AAOP: How do you make God laugh?

Most people already know the answer to this: To make God laugh, come up with a plan.

Since the end of the world series, several events conspired to torpedo my original plan -

Bartolo Colon signed with the Braves ( for more money than I thought he would get ) -

R.A. Dickey, my back up plan, signed with the Braves ( for more money than I thought he would get ) -

Jesse Chavez signed with the Angels ( for more money- Hey, there's a theme developing here...)

Jeurys Famila got arrested.

Neil Walker accepted his QO, scuttling my plan to start Wilmer Flores ( at least until Amed Rosario was ready )

and taking my carefully husbanded mid -season acquisition budget off the boards.

Anyway, I'm forging ahead - I thought it would be an interesting exercise to do this in real time, taking into account each new signing and development before I publish this ( However inconvenient ), just like the Mets FO has to do.

Where I have the advantage is I can sign anybody I want to, or make any trade I want to, as long as it's feasible in my own mind. I don't have to wonder if 28 other teams are going to snipe my FA bid, or offer a better trade package that I'm proposing.

The Mets have the advantage in that they have more resources, more info,an entire staff,and a deadline that extends into March My plan is due Monday, and I'm just a schlemiel with a Windows 7 laptop.

We press on -




November 16th 2016 8:40pm eastern standard time:


Let's send some guys off the 40 man, hopefully back to Las Vegas:

Rafael Montero, Logan Verrett.

Let's add some guys to the 40 man roster, in preparation for the Rule 5 draft

Ricky Knapp,, Marcos Molina, Amed Rosario.

Now, to non-tender a player:

Rene Rivera.

Hey, that was easy, and it almost felt like I knew what I was doing.

SANDY ALDERSON - off-season trades as Mets GM, player for player variety:

12/27/10 Michael Antonini to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Chin-Lung Hu

12/07/11 Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres

12/17/12 R.A Dickey, Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole to the Toronto Blue Jays for Wuilmer Becerra, John Buck, Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard

03/30/15 Matt Den Dekker to the Washington Nationals for Jerry Blevins

03/30/15 Cory Mazzoni and a PTBNL to the San Diego Padres for Alex Torres

12/09/15 Jonathon Niese to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Neil Walker

02/02/16 Darrell Ceciliani to the Toronto Blue Jays for a PTBNL

So, seven off -season trades ( If you count Antonini for Hu a trade ) and, 2 of the "opening day is here and we are screwed" emergency variety. Alderson, to this point, has not been an off-season Wheeler-Dealer. But I'm going to unrealistically make four trades ;

a salary dump of a doomed slugger...

I've been thinking about 2 ex-Mets: Jeromy Burnitz and Victor Zambrano. I've been thinking about them in reference to, as you may have already guessed, Jay Bruce.

Jeromy Burnitz was an all-or-nothing slugger very similar to Bruce, right down to his initials; They're both left handed, both perennial 30+ homer threats, both from small market Central Division teams, and both wore their feelings on their skin. I once saw Burnitz slam his own bat into his helmet after a particularly futile AB. Most importantly, both fell flat on their face when they first arrived.

When Bruce was traded to the Mets, I went on the SB Nation site Red Reporter to see how the Cincinnati fanbase felt about Bruce. The consensus gist was this:

1 - Jay Bruce is an awfully good guy

2 - Jay Bruce has ghastly cold streaks interspersed with torrid hot streaks

3 - Jay Bruce tends to press when things are not going well

As you may guess, that last quality does not play well in NY, which can be merciless on struggling players, which brings us to Zambrano, who was one of the most unassumingly hated Mets of all time, mostly because he was in Flushing and Scott Kazmir, the Mets phenom, was in Tampa Bay, courtesy of one of the most despised trades in Mets' history. Zambrano was reviled for who he wasn't, and for Bruce, next year, it will be much the same thing, I fear, because Jay Bruce will either not be Yoenis Cespedes or Michael Conforto.

And he will be booed. And he will press. And he will be booed. And then he'll have bad offense to go along with bad defense. So let's do this:


I'm awfully tempted to ship Bruce to the Orioles, just to see if he can continue the O's streak of 40 homer seasons from guys on expiring contracts, but the Blue Jays are expressing interest in Bruce, so here goes. Jonathan Davis, RF, has speed and defense and budding power. He's a sleeper prospect in the Jays system, and he's Rule 5 eligible after completing the FSL at age 24. LHP Lietz is an unranked Jays prospect, and this I think, is an example of the max return on Bruce if you want the Blue Jays to swallow 13 million of salary.

a backup catcher for a backsliding backstop...

In thinking about Travis d'Arnaud, and how he was one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, a little over a year ago. If he would only wipe the Julio Franco off his batting stance.... - I'm not ready to give up on him, but he is always injured, and waiting for d'Arnaud to get hurt so Plawecki can ground out is not an option - I need a catcher who can play full time, if need be, but can also be a permanent backup, and none of the free agent options appeal to me. So I need to trade for a player who has lost his starting job, but still has upside enough to be an everyday player, if neccessary, and is cost controlled for several years. I looked at Blake Swihart in Boston, but did this instead -


Here's where I trade my first Rule 5 eligible Mets prospect - Evans had a breakout year in Binghamton, winning the batting title, this after several non-descript offensive seasons in the minors: if his ceiling has moved past utility IF to Marco Scutaro, this doesn't look so good. Barnhart was the Reds regular catcher last year, but probably won't be this year :

Barnhart, a switch hitter, slashed .257/.323/.702, but once you take the Great American Ballpark out of play, his line dips to .246/.318/.313. He's better as a lefty :.271/.344/.400 vs RHP. Where Barnhart excels though, is defense: Here is a Red Reporter article from this year that has some info on Barnhart :

Barnhart is under team control for next year, followed by 3 years of arbitration.

a fifth spoke in the wheel...

So my very first move was taken off the boards by the Braves - Colon and Dickey are in Atlanta. I wanted a surefire innings eater to take some strain off the rotation, but now I'm left with my 3rd choice Edinson Volquez, who I think is a defensible choice - he's taken the ball every fifth day for 6 consecutive years - but I have neither the money nor the inclination to sign him. I've become obsessed with the idea that the Mets need a second lefty in the rotation, due to the injury history of Steven Matz, and the fact that the only other lefty who's made a big league start is hanging onto the forty man by his fingers - It's Sean Gilmartin, and he's the grizzlied veteran of 2 major league starts. All the free agent options are either too pricey, too injured, or too blah. I need a financially strapped team with a low cost lefty, one who's coming off a rough year, but could be a rotation candidate for a nice breakout or bounceback, and optimally one who also has bullpen experience. I thought of Christian Friedrich of the Padres, and Drew Smyly of the Rays, before doing this :


Last year, at this time, the Diamondbacks had to do a salary dump trade on a perfectly reasonable SP named Jeremy Hellickson, who was in his final year of arbitration and slated to make 6.6m. He was traded to the Phillies for their 27th ranked prospect, Sam McWilliams. I'm obviously hoping the D'backs have to do that again.

Patrick Corbin, Tommy John survivor and Silver Slugger winner - should fit right in with the Mets staff. Here's an SB nation beyond the box score on Corbin, 2015 :

Patrick Corbin post Tommy John

Corbin was having a fine career with a lot of success, in a pronounced hitter's park, before he went off the rails in 2016 - like a lot of pitchers, he was ambushed by the Home Run Ball. I'm hoping he can return to form in a more neutral park where the best hitters on each team in the division are all lefties: Freeman, Harper, Herrera, Murphy and Yelich. Oops. Forgot about Stanton. Anyway, I'm sending 2 very nice Rule 5 eligible pitching prospects to find out.

Corbin salvaged his season somewhat by making 12 reasonable relief appearances in August and September; And if you trust this this guy, he's the next Andrew Miller: Andrew Miller clone Somewhat counter-intuitively though, I like him for the rotation.

Corbin is controlled for 2 more years via arbitration.

and finally, the heart attack trade...

Is Jeurys Familia guilty? Is he innocent? Will he be suspended ? Will he be exonerated? Will he go to jail? Will he get deported? I don't know, I don't know, 6 times I don't know. And I have to make a very unpleasant decision, with Monday's deadline staring me in the face. Do I sign Brad Ziegler for 2/16 and re-sign Fernando Salas for 2/12? I'm going to do this instead, and wonder if I panicked and soon as I publish this : The White Sox appear to be open for business.


Oh, man.

Let's look at the damage as negatively as I can : I've traded arguably the Mets 3rd best prospect in Gavin Cecchini,AND a guy I should be protecting in the Rule 5 draft, Tomas Nido, who only had a breakout offensive season in the FSL, plays a premium position, catcher, which also happened to be the biggest black hole on the Mets roster in 2016 (and to rub further salt in the wound, Nido improved his defense tremendously to boot.) AND I'm also trading Robles, who happens to be exactly the type of pitcher you don't want to trade right now: a cost controlled middle reliever who belongs to you for four more years, and who's been durable, throws 95-98 MPH with clean, easy mechanics, and who maybe hasn't ceilinged yet. All this for an expensive 31 year old reliever coming off his worst season, and a guy who just lost 2 whole years to Tommy John surgery.

Yeah, maybe it's panic, but ultimately I don't trust Robles/Salas/Ziegler as much as I trust Jones/Robertson. Ziegler has always run a good FIP ( Fielding independent Pitching ) but without being a strikeout pitcher: he specializes in generating weak grounders, but I don't have a ton of range in my infield. Salas ran a high FIP for two years, until he made a nice cameo with the Mets last year, and Robles, who may be very good one day, simply hasn't reached that point as of yet; he's erratic, and he lost his job to Salas last year. I'm still not entirely convinced, but...

I'm hoping Robertson, who had a great 2015, is coming off an aberrant season where he was compromised by a bad glut and a torn meniscus.

Robertson is owed 12 million this year and 13 million the next.

Nate Jones is on one of the best contracts in baseball, and he's coming off a killer year where he struck out 80 batters against 15 walks in over 70 innings - and he throws a routine 98MPH, and batters hit .190 against him..

Jones is controllable for four years, in fact, on an outstanding, embroidered in safety, team friendly contract.:

Here are the details : Nate Jones Contract

If Cecchini never learns how to throw, and Nido's breakout is a mirage, and Robles never puts it together, and I get 6 years of high leverage relief at 40 million dollars in today's market, I'm smelling like a rose. If the exact opposite happens, my head is squarely on the chopping block.


12/09/10 D.J Carrasco 2yr/2.4m

12/14/11 Jon Rauch 1yr/3.5m

12/19/11 Frank Francisco 2yr/12m

01/30/13 Shaun Marcum 1yr/4m

11/26/13 Chris Young 1yr/7.25m

12/09/13 Curtis Granderson 4yr/60m

12/14/13 Bartolo Colon 2yr/20m

11/10/14 Michael Cuddyer 2yr/21m

12/11/15 Asdrubal Cabrera 2yr/18.5m with a 3rd year club option/ 2m dollar buyout

12/23/15 Alejandro de Aza 1yr/5.75m

01/22/16 Antonio Bastardo 2yr/12m

So Alderson has never given a third year to a new face 'sides Granderson - OK

Carlos Gomez is listed by MLBTR as the 19th best free agent in baseball right now, right behind our own Neil Walker, who has since taken a QO and booted Kelly Johnson off my team. Gomez is slated to get 3 years and 36 million dollars off what amounts to a 130 PA cameo for the Texas Rangers. Some pitchers have gotten big deals like this lately : J.A.Happ, Rich HIll, and this year, 11 excellent starts to close out the campaign have made Ivan Nova worth 52 million, and MLBTR's 10th best free agent in the class.

So I got to thinking, what if the opposite is true? What if a player was having a stupendous season, but deep-sixed his stock with an appalling finish to his year ?


2yrs/ 14 million according to MLBTR.

This was Moss' slash line on 8/26/16: .270/ .344 / .586 - that's an incredibly high ISO.

If Moss had the simple foresight to break his big toe on this date, he could be getting 14m a year. He was being talked about for a qualifying offer. Instead he finished the season on a 5 week descent-into-Hades slump of stygian proportions, 10 for a 109, to be exact, just when the Cardinals needed him most. I'm gambling that that's the slump of his career, especially given a .261 BABIP that would be good for 8th worst in all of baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the dubious honor. That's .30 points below his normal rate.

Here's what MLBTR had to say on September 8th: Brandon Moss Free Agent Stock Watch

And now to his partner in crime:


2yrs/ 10 million according to MLBTR.

I'm operating in real time here, so I may have to tack on a third year for Pearce - I keep checking MLBTR and everybody is interested in him, probably for the same reasons I am. I'm going to plug him in to spell Conforto or Duda or Granderson or Moss and watch him CREAM lefties. Pearce and Wilmer Flores were basically JImmie Foxx and Manny Ramirez vs. southpaws last year.

One important caveat about Pearce. He's currently recuperating from injury:

Steve Pearce Surgery

a theoretical strict platoon of Moss and Pearce might have looked like this:

2016 RHP vs Brandon Moss : .223/ .303/ .525, 25 HR 343 PA

2016 LHP vs Steve Pearce : . 309/ .411/ .617 7 HR 95 PA

and one last note, Pearce is not helpless against righties - he's OPS'D at least .765 against them for 3 straight years.

one returning free agent


2yrs/ 9 million, unranked by MLBTR

Blev. 'nuff said.

and one NRI, of whom, for the sake of simplicity I'm going to say makes the team -


1 year 0.75 million dollars

Somebody in the Padres organization has the astonishingly right idea to take veteran minor league tomato can starter Jackson and turn him into a reliever - He dominated in the minors in 2015 ( mostly at AAA El Paso), and then parlayed his success into a 1 year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the NPB, where he was even better.

Jay Jackson Baseball Reference

It's now 8:20 am, and I've been working on this off and on all night, and I'm a little punchy - let me wrap up by presenting to you my take on the Sword of Damacles hanging over the Mets off-season:

Will they or will they not sign Yoenis Cespedes ?


He's Cespedes. Period. Full Stop.

He's the single biggest free agent on the market, and the only guy even close is two years older, and better when he doesn't have to play first base. Cespedes has shown some improvement as a hitter last year to my eyes, laying off some of the pitches that used to get him out last year . It's possible he's hitting his stride late, having the Serie Nacional as his minor league system, where maybe they don't prize OBP and working deep counts so much. When last seen in left field for the Tigers, he won a gold glove. He's got a cannon for an arm.

This is the point, though, that makes it tough not to sign him - He's excelled in a place that has chewed up many other free agents the Mets have signed - Alomar, Bay, Foster, just to name a few, players who not just cratered, they dug holes straight to the molten core of the planet. The only other player I think of in Mets history, so clearly the focal point of the offense, and so productive in his first two years with Mets, is Mike Piazza. Cespedes, like Piazza, is the King of Queens.

And I could sign him. I could not sign Moss (6m), not trade for Robertson and Jones, and instead use Robles and Seth Lugo ( 13m) , not trade for Corbin, and use Robert Gsellman instead (3.7m) and then not sign Blevins and promote Josh Smoker (3.5m) - Voila - 26.2 million dollars when MLBTR has Cespedes at 5/125. I'd weaken the bullpen considerably, and put a stake through my pitching depth, but I could do it.


And I'm not going give you any nonsense about how he's not really that good, or he doesn't deserve the money, or anything like that.

Take this fun Sporcle quiz: Top 75 HR 2014 It's the top 75 HR hitters of 2014, with 57 of them managing to hit over 20, and here's a hint; our first baseman hit 30, one of only 11 players to get to that plateau. Home Runs were down, down down, and many articles were written trying to explain that: Here's just one of them: Home Runs Down and another one :seattle times

Now take this Sporcle quiz :20 HR Hitters in 2016 starring five current NY Mets, and three of them were part of the 38 players who hit over 30HR.

How many was that? 111. A record One hundred and eleven players hit over 20 home runs last year,eclipsing the old mark of 103 set in 1999, and when you consider that at any given moment there are only 750 active major leaguers, and almost half of them are pitchers, the total is simply astonishing. 4186 home runs were hit in 2014. 5610 home runs were hit in 2016. That's an insane difference of 1424, or an average of over 47 HRs for each ballclub.

To put that in persepective, it's as if every club replaced Ben Revere with Ralph Kiner, and while I'm often content enough to look at counting stats and develop crackpot theories, the people at Fangraphs are not:

From the Home Run Conundrum

If this is true, then the thing that separates Cespedes , Bautista, and Trumbo, and any other bat the Mets could sign for big dough, that thing is not so special anymore. What these guys bring to the table is diluted by the fact that more players than ever can replicate it. Power is being generated more than ever before unless this season is an outlier, and 2014 is the real face of baseball going forward. And that's the choice you have to make. I think we are going to be similar to this year, for awhile at least, maybe not to the same extent, but more like 2016 than 2014. The last time I remeber pitching dominating hitting for any stretch of years, I was a kid watching the Mets win the World Series.

So i'm going to do this :

I'm going to spend 112 million dollars on Jacob Degrom and Noah Syndergaard. I'm going to give them both cost certainty contracts that buy out their first 2 free agent years, with club options at the tail end.

DeGrom : 2018 8.5m 2019 12.5m 2020 14.5m 2021 16.5m 2022 18.5 club option

Syndergaard : 2018 6m 2019 9m 2020 12m 2021 15m 2022 18m 2023 21m club option.

That's 4 yrs and 52 million guaranteed to Degrom, and 5 yrs 60 million for Syndergaard, setting them up for life if something happens to their arms, and for the Mets, it's potentially 3 additional years of Degrom and 2 more of Syndergaard at what would be around half price for an ace.

BENCH, alphabetically

Num Name Age RH/LH 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
1 Tucker Barnhart 25. S TC Arb1 Arb2 Arb3
2 Wilmer Flores 25 R 1.9 Arb2 Arb3
3 Juan Lagares 27 R 4.5 6.5 9 9.5co
4 Steve Pearce 33 R 4.5 5.5
5 Jose Reyes 33 S MIN

11.9m total.

STARTERS, by usual position

Num Name Age Pos RH/LH 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
1 Travis d'Arnaud 27 C R 1.7 Arb2 .Arb3
2 Lucas Duda 30 1B L 6.725
3 Neil Walker 30 2B S 17.2
4 Asdrubal Cabrera 30 SS S 8.25
5 David Wright 33 3B R 20 20 15 12
6 Brandon Moss 33 RF L 6 8
7 Curtis Granderson 35 CF L 15
8 Michael Conforto 23 LF L TC TC Arb1 Arb2 Arb3

75.375m total.

Asdrubal Cabrera has an 8.5 million dollar club option for 2018 ( -I screwed up- )

ROTATION, alphabetically

Num Name Age RH/LH 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
1 Patrick Corbin 27 LHP 4.2 Arb3
2 Jacob DeGrom 28 RHP 4.5 8.5 12.5 14.5 16.5 18.5co
3 Matt Harvey 27 RHP 5.2 Arb3
4 Steven Matz 25 LHP TC TC Arb1 Arb2 Arb3
5 Noah Syndergaard 23 RHP TC 6 9 12 15 18 21co

14.9m total

BULLPEN, alphabetically

Num Name Age RH/LH 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
1 Jerry Blevins 32 LHP 4 5
2 Josh Edgin 29 LHP 0.8
3 Jeurys Familia 26 RHP 8.7 Arb3
4 Jay Jackson 29 RHP 0.75
5 Nate Jones 30 RHP 1.9 3.95 NOTE 5,15co 6mo
6 Addison Reed 27 RHP 10.6
7 David Robertson 31 RHP 12 13

38.75m total

NOTE - Jones' contract contains an unusual clause: see here :Spotrac/Nate Jones

Josh Edgin has 2 more years of Arbitration eligibility.

40 man roster pitchers:

Num Name Age RH/LH
1 Sean Gilmartin 26 LHP
2 Eric Goeddel 27 RHP
3 Robert Gsellman 22 RHP
4 Ricky Knapp 24 RHP
5 Seth Lugo 26 RHP
6 Marcos Molina 21 RHP
7 Josh Smoker 27 LHP
8 Zack Wheeler 26 RHP
9 Gabriel Ynoa 23 RHP

Zack Wheeler is making 1 million in his first year of Arbitration.

40 man roster position players:

Num Name Age RH/LH
1 Ty Kelly 27 S
2 Brandon NImmo 23 L
3 Kevin Plawecki 25 R
4 Matt Reynolds 25 R
5 T.J. Rivera 27 R
6 Amed Rosario 20 R

141 .925 total salary.

So what have I done?

Basically I've gone double down on the same formula that got the Mets to the playoffs two years in a row - Great FIP pitching , average-at- best defense, lots of Home Runs from lots of different guys, and lots of K's, from pitchers and batters both. I've increased the depth, but every team in the NL has at least one hitter that's arguably better than anyone I've got. I've replaced Bruce with Moss and brought in Pearce, and instead of signing Cespedes I gave the job to Conforto. I've stacked depth deep into the minors, with Gsellman, Lugo, Nimmo, Rivera and Smoker all with legitimate claims to the opening day roster.

But in the end, It's a Sandy Alderson borderline skinflint team, no matter what the final budget is.

My main move though, was spending Cespedes/Walker extension money on cost certainty contracts for Degrom and Syndergaard - because the price of an ace is inching closer to 40 million a year, and Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make 43m to pitch one season of baseball in 2023.

I've maybe extended the " window" a little bit - but no one wants a window - I look at it like this:

There are five teams in the NL with currently little or no shot to play meaningful games in September:

The Braves, Reds, Phillies, Brewers and Padres. ( Although the Braves are making noises in the market, even as I type this )

There are four teams with every shot to play meaningful games in September, and make the playoffs to boot.

The Nationals, Dodgers , Giants, and Cubs.

These are big market, large budget, swingin' dick, ultrastacked teams, with all manner of financial resources, and in 3 cases, farm systems, to make them relevant even if the opening day roster fails them. This is, I think, where the bulk of the fanbase would like the Mets to be, and not unreasonable, given that the Mets occupy the largest media market in the milky way galaxy - but they don't appear to be.

I think they're in with these teams:

The Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals.

They all have a shot at the playoffs, next year, although the Mets, even as I've assembled them, I think have the best chance. But more to the point:

They're small to mid-market teams that have to manage their assets carefully, and the best of them, the Pirates and Cardinals, have thriving farm systems that constantly replenish the roster with good, low-cost talent. Whereas Pablo Sandoval's albatross contract is a major inconvienience to the Red Sox, Zack Greinke's deal, especially if the 2016 version of Greinke is who is he is from now on, is positively crippling to the D'backs.

So the Mets are a mid market team. whether it's a bill of goods sold by Sterling Equities, or the reality of a crumbling Ponzi scheme. It doesn't matter, because all teams today are talking about sustainability, including ones you never dreamed would utter the words in your lifetime. The White Sox are saying it. The Tigers are saying it. The Yankees, who have paid 297m dollars in penalties, just to SiGN their free agents are saying it. And the team that's about to say it next is are the Los Angeles Angels, who look out at their farm system the way Tom Joad stared at Oklahoma.

They screwed up , and AAAA players and retreads got as much playing time as Mike Trout did this year, and the Angels are well on their way to wasting the best baseball talent of his generation.

So that's the plan. Extend the core with cost certainty contracts to beat the marketplace. Build the farm system starting with the 4 top 100 picks this year, keep enough depth and positional flexibility on the team to minimize having to trade real prospects, and try to translate as many rule 5 eligible borderline useful minor leaguers into tangible assets at the big league level.

And don't trade Nido. It will keep you up all night.

It's 12:21 PM and I've been doing this more or less non-stop for 16 hours, so I'm going to publish this now. I'm too tuckered out to add images or any other cool stuff, and too afraid Pearce will sign, or something. Petrified.

Anyway, this is my plan, warts and all.

I know God's laughing at me. He's probably holding his sides.

I just hope milk is coming out of his nose.

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