tearing down Astros-style and starting over. Yes, Simmons is young and controllable for years to come, but if the Angels really want to compete again before the sun blows up and swallows Earth, then they need to go all the way in on a rebuild, which inlcudes trading controllable assets like Simmons to rebuild their system. It's that bad.

I know that's a steep price to pay here. But last year, Simmons was traded for Sean Newcomb, who is a similar, maybe slilghtly better prospect than Gsellman is now; Chris Ellis, a fast-moving, C-level possible relief arm; and Erik Aybar, a 1-2 fWAR (at the time) MLB shortstop. Simmons' value now is basically the same as it was a year ago, so this was my best attempt to roughly match that trade. The Human Vacuum won't be cheap, especially since he's due only $8 million this year, and only $47 million through 2020. For a 3-4 win shortstop, that's obscenely below market value, and 27-year-old, 3-4 win shortstops with 5-win upside don't come cheap as it is.

Now, Simmons does have a reputation of being a terrible hitter, but he managed a 91 wRC+ in 2016. His only truly awful offensive year was in 2013, and he was still a two-win player that year. All he needs to do is be in the 80-90 wRC+ range to be a 3-win shortstop, which he's done three out of his four full seasons. A league-average bat would render him a 5+ win player and a bona fide star. And he just turned 27, so that's still not an impossible goal.

Furthermore, Simmons is actually great at making contact—he has a ridiculous career 8.9% strikeout rate and 88.6% contact rate—which is a nice off-set to the rest of the Mets lineup that has a lot of swing-and-miss in it.

And I'm not blocking Amed Rosario, either. He is not ready; you cannot block a prospect that is not ready. This is what good teams do; they don't necessarily worry about positions, they value all players as simply assets, stack up on those assets, and cash in on them when the time comes.

This allows the Mets leverage. When Rosario is ready, they can trade Simmons and cash in on his value to replenish the farm system, and make up for the losses of Molina and Gsellman. Or, conversely, if the Mets are in contention at the deadline, they would have the ability to trade Rosario for a superstar player and still be able to have a young, cheap, controllable shortstop through 2020. Or they could move Rosario to second and have a Rosario-Simmons middle infield for years to come. There are so many possibilities here. Now, I could've traded Rosario in this AAOP, but I liked the thought of keeping the long-term felxibility more.

Asdrubal Cabrera would also move to second base here. He wasn't terrible last year at shortstop, but he was still a minus defender by UZR. Whether his offense can play at second base is less of a guarantee, but as long as he can maintain around a 105-110 wRC+, he should be fine. After all, that was basically Daniel Murphy's level of production with the Mets, and Cabrera would likely be a better defender than Murphy. And if Cabrera were to fall back to his ~90 wRC+ output and rendered below average overall, then the Mets have other options. Gavin Cecchini is not far away, T.J. Rivera exists, and they could even give Flores an everyday role.

Current payroll: $125.3 million (+$7.5 million: Simmons' $8 million subtracted by $500K lost with Gsellman.)

Trade Gabriel Ynoa and Patrick Mazeika to the Rangers for C Robinson Chirinos

Consider this as threatening to move on from Travis d'Arnaud, without really moving on. d'Arnaud may have been hurt last year, and given what he can do, I'm not entirely ready to give up on him completely after what he showed in 2015. So I've acquired someone who can theoretically be a starting catcher, but won't necessarily displace d'Arnaud; it is more likely to be a competition between the two.

Chirinos was the Rangers' starting catcher before he got hurt last year. Then the Rangers got Jonathan Lucroy. Now Chirinos is their backup, and probably over-qualified for that. He's a good defensive catcher with lots of power, posting ISOs over .200 each of the last two years. He's had injury concerns of his own—playing in only 57 games last year and 78 games in 2015—and he strikes out quite a bit, so he should be cheap. But he's been good when he's been on the field. The 32-year-old has been worth 2.3 fWAR with a wRC+ above 100 over his last 134 games between the last two seasons, and was worth 2.4 fWAR in 93 games in 2014.

Worst-case scenario is the Mets add a cheap, powerful, good defensive catcher who's better than Rivera to backup d'Arnaud.

Current payroll: $127.4 million (+$2.1 million, projected Arb 2)

Sign Jerry Blevins to a two-year, $10 million dollar contract

HELLO, JERRY.

Current payroll: $132.4 million (+$5 million)

Sign Derek Holland to a one-year, $6 million dollar contract

Full disclosure: this was originally Bartolo Colon, before he signed a contract for double this amount. Holland is an injury risk, but doesn't make for a bad 6th or 7th starter. He could be much better out of Globe Life Park (god that's a dumb name) and his stuff could play up in the bullpen.

Sign Yusmeiro Petit to a one-year, $1.5 million dollar contract

Petit had a bad year with the Nationals and just had a $3 million dollar option declined, so he should be cheap. He's a decent buy-low candidate given his extreme competence as recently as two years ago. He's another guy who can start games and eat innings both out of the bullpen and in spot starts.

And that basically does it for the MLB team.

Final Payroll: $139.9 million

I used up every penny. Now just for few more important minor league signings to finish it off:

Sign OFs Will Venable and Sam Fuld to minor-league contracts with non-roster invites to Spring Training

Now that Nimmo is in the MLB, the outfield depth below the MLB level in this organization is laughable. Who's the first man to be called up if an injury happens? Ty Kelly? I need someone to take that place now.

So we fulfill the prophecy, and we finally get Will Venable on the New York Mets. This has been in the works for years. This is the inevitable INEVENABLE becoming a reality.

For Fuld, he missed all of 2016 due to shoulder surgery, but he is a tremendous outfield defender at all 3 positions. He has beed above replacement level for most of his career just from his defense alone. He might not be ready for the start of the season, but he could be another really smart buy-low guy.

Sign Juan Uribe to a minor league deal with a non-roster invite to Spring Training and a player opt-out after May 1

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So let's look at the final roster, assuming perfect health. Obviously there won't be perfect health, but let's just imagine it for a second:

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I've put Seth Lugo in the minor leagues to stay stretched out as a starter.

The main problem with this roster is that I'm still taking a lot of risks on offense. Part of that is because I, for the life of me, could not find a suitable, realistic third baseman within the $140 million budget without turning the whole team upside down or selling the farm. Plus, if we're assuming Wright is on the roster, there isn't really room for another infielder without clearing space.

So yes, I haven't necessarily improved the offense, but I have allowed the offense (and pitching) significantly more margin for error with dramatically improved defense and better baserunning. With the team improved in other areas, it makes it a little more palatable to take risks on offense. Also, the ability to trade Rosario for a massive upgrade at one of those risk-taking positions now exists.

So this wasn't very easy, but I made the Mets better—I think. This is a really hard team to navigate right now. Hopefully the real Mets find a way to do it better. Or they could just half-ass it again and be forced to sign Dayan Viciedo to play center field midseason. Either one, really.

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