FanPost

AAOP: Stay the Course

Last year, I outlined four (five kind of) rules I use to build a team. This year, I'm staying the course -- same rules, but maybe a different outcome? Let's find out.

Rule 0: The status quo is a red herring. When fans -- and often, GMs too -- think about building a team, we tend to follow a pretty standard process: outline the team we have, find holes, plug those holes. That's a bad process in general, but it's an especially bad for a team that is going to get outspent easily by the Cubs, Dodgers, and Nats -- which happened to be three of teams which are gunning for the same playoff spots we are. The better process is to look at the entire league and see where we can improve. (That, by the way, is why the Mets should have traded Murphy last year, but whatever. Bygones.)

The following, actual rules are there to guide me to a result which emphasizes our assets, not our needs, and hopefully allows us to build a team which can win a World Series. Let's start building that team.

Rule 0.5: If you accept a QO, you're on the team. Hi, Neil Walker.

Rule 1: If you're a pre-arb guy who could reasonably be an All-Star this year, you're on the team. This is the first rule but it's not immutable -- there's no such thing as an untradeable player. But within reason, this rule is normally going to be in play, as it's rare that you'll find a package including a guy like this who will make your team better.

The 2017 Mets have three guys who fit this definition: Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Steven Matz. That's it -- but it's also more than most teams have.

Rule 2: If you're a prospect who could reliably start, you're probably on the team too -- unless you're blocked by someone mentioned in Rule 1. The basic idea here is that young, cheap starters are well, young and cheap. They have upside, which is great, and they have a built-in insurance policy to hedge against their downside: they don't hamstring your budget, so if you need to make a change mid-year, you usually can take on salary to do so. (For what it's worth, I'm defining "prospect" to be anyone with at least two pre-arb years left, and "start" to include relief pitchers. I know, it's weird.) And note, that I'm not saying you're guaranteed to start -- you just make the team.

The 2017 Mets have only one guy who make this category: Kevin Plawecki. This is a big, big departure from last year, but it's an important application of the rule because catcher is one of our biggest question marks.

Rule 3: If you're an eight-figure starter whose salary is greater than or roughly equal to what you're worth, you stay (unless you're pushed out by someone already mentioned). This is the "you're pretty good and because of how much we're paying you, we can't do better" rule. It sounds pretty negative but it really isn't -- good players get paid good money, and that money can't be spent twice. (The "eight-figure" salary aspect is, like everything else here, a guideline and not immutable.)

The Mets have only guy who meets this test: David Wright. Last year, Granderson made it too, but he's much more reasonable now that he's in his walk year.

Rule 4: Everyone else gets evaluated on a case-by-case basis.Yes, that means Jacob deGrom Jeurys Familia, and Lucas Duda still need to be addressed. It's simple, really. They all have a lot of surplus value and there may be better ways to use that value -- all while saving some money for other uses, too. It's not darn likely, but it's worth exploring.

OK! To sum it up, here's my team so far:

  • Two rotation spots -- Thor, Matz -- are filled
  • My bullpen is entirely empty.
  • My bats: Wright, Walker, Conforto
Let's do the rest.

The easy keepers: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Lucas Duda, Zach Wheeler, Juan Lagares, and Jose Reyes. I'll be keeping other guys, too, but these were the no-brainers. All of them are relatively cheap (Familia's likely suspension notwithstanding) and fill core spots. We're also incredibly unlikely to find better value on the market in those positions. Note that I'm treating Reyes as backup infielder who, in all likelihood, ends up as some sort of 3B platoon when Wright's body fails him.

The "what choice do I have" category of keepers: Matt Harvey. He's basically in a category that's a corollary to Rule 3.

The "if I had to include you in a trade, I would, but that's not likely" category of keepers: Hansel Robles, Wilmer Flores. I'm a huge Flores fan and, even as the smaller side of a platoon with Reyes, is easily worth the $1.9 million. Robles is a solid reliever who is effectively free.

To regroup, here's what my team looks like right now:

  • SP: deGrom, Matz, Thor, Wheeler, Harvey. With Lugo/Gsellman in the minors (and Montero, too, lol), I think I'm set here. I'll look at some veteran starters but, given how easily Bartolo left, I doubt the actual front office is looking for one.
  • Bullpen: Familia, Robles. Going to need more bodies here, obviously.
  • Bats: Plawecki, Duda, Walker, Cabrera, Wright, Reyes, Flores, Lagares, Conforto. Need another catcher, another two outfielders, and one more bat assuming a 5-man bench.
Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of open spots. Also surprisingly, there's a lot of money left over. But that's because I still have to deal with Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. (Man, I really hate that Jay Bruce trade.) Doing some back of the envelope math -- and excluding the guys I have on the team but aren't mentioned yet -- I'm at about $81 million. If I can cut some salary, I can add about $60 million. Let's do this.

Keep Travis d'Arnaud. Try as I might, I couldn't find a way to spend money better at catcher. I was a big Travis booster; now, I'm a skeptic. I've always been a big Plawecki skeptic and still am. I hope this doesn't come to bite me in the ass. And yes, I sign some journeyman catcher to a minor league deal. I'm now at $83.6 million.

Trade Jay Bruce to the Orioles for Jomar Reyes and Ryan Mountcastle. The "Bruce to Os" is a pretty standard AAOP move, here, but I'm taking a weird approach -- two 19 year olds. And I'm not treating it as a salary dump, either. Bruce has real value and, despite our collective disdain for him, we shouldn't forget that. So, our return: Reyes had an awful year last year but he's young and is apparently coming off a hamate bone injury. Mountcastle is a typical high-end unpolished prospect -- he's a shortstop that few think will remain at the position, and the hope is that his bat matures enough to warrant an outfield spot.

Trade Curtis Granderson and $5m to the Blue Jays for Rowdy Tellez and Ryan Borucki. The rumors of Bruce to the Blue Jays should mean Granderson can go there instead -- both are left-handed batters making roughly the same amount of money. The Bruce rumors suggest that the Jays want him as a platoon-mate for Melvin Upton, but Granderson's splits actually make for a better fit. However, the Blue Jays haven't shown an interest in taking on a lot of salary, so I'm tossing in $5m. Tellez is my guy here. He's the type of player the Mets dream off: a three-true-outcomes type who can't run, can't really field, but gives you the OBP and SLG you'd want. Borucki is a total lottery ticket -- a 22-year-old lefty with a nasty injury history who, because of that, I'm betting is a bullpen piece in a few years.

Sign Yoenis Cespedes to a six year, $27m AAV contract. Please, Sandy?

Keep Brandon Nimmo as my 4th outfielder. Nimmo is a really good fit on a team with both Yo and Lagares, as he can play CF is he has to and has the lefty bat you want. Plus, he's effectively free, so (including his $500k) I'm at $111m. I still need one more outfielder, though, and I want a righty who can play a bunch of positions. I sign Ryan Raburn for $1m for a year. He was a minor league FA last year and just had his option declined, so I think that fits.

Status update:
  • Rotation: done
  • Bats: done
  • Money left: $22m
  • Bullpen is Familia, Robles, and... uh...
I don't have enough money for Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen if I want to keep Addison Reed. I do, and I'm not a fan of giving either a five-year deal. Let's make it easy: tender Addison Reed a contract ($10.6m), sign Jerry Blevins for $9m over two years ($4.5m), and sign Boone Logan for $15m over three years (5m). Robert Gsellman ($0.5) makes the team as a swingman unless the team wants him in AAA to get consistent starts, in which case it's Gabriel Ynoa or Seth Lugo. For the final spot, it's Josh Smoker ($0.5m). I'm actually $1m under budget, but with rounding, let's call it $140m.

Final team:

C: TdA, Plawecki
1B: Duda
2B: Walker
SS: Cabrera
3B: Wright
INF: Reyes, Flores. Note that T.J. Rivera and Gavin Cecchini are built-in AAA insurance.
LF: Yo
CF: Lagares
RF: Conforto
OF: Nimmo, Raburn

SP: deGrom, Thor, Matz, Harvey, Wheeler
Bullpen: Familia, Reed, Logan, Robles, Blevins, Smoker, Gsellman

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