FanPost

AAOP: Please Don't Kill Me


First lets deal with the tenders and options:

Player Salary Decision
Lucas Duda 6.725 Tender
Rene Rivera 2.2 Tender
Addison Reed 10.6 Tender
Matt Harvey 5.2 Tender
Jeurys Familia 8.7 Tender
Zack Wheeler 1 Tender
Josh Edgin .8 Tender
Travis d'Arnaud 1.7 Tender
Wilmer Flores 1.9 Tender
Jacob deGrom 4.5 Tender
Jay Bruce 13 Pick-up option and trade
Jose Reyes .5 Pick-up option
Jon Niese .5 Buyout option

Most of these should be pretty simple. I am trading Bruce to the highest bidder and assuming I get a backend top 125 prospect (80-125). I’ll specify the actual trade later on. I’m also going to extend a QO to Walker and Cespedes. Neither are going to take it. Now on to the actual plan.

Going into this I am going to add a constraint that Sandy isn’t going to sign someone for more than 4 years or sign anyone to a 9 figure deal. This is mostly because I think it makes it more challenging and forces me to me more creative. I am hoping to have a pretty out there and unusual plan. It also makes sure we have payroll flexibility going forward to sign our players to extensions and make moves we need to in order to stay contenders going forward. Unfortunately, that means no Cespedes and none of the top 3 closers.

The goal is to be perennial contenders year in and year out. The Mets have never made the playoffs 3 years in a row or had any real sustained stretch of winning. Our playoff hopes look pretty good for this upcoming year. I’m sure there will be a ton of plans where we sign some middle tier free agents, get better health from our SP and probably make the playoffs. But, going forward, even just 2-3 years, we have few position players to build around. There is Conforto, who has some question marks, and Rosario. We then have a bunch of backend top 100 prospects or young major leaguers that if things break right can be building blocks. This includes Lagares, Nimmo, d’Arnaud, Flores, TJ Rivera, Cecchini, etc. We have also not shown much ability to develop position players successfully. When compared to other contenders our young position player talent lags pretty far behind. If we want to build sustain success this is where we need to upgrade.

Fortunately, our controllable starting pitching talent ranks among the top of the league. We also seem to be very good at developing pitchers. We have had several come out of nowhere to have success in the majors and have developed our early draft picks with a ton of success. We have some high upside arms in the low minors, who given our track record, should develop well. We also have some promising looking relief arms in the minors. It makes sense to trade from an area of strength to bolster an area of weakness. So, I went into this AAOP with the goal of trading from an area of strength (current pitching and ability to develop pitching) to bolster an area of weakness (position player side of things). Let’s take a look at where their value is:

Group 1: The Walking Wounded- deGrom, Wheeler, Harvey, Matz – Successful when healthy, but coming off of injuries. If they come back and are ineffective or don’t make it back their value drops. But, they are recovering well and it seems more likely that their value increases. I think trading any of these would be selling low.

Group 2: Too Soon- Gsellman, Lugo – Too short of a track record to fetch much in a trade. Obviously, if they start next year and suck their value would drop. But, once again seems more likely that they will build value next year.

Group 3: Gods- Thor – He is a top 5 pitcher in all of baseball. Has been durable and is under control for five more years. His value seems to be at an all-time high. I can’t really see him increasing his value next season where an injury would obviously crater it.

Some of you might predict what I am going to suggest. The old adage buy low sell high applies here, so I am going to suggest we trade Thor. The rationale is that we have a great track record of developing pitchers and between that and the current major league arms we should be set for years to come. So we should trade from our depth there and he is the only one who we would be selling high on. I can hear the rioters coming now

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It is a little hard to predict what we would be able to get for Thor given how rare it is for someone like him to be traded. But, here is the Thor trade:

The Thor Trade (3 Way Deal):

Mets get: Andrew Benintendi and Alex Bregman

Red Sox get: Thor

Astros get: Yoan Moncada (or similar value)

So we are trying to add young position players and two teams really stand out in that regard: Red Sox and Cubs. I don’t want Thor on the Cubs. So, he goes to the Red Sox. Let’s start by talking about the value each team gets. The Astros are basically swapping top prospects. Moncada is higher rated, but Bregman already made his debut. For what it is worth Moncada is 26th on Fangraphs trade value list and Bregman is 37. So, maybe the Astros would be willing to chip in more and send us a prospect in the back of the top 100 but should be even value wise.

The Red Sox, who have struggled to develop pitchers basically since Lester, get the cost control ace that they need. They get Thor and can sign a bat to replace Ortiz and they are probably World Series favorites and still have a good farm. Would they give up Moncada and Benintendi, both of who are top 10 prospects in the game? I think value wise they would. Hitters in the top 10 have 73.5 million in surplus value. So the surplus value of both of those guys is 147 million. Using the trade value series we can see that Thor is projected for 24.1 WAR over the years of team control. I’m going to use 8 million per WAR that the prospect article used. I’ll also assume he earns 30 million during the years of team control. That gives a value of 192.8 at 30 million, or 162.8 of surplus value. Now there is a lot to quibble with here. Moncada and Benitendi are probably in the top 5, maybe higher. So maybe their value goes up. Maybe my guess on what Thor earns in arbitration is off. Also, the WAR projections for Thor seem low to me. He put up 6.5 WAR this year. The projection has him producing 5.1 WAR in his best year in the next 5. But, I think the value is roughly right.

Now, you are probably wondering why I put Moncada (or similar value). Simply because maybe the Red Sox really like Moncada and might prefer to trade other pieces. That is fine, as long as they pry Bregman from the Astros for us. For instance, Jackie Bradley Jr. is ranked 28th on the trade value list. Maybe the Astros like him better because he is closer to the majors and they don’t have a great CF option for next year. This actually makes more sense for the Astros I think. They have Correa, Bregman, Altuve, and Gurriel for 3 positions (2B, SS, and 3B). They were also 2nd worst in the majors in terms of production from CF (-.8 WAR) and are in win now mode. So, feel free to sub out Bradley for Moncada if you want.

A few last notes on the trade value. I could see an argument for any of these teams to have to throw in an extra prospect in the backend of the top 100. That’s fine, we can send whoever we got for Bruce, or maybe we pick up an extra prospect. If you want us to give up/get a prospect to make it work I can see the argument for that. Also, the trade value rankings are from midseason and maybe slightly out of date (although I don’t think anyone changed their value that significantly). I don’t think it shifts the trade in any significant way, but thought I should point it out.

Finally, why are we getting Bregman instead of keeping Moncada or JBJ? Moncada has a higher upside than Bregman, but also higher chance of busting. His K% worries me. That isn’t a big critique, it isn’t awful, he walks a lot, hits for power and plays good defense. There is a reason he is the presumptive number 1 prospect in the game. But, if he busts and this just becomes Thor for Benitendi this trade is a loss for us. I am trying to avoid that given the fan backlash that is likely from this move. I don’t want JBJ because he would be another lefty OF (Benitendi also is one) and he has less team control.

I also really like Bregman. He came up a SS, where he would probably play league average defense. He played 3B last year because Correra is entrenched at SS (although he is reported to be a better defender than Correra). He does all the little things well, great makeup, and tremendous bat. In AA, where he was most of the year, he walked more than he struck out (14.7 vs. 9.1) and hit for power (ISO was .263). He is exactly what I like it a hitter. Here is a quote from a scouting report: "hit for average with a high on-base percentage and 20-plus homers." And from another one: "I think Bregman is a .300-hitting extra-base machine who yanks out about 20 homes per year". So, we are getting a .300 hitter, high OBP, lots of extra base hits, 20 plus homers a year and a great makeup. That sounds a lot like prime David Wright. Yes please.

The other prospect we get is Andrew Benintendi. He projects as a "solid-average centerfielder who should be above-average in left field… Long term, he’s the rare hitter who has a chance to provide a near .300 average with high on-base percentages and above-average power (15-20 home runs) while stealing 10 bags a year." He played most of the year at AA. He walked almost as much as he struck out (9.1 to 11.4) and hit for power (ISO was .219). I think between the scouting report and the AA stats it is clear the type of player I like and they both fit the mold.

As promised the Jay Bruce trade:

So I am going to pitch Bruce as a good hitting OF/DH on a short, cheap contract. If you wanted to get the same offensive fire power in a DH on the FA market you’d be paying more in years and money. In Bruce you avoid that and he can also play OF if you need him to which allows you to rotate other players to DH to rest them and play him in NL parks. I mean Morales got 3 years 33 million and Bruce is similar offensively and can also play the OF when needed. My "pitch" pretty much limits Bruce to AL contending teams who are budget conscious. The Indians fit that bill perfectly. They have a need at 1B/DH with Napoli gone and also lost 2 OFs (Crisp and Davis). The deal is:

Mets get: Brady Aiken

Indians get: Jay Bruce and 5 million dollars

I documented why it makes sense for the Indians, the Mets get a borderline top 100 prospect (was an honorable mention on Sickel’s list) with huge upside. He was the number 1 overall pick in 2014, didn’t sign, had Tommy John surgery and still went in the first round in 2015. He would be the headliner of that next wave of pitching talent (Dunn, Molina, Szapucki).

Now onto free agents signings. I’m filling two position player slots for cheap from the Thor trade. But, getting rid of a cheap starter. So, I’m going to be focusing more of my FA money on pitching.

Signings:

Old, loveable starters: I had this section dedicated to signing Colon and Dickey, now I won’t get either. Bummer.

Scrambling for alternatives: So, now I’m stuck looking for an innings eater on a short term deal. Not much out there that fits the bill. I considered Hammel, Volquez, Cashner and a few others. I have room in my budget though so I’m going with the best of a not great bunch. I’m signing Hammel for 2 years 28 million. I feel gross typing that, would’ve much preferred either Colon or Dickey on the contract they got. But, Hammel is good, young enough and has been healthy (averaged 30 starts the last 3 years).

Resigning the Pen: I’m giving Blevins and Salas 2 years 10 million each. I don’t see much need for elaboration on Blevins, we know what he is. Salas had a 3.23 and 3.21 xFIP in 2015 and 2016 and pitched well for us. It is almost eerily how similar he is to Reed last year, and we know how good Reed was this year.

Adding a Pen Arm: I don’t see the Mets committing the years to one of the top 3 closers available. But, there is a good selection of middle tier options to round out the pen. I am picking Brett Cecil and signing him to a 3 year 18 million dollar deal. He had great years in 2014 and 2015. In both years his ERA, FIP, and xFIP were below 3. This year he struggled a bit with an ERA of 3.93. But, the underlying stats are still great. He had a K/9 of 11.05 and BB/9 of 1.96. That is fantastic numbers and up there in the top tier of relief pitchers. He was victimized by a giving up the long ball and a rate nearly twice that in his career. xFIP recognizes this and his xFIP this year was 2.87. He pitched through a lat/tricep injury earlier in the year and landed on the DL. He struggled before the injury, but in his healthy second half he was dominant. The K rate went up to 13.1, walks were basically steady, 1.99, resulting in a 3.18 ERA and 1.98 xFIP.

Rounding out the roster: I currently have some money to spend and figured I should spend it somewhere. Looking at the roster I see three areas where it makes sense to add: Catcher, backup 1B and RH outfielder. I think I can solve 2 of those with one signing. I’m going to have Conforto learn 1B. If Duda goes down Flores and Conforto can take over (with Conforto still playing almost every day as he will play some in the OF). But, that weakens my OF depth a bit, meaning I’m going to prioritize signing a RH OF. So, I am going to sign Carlos Gomez to a 2 year 25 million dollar contract. Technically he is going to be a 4th OF, but I’ll explain he will still play at least 120 games. I want to have a strong OF defense, and I think it is especially important since we lost Thor, the biggest strikeout guy on the staff. I also think strong defense in general will allow the young arms to be less afraid to pitch to contact and will help they stay healthy. Gomez grades out as a plus defender in CF or the corners (SSS alert) by both UZR and DRS. Thanks to his defense and base running he was still worth 2.7 in 2015 despite a 97 wRC+. And that was in only 115 games! Now, he had a bad half season in Houston in 2016. But, that’s the only reason we are able to sign a guy that was worth 15.8 WAR, eighth most in all of baseball, for just 10 million a year. He is also still fairly young as he will turn 31 in December. Worst case scenario he replicates last year and is still worth .9 WAR and a good 4th OF that is overpaid. Medium case he produces his career line and gives league average offense, great defense and much needed speed (think his 2015). Combined that is about a 3 WAR player. Best case he bounces back to what he was in 2013 and 2014 and is a MVP candidate. The worst case isn’t that bad and the best case is fantastic. A low risk high reward signing that brings Gomez back home.

That leaves catcher. I have money to spend, but I don’t like Wieters nor do I want to give up the pick. The trade market is pretty bare. So I am going to stand pat and trust the tandem of d’Arnaud and Rivera. They are both good framers, which is incredibly important. I also want to give d’Arnaud another year when he starts healthy to see what he has. I also haven’t, maybe foolishly, given up on Plawecki yet. I could go sign Jason Castro to back up d’Arnaud. He is another good framer but also a better bat than Rivera. But, I think he is going to get more than 3 years and 20 million and I don’t want to lock up that much money long term. So I’m sticking with what we have.

Final Roster:

Position Player Salary
1B Lucas Duda 6.725
2B Alex Bregman .5
SS Asdrubal Cabrera 8.25
3B David Wright 20
RF Curtis Granderson 15
CF Andrew Benintendi .5
LF Michael Conforto .5
Bench Juan Lagares 4.5
Bench Rene Rivera 2.2
Bench Wilmer Flores .5
Bench Jose Reyes .5
Bench Carlos Gomez 12.5
SP Jacob deGrom 4.5
SP Matt Harvey 5.2
SP Steven Matz .5
SP Zack Wheeler 1
SP Jason Hammel 14
RP Jeurys Familia 8.7
RP Addison Reed 10.6
RP Fernando Salas 5
RP Jeremy Blevins 5
RP Brett Cecil 6
RP Hansel Robles .5
RP Josh Smoker .5

Other Obligations:

There is the .5 million for Niese’s buyout, I have Edgin stashed in AAA at .8 million. I also have 5 million I sent to the Indians.

Total Payroll: 139.475 Million.

Final Thoughts: I like this team. I have a lot of depth in case of injuries. I have Lugo and Gsellman waiting in the wings if a starter goes down. There are some good potential pen arms in the minors. Specifically, Roseboom and Sewald, but also ok options with GIlmartin, Verrett, Goodell and Edgin. There is also really good position player depth. I have Bregman penciled in at 2B, but if/when Wright goes down he will shift to third. I can then pick between Reyes, Flores or call up TJ Rivera or Cecchini from AAA. Between them I have 4 quality options in case of injury. I probably should’ve signed Kelly Johnson for more depth but didn’t have a roster spot. In the OF I have 5 good options on the major league roster. No longer carrying a de Aza or Mayberry Jr. or a similar player. The three starters are all lefties, but I expect Gomez to basically share time evenly with them. Around midway through the season you can reassess based on performance. But, the plan should be 120 games for Grandy and 130 games for Conforto and Benintendi. This puts Gomez at about 100 games and Lagares back to 5th OF. But, someone will get hurt and then you have a great replacement and can call up Nimmo as a 5th outfielder. Overall this team has good depth all over the diamond.

Depth is one thing, actually being good is another. Our pen should be solid and improved from last year, even if Familia is suspended. The rotation is less talented, but if healthy might be better than last year. I mean we are basically replacing Thor with Wheeler, which is a big step down. But, we have much better depth behind the top 5 with Gsellman and Lugo emerging. It is also unlikely in my opinion that we get hit with injuries to the same extent in the rotation. A healthy Harvey goes a long way to replacing Thor’s production. I think the offense will also be better. We lost our two biggest bats (Walker wRC+ 122 and Cespedes wRC+ 134). But, we replaced them with a guy who is a top 5 prospect and another one who would be if he was still eligible. Both posted a wRC+ over 110 in limited time last season. They also both have major upside. We also should get better production from d’Arnau, Conforto and Duda then we did last year. But, the key is we won’t be giving 366 PA to Loney, 267 to De Aza, 187 to Bruce and close to 100 to Reynolds and Campbell. Instead we are replacing them with PA by Gomez, Reyes, Flores, Cecchini and TJ Rivera. The first three can all be expected to provide at least league average offense instead of a wRC+ in the 80s. Maybe we can even get more PA from Wright this year!

Finally, the defense should be much improved. Alex Bregman is a guy who would be an average defender at SS, he should be plus at second and an improvement over Walker. He won’t play SS for us because Rosario is on the way soon and is plus there. Last year we had the same corner outfielders but Cespedes in CF. Andrew Benintendi is not a great CF, but probably around average there which is an improvement. We also have 2 great defensive OF on the bench with Gomez and Lagares.

We are also better set up for the future. Looking 3+ years out we still have deGrom, Gsellman, Wheeler, Matz, and Lugo under control for going forward. We also have some promising pitching prospects in the minors like Aiken, Molina, Dunn, and Szapucki. Plus, the ability to add a few ticks on the fastball and develop a plus slider that we seem to have makes our SP future look very bright.

Of course, it was already bright. Where we added is on the position player side. We now have 4 position players who have been in the top 10 of a prospect list sometime in the past 2 years. And they are all under control for a long time. That is one of the best young cores in baseball. We still have the same depth of intriguing guys who could turn into something that we did before, for instance Smith. We are also giving Conforto and d’Arnaud enough playing time for them to develop and hopefully become meaningful contributors.

We also added a backend top 100 guy from trading Bruce and 2 draft picks from the QO on Walker and Cespedes. Finally, we didn’t take on any long term salary commitments. Only one deal was longer than 2 years, and that is only for 6 million in 2019. I think we are set up to make the playoffs this year, but also expanded our contention window a few years further into the future and diversified the risk so we aren’t as dependent on pitchers who could get injured. Hopefully you don’t still want to kill be for trading Thor.

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