Buckle your seatbelts, Mets fans. As make-believe General Manager of the New York Mets, I am about to make three offseason trades involving outfielders from the 2016 roster, one free-agent signing, field a better team for this season, and acquire some assets to brighten the future.
Here is my 8-step process to building a World Series contender in 2017:
Step 1: Arbitration Players and Non-Tenders
Rene Rivera will be non-tendered.
Rene Rivera can't hit. The 2017 Mets need to hit.
Everyone else will be on the books for their projected Arbitration contracts from MLB Trade Rumors.
Step 2: Club Options
In a no-brainer move, Jon Niese will be bought out for $500,000 (counted in my payroll obligations).
Step 3: Re-Signings
Yoenis Cespedes- 5 years, $125,000,000
This guy is a game changer. He wants to stay in Queens and we need him.
Neil Walker- Accepted Qualifying Offer for $17,200,000
Glad to have this guy back. He's a solid middle of the order hitter who can swing from both sides of the plate.
Kelly Johnson- 1 year, $2,000,000
Better to sign him now than to trade for him a couple of months into the season. He provides a good lefty bat off the bench and can play 2B, 3B, and LF. It's definitely worth it to bring him back on a cheap one-year deal.
Jerry Blevins- 3 years, $13,500,000
He's an affordable, great left-hander who can pitch in the late innings out of the bullpen. Sign me up for another 3 years at $4,500,000 per.
Fernando Salas- 2 years, $10,000,000
He was pretty bad for the Angels this season and very good for the Mets. Given that he spent 58 of his 75 games on the Angels, I'm going to say he goes for a little bit cheaper than expected. I'm going to wait it out and sign him to a contract at $5,000,000/year.
Step 4: Which Young Guys Make the Opening Day Roster?
Nimmo will make my roster as a bench player. He will get regular playing time as he can sub in at all three outfield spots.
T.J. proved to be a valuable piece in the Mets future when he took over the starting 2B position down the stretch of the 2016 season. He remains in these plans, but with Neil Walker coming back, I'd rather start him back in AAA where he can get regular playing time.
With Rene Rivera gone, Plawecki makes the team. He will more or less split time with d'Arnaud behind the dish until one of them establishes himself as the true starter. d'Arnaud gets the first shot at it as his ceiling is higher and he is one year removed from a stellar season.
I liked what I saw from Gsellman this year. I want him to keep working as a starter so he will begin the season in Las Vegas and be called up if any of the five major league starters goes down.
Step 5: Trades
Jay Bruce and Seth Lugo to the Toronto Blue Jays for Anthony Alford (OF) and Reese McGuire (C)
The Mets will do this trade because Seth Lugo is currently seventh in line for a job as a starting pitcher and Jay Bruce is one of the four lefty outfielders on the roster. We will be receiving the Blue Jays #2 prospect (according to Baseball Prospectus) in Anthony Alford. Alford is a five-tool threat whose stock has dropped off in the time since he was named #2 after hitting .298/.398/.421 between Low-A and High-A in 2015. This year in High-A, he hit .236/.344/.378 playing all three outfield spots but the majority in CF. Reese McGuire is a catching prospect who could reach the MLB in 2017. He is known as a good defensive Catcher but his bat definitely still needs some work. In AA this season, he hit .254/.335/.332 between his time in the Pirates organization, and then in the Blue Jays' after he was a part of the Francisco Liriano trade. If Plawecki and d'Arnaud struggle and McGuire performs in AA/AAA, he could push them for the major league catching position.
The Blue Jays will do this because they have already expressed interest in Jay Bruce and Seth Lugo would immediately join their bullpen and eventually become one of their starters. Lugo is cheap and will be under team control through the 2021 season. People in their AAOPs are are severely undervaluing Jay in terms of trade returns. Power is always needed in the MLB. Bruce, 33 HRs and 99 RBIs this season, would take Jose Bautista's spot in the outfield and split some time at DH with new Free Agent signing Kendrys Morales.
Curtis Granderson and Gavin Cecchini to the Chicago White Sox for Nate Jones (RHP)
The Mets will do this trade because Granderson is yet another expendable lefty outfielder and they will need to give up more than just him to get a bullpen arm like Nate Jones. Gavin Cecchini is among a long list of middle infielders in the system and is currently boxed out of any spot on the roster. Jones pitched 70.2 innings this season with an ERA of 2.29 and a WHIP of 0.892. He is on an extremely team-friendly contract featuring a clause to protect the team if he requires UCL Surgery, as seen below (courtesy of Baseball Reference).
The White Sox will make this trade because they will be receiving an immediate replacement to Todd Frazier in Cecchini and a veteran RF in Granderson who would push Adam Eaton to CF where his bat is more valuable. The White Sox had a hot start to 2016 and aren't that far away from being a contender. Granderson also does a ton of charity work in his hometown of Chicago so he would instantly be a fan favorite. Cecchini becomes their 2B/3B/SS of the future.
Juan Lagares and Josh Smoker to the San Francisco Giants for Ray Black (RHP) and Steven Duggar (OF)
We'll miss your absurd catches, Juan.
The Mets will do this trade because there is no room for Lagares in the 2017 outfield. Lagares can be a great fourth outfielder for an NL contender but I have given that spot to the cheaper and better-hitting Nimmo. The Mets will receive Steven Duggar, the Giants 10th ranked prospect according to MLB.com and Ray Black, their 16th ranked prospect, a relief pitcher who has hit 104 MPH on the radar gun but has never been able to post a good stat line. Duggar hit .302/.388/.448 between High-A and AA in 2016. He was drafted in the 6th Round of the 2015 draft out of Clemson. Dan Warthen will try to work his magic on Ray Black, who throws a fastball and slider, and posted a 4.88 ERA in AA this season with major BB problems.
The Giants will do this because they love defense and Juan Lagares is one year removed from a season in which he won the Gold Glove in CF. Denard Span was pretty bad for them in 2016 but Lagares is a perfect platoon-mate for him in CF. Span's career platoon splits are an abysmal .217/.284/.283 against LHPs and a solid .289/.353/.428 against RHPs. Lagares is also much better defensively than Span. They will also receive Josh Smoker who pitched well in relief for the Mets down the stretch this season. The Giants blew 32 saves as a team this season (all-time MLB record is 39) so they will definitely be looking for some bullpen arms and Smoker is pre-arbitration for two more years.
Step 6: Expose Jose Reyes to the Outfield in Spring Training
When Jose Reyes was initially signed in 2016, the plan was to do this while he was in the minor leagues getting ready for his Major League return. It never happened, but now it will. He will become a super-utility bench piece that can play 2B, 3B, SS, and OF. With Walker, Wright, and Cabrera locking up those three infield spots and Flores also on the bench, learning the outfield will allow Reyes to get more starts and ABs. Reyes can spell Conforto in RF against tough lefties, as the right side of the plate is his better side.
Step 7: Free Agent Signing
1-Carlos Gomez- 3 years, $30,000,000 (Opt-out after Year 1, Club Option for Year 3)
With three outfielders gone, we need to acquire one in Free Agency. Welcome back, Carlos. Gomez upped his stock after being traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline. From that point on, he batted .284/.362/.543, looking like himself of old. He will become our everyday CF and provide speed at the top of the lineup. He will have a chance to opt out after the first year of the three year deal if he performs well. He will no doubt be fired up to come back to the Mets and play for a contender.
Payroll: $139,157,500 (Just squeaked in under the cap).
Vs. RHP (with 2016 RHP Splits)
1- (R) Gomez (.228/.299/.399)- CF
2- (S) Cabrera (.269/.327/.477)- SS
3- (L) Conforto (.242/.336/.469)- RF
4- (R) Cespedes (.266/.329/.510)- LF
5- (S) Walker (.266/.333/.433)- 2B
6- (R) Wright (.238/.358/.455)- 3B
7- (L) Duda (.252/.329/.447)- 1B
8- (R) d'Arnaud (.264/.319/.363)- CBench
(R) Plawecki- C
(R) Flores- IF
(S) Reyes- Util.
(L) Johnson- Util.
(L) Nimmo- OF
Vs. LHP (With 2016 LHP Splits)
1- (S) Reyes (.380/.456/.740)- RF
2- (S) Cabrera (.321/.371/.464)- SS
3- (R) Cespedes (.341/.457/.624)- LF
4- (S) Walker (.330/.391/.610)- 2B
5- (R) Wright (.194/.326/.389)- 3B
6- (R) Flores (.340/.383/.710)- 1B
7- (S) Gomez (.241/.293/.343)- CF
8- (R) d'Arnaud (.190/.266/.190)- CBench
(R) Plawecki- C
(L) Conforto- OF
(L) Johnson- Util.
(L) Nimmo- OF
(L) Duda- 1B