FanPost

AAOP: that bullpen, though

Here’s what we have to work with:

C Travis d’Arnaud – $1.7 million 2 WAR

C Kevin Plawecki – $0.5 million 0 WAR

1B Lucas Duda – $6.725 million 2 WAR

2B Neil Walker – $17.2 million 2 WAR

3B David Wright – $20 million 1 WAR

SS Asdrubal Cabrera – $8.25 million 1 WAR

IF Jose Reyes – $0.5 million 1 WAR

IF Wilmer Flores – $1.9 million 1 WAR

IF TJ Rivera – $0.5 million 0 WAR

OF Curtis Granderson – $15 million 1.5 WAR

OF Jay Bruce – $13 million 0.5 WAR

OF Juan Lagares – $4.5 million 1 WAR

OF Michael Conforto – $0.5 million 2.5 WAR

OF Brandon Nimmo – $0.5 million 0 WAR

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SP1 Noah Syndergaard – $0.5 million 5 WAR

SP2 Jacob deGrom – $4.5 million 4 WAR

SP3 Matt Harvey – $5.2 million 3 WAR

SP4 Steven Matz – $0.5 million 3 WAR

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SP/RP Zack Wheeler – $1.0 million 1 WAR

SP/RP Robert Gsellman – $0.5 million 0.5 WAR

SP/RP Seth Lugo – $0.5 million 1 WAR

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RP Jeurys Familia – $8.7 million 1 WAR

RP Addison Reed – $10.6 million 1 WAR

RP Hansel Robles – $0.5 million 0.5 WAR

RP Rafael Montero – $0.5 million 0 WAR

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  • (I’ve non-tendered Josh Edgin and Rene Rivera)

That’s 25 players at $123.775 million. This is a roster that we might expect to see next year if we didn't make any moves, if you ignore the fact that I’m only carrying 11 pitchers and one of them will probably not be starting the year with the team. But it’s a starting point.

Using the WAR projections at Fangraphs (with a bit of rounding on my part and minimal manipulation), this starting point team is at 35.5 WAR, which equates to about 84 wins. Let’s see what we can do to get that number up!

OUTFIELD:

First things first: I will not be bringing Yoenis Cespedes back. I think he’s a fantastic player and will absolutely be worth the $25+ million he’s going to get for the first few years of that deal, but I don’t think it’s the most efficient way to spend our money, and I’d like very much to commit to Michael Conforto as our starting leftfielder for the next five years. If that means our starting outfield is Conforto, Lagares, and Granderson, I’m perfectly okay with that. Lagares is the best centerfielder on this team, and is really just one full-time year removed from being a 3 WAR player (2015 he started full time and was disappointing, but 2016 he looked a lot more like his old self, just didn't get the playing time).

My first move is a free agent signing: in Steve Pearce, we add a guy who can play either of the corner outfield positions and brings all sorts of additional versatility. He bats right-handed, so he complements Granderson and Conforto both. But what’s he going to cost us? MLB Trade Rumors projected two years at $5 million per year, but with all the interest being shown in him there’s talk of him requiring a third year. Instead of doing that, I’m using some of the money saved by not signing Cespedes and upping the value of the two year contract. Let’s say two years at $7 million per year.

Jay Bruce is obviously completely expendable, so he needs to be traded. The most rumored destinations seem to be Toronto and Baltimore. I want a relief pitcher, and I like what I see in Baltimore better, so I’m trading Bruce for either Givens or Brach. Let's go with Brad Brach, which takes us to…

Bullpen:

Because I didn’t sign Cespedes, I now have a huge pile of money to work with. As tempting as it is to use most of that money on somebody like Kenley Jansen, I’m instead going to go with Brett Cecil, who MLB Trade Rumors predicts to sign for three years, $18 million. That’s an absolute steal, but I don’t think there’s any chance he actually goes that cheap. I’ll tack on another $1 million per year and go with three years at $7 million per year and still call him a bargain. If it costs me another million per year I’m completely okay with it.

With Brach, Cecil, and Reed, I’m in pretty good shape even if Familia misses significant time. When Familia comes back, the bullpen becomes a significant strength. I refuse to give up on Rafael Montero, so I’m putting him on the roster for now as well - it’s time to see what we have there, and give him a chance to establish himself with a defined role as a reliever and a few months away from Vegas. Hansel Robles makes six. With Cecil the only lefthander, I need one more. I’ll address that shortly…

Rotation:

There’s not a whole lot that needs to be done here. I want Wheeler to have a spot pretty well locked up. If he’s hurt, there’s Lugo and Gsellman. I thought about a one year contract for Andrew Cashner but it looks like he’s signing with Texas. I also thought about asking the Orioles to include Wade Miley (which they might have just done to offset Bruce’s contract), but I don’t really think Miley would make a particularly good reliever should Wheeler secure the fifth starter spot. Ultimately, we have enough here, and adding a veteran arm to take innings away from Wheeler might be subtraction by addition in the long run, so let's stick with what we have and recognize that this is a pretty damn good rotation already.

Infield:

Okay so there are two things I really want to do here. The first is to sign Luis Valbuena for two years at $8 million per year. He provides cover if Wright is broken, and he bats from the left side so that even if Wright is healthy he complements him well, giving Wright a reasonable amount of rest against right handed pitchers. I’d imagine Valbuena would do fine in a corner outfield position as well in a pinch. So basically he becomes the left-handed Steve Pearce.

But what about Reyes? I’m actually using Reyes as my starting shortstop, as I don’t project Cabrera to be significantly better moving forward. So the other thing I’d really like to do is capitalize on Cabrera’s fantastic season by trading him. The shortstop free agent class is weak, but unfortunately there aren’t many teams in the market for a shortstop, either. Mariners, Marlins, Padres, Diamondbacks… that might be it. My favorite fit here is the Padres. Trade Cabrera for Derek Norris and Brad Hand. This solves the only two remaining needs for the team.

This leaves us with Duda at first, Walker at second, Wright at third, and Reyes at short, with Wilmer Flores and Luis Valbuena getting a large number of at bats from the bench (along with Steve Pearce, whose right-handed bat looks pretty good at 1B when Duda hits one of the slumps). Keep TJ Rivera on the team for depth. Or Matt Reynolds if you prefer, I don’t really care.

Catcher:

Derek Norris comes in for Cabrera, but isn’t necessarily the starting option. If d’Arnaud hits and is healthy, great. If not, we have a replacement who should hit better than Plawecki (now that he’s out of Petco at least).

Summary, and Money:

So, I’ve decided not to re-sign Cespedes, instead using that money to sign three free agents: Steve Pearce for two years ($7 million), Luis Valbuena for two years ($8 million), and Brett Cecil for three years ($7 million).

I’ve traded Jay Bruce for Brad Brach (projected to make $2.9 million), and I’ve traded Asdrubal Cabrera for Brad Hand ($1.4 million) and Derek Norris ($4 million), saving another $13 million or so.

This leaves me with just under $10 million in wiggle room for this season, not to mention much more wiggle room next year and, perhaps most appealingly, in the 2018-2019 offseason when there will be an entire all star team available in free agency. But with this extra money, one thing that must be done is an extension for Jacob deGrom. Coming off a weaker season in which he missed time with injury, deGrom might be particularly receptive to the idea right now, wanting to make sure he gets paid before he gets hurt. Syndergaard is an extension candidate as well of course, but we have a lot more time to get that done, and his stock couldn’t really be higher right now so it can't really hurt to wait. I’m offering deGrom a similar extension to the one that fellow Stetson Hatter Corey Kluber signed in early 2015. The age is similar, but deGrom has another year of service time under his belt. Kluber signed an extension that went 1M, 4.5M, 7.5M, 10.5M, 13M, with two options: 13.5M (17.5M with escalators) and 14M (18M with escalators), and that was coming off a Cy Young, which deGrom isn't. There’s no getting around that extra year though, so I’m scratching off that first season entirely and replacing it with a $16 million season at the tail end. And look! That means it starts at $4.5 million, the same $4.5 million he was projected to receive in arbitration this year anyway. So we have: 2017 - $4.5M, 2018 - $7.5M, 2019 - $10.5M, 2020 - $13M, 2021 - $16M, and two options, let’s say for $18 million each. That’s $51.5 million guaranteed over five years. If Syndergaard wants the same contract, or wants to use this one as a starting point, go for it, but my guess is he doesn’t bite.

So, where are we now?

2017 New York Mets:

C Travis d’Arnaud – $1.7 million 2 WAR

1B Lucas Duda – $6.725 million 2 WAR

2B Neil Walker – $17.2 million 2 WAR

3B David Wright – $20 million 1 WAR

SS Jose Reyes – $0.5 million 1 WAR

LF Michael Conforto – $0.5 million 2.5 WAR

CF Juan Lagares – $4.5 million 2 WAR***

RF Curtis Granderson – $15 million 1.5 WAR

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C Derek Norris – $4 million 1 WAR

IF Wilmer Flores – $1.9 million 1 WAR

IF Luis Valbuena – $8 million 1.5 WAR

IF TJ Rivera – $0.5 million 0 WAR

OF Steve Pearce – $7 million 1.5 WAR

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SP1 Noah Syndergaard – $0.5 million 5 WAR

SP2 Jacob deGrom – $4.5 million 4 WAR

SP3 Matt Harvey – $5.2 million 3 WAR

SP4 Steven Matz – $0.5 million 3 WAR

SP5 Zack Wheeler – $1.0 million 2 WAR***

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RP Jeurys Familia – $8.7 million 1 WAR

RP Addison Reed – $10.6 million 1 WAR

RP Brad Hand – $1.4 million 1 WAR

RP Brett Cecil – $7 million 0.5 WAR

RP Brad Brach – $2.9 million 0.5 WAR

RP Hansel Robles – $0.5 million 0.5 WAR

RP Rafael Montero – $0.5 million 0 WAR

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TOTAL: $130.825 million 40.5 WAR

*** I’ve increased the projected WAR for Lagares and Wheeler from 1 win to 2 wins due to greater projected playing time.

I think this is a team that makes the playoffs with 88-89 wins. Okay, so there’s no one great hitter in the middle of the lineup anymore, but there aren’t any obvious weak spots either, and the pitching is a strength all the way through. But if the team isn’t in contention come July, you also have a whole bunch of commodities that can be traded to re-stock the farm system. Pearce, Valbuena, Duda, Walker, Granderson, Norris, and the entire bullpen are exactly the kind of pieces that you could see getting moved at the deadline (after this past year's playoffs, that's the time when contenders are going to start lining up to find their own relief aces). This is a team that will either win without setting us back longterm, or if they come up short will get traded for the pieces that can set us up for the future.

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