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
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.
- Rotation: done
- Bats: done
- Money left: $22m
- Bullpen is Familia, Robles, and... uh...