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Staff AAOP: Getting the Mets into the Good Place

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Will the Mets escape the bad place and make the playoffs in 2020? Let’s forkin find out!

With the season having long since passed away, it’s time to begin looking forward to the upcoming season and another shot at playing October baseball. Every game of baseball the Mets play after the regular season ends is a blessing, and it’s been a while since the Mets last played one. It’s time for the Mets to get back to the playoffs. It’s time for the Mets to get back to the Good Place.

Welcome to the Offseason! Everything may be fine?

In approaching this year’s AAOP, I’ve decided that the team’s biggest needs are as follows:

  • Pitching Depth: The Mets bullpen was among the worst in the league last season, and cost the Mets a number of leads late in games down the stretch. The bullpen needs depth beyond the top two or three pitchers, so that more innings are going to better pitchers instead of the Syracuse shuttle relievers. My goal for the offseason is add enough relief help to head into 2020 with Robert Gsellman as the seventh pitcher in the bullpen. With Zack Wheeler reaching free agency after 2019, the team will also need a fifth starting pitcher, and ideally would add additional starting pitching depth in priority NRIs and veteran pitchers on minor league contracts.
  • Catcher Position: The catching position was among the Mets biggest problems last season. The Mets got just 0.8 fWAR from the position in 2019, which ranked 21st in the league. After forcing Devin Mesoraco onto the restricted list and cutting Travis d’Arnaud early in the season, the Mets were left with no real playable backup catcher on the roster to complement Wilson Ramos. Tomas Nido ended up the team’s backup catcher, whose offensive woes largely offset the value he gives with his defense. Ramos ended up having to play 141 games in 2019, which is probably about twenty or so games more than he should be playing in a season at this point in his career. With a few interesting catchers available through free agency and the trade market, this is definitely an area in which I am going to actively look to upgrade the roster heading into the 2020 season.
  • Overall Defensive Performance: The Mets defense was obviously an issue last season, especially at the catching position, and in left field when the combination of J.D. Davis and Dom Smith received the lion’s share of the playing time. My goal here is improve the team’s defense behind the plate, and add a few good defensive outfielders to the team’s outfield rotation heading into next season.

There’s also going to be a loose The Good Place theme, because why not?

***

Now that we’ve determined the team’s biggest needs moving forward, let’s take a look at players currently under contract for next season.

Under Contract:

Yoenis Cespedes, OF - For the purposes of this exercise, I am going to assume that Yoenis Cespedes does not play for the Mets in 2020. Given the nature of the surgery he had, and the length of time he has missed recovering from it, I think it would be foolish to count on Cespedes for anything. Hopefully he makes it back onto the field at some point this season, and I will obviously be thrilled if he does, but I am going to plan as if he isn’t going to return this season. Cespedes is owed $29.5 Million during the 2020 season, and will be a free agent heading into 2021. I plan to use some of the flexibility afforded by the end of this contract after the upcoming season, to help set up the future of the team.

Me whenever I think about how Cespedes has probably played his last game as a Met.

Jacob deGrom, RHP - Coming off of a season in which he won his second consecutive Cy Young Award, deGrom is easily among the best players in franchise history. He’s exactly the type of ace that every team with playoff aspirations should want fronting their rotation, and his success in the upcoming season will probably play a big part if the team is to return to the Good Place in 2020. He is under contract for $25 million during the 2020 season, and he’s worth every penny.

The way Donkey Doug looks at Tahani here is how we all should look at Jacob deGrom.

Robinson Cano, 2B - 2019 went about as poorly as you could have expected for Cano, who struggled with injuries all season and got off to a very slow start. Regardless of his 2019 season, Cano figures to play an important role on the 2020 team. There’s likely no way to move the contract, given the fact that he has a full no-trade clause, and honestly, I think he still has a productive year or two of solid baseball left in him. He’s going to need more rest moving forward, as playing through injury was likely one of the contributing factors to his replacement level 2019 season. He basically put together 165 plate appearances of the Robinson Cano season during the second half of the year, hitting .284/.339/.541 after the all-star break. I’ve always liked Cano, and think he can put together a decent enough year with a little bit of planning and forethought in managing his health. Scheduled to earn $20.25 million in 2020, Robinson Cano will have to have a rebound season in 2020 if the Mets are going to make their way back to the Good Place.

Cano’s 2019 made me sad, but there’s no moving his contract, and I believe that he still has a few decent to good seasons left in him. I’m going to try to do my best to hide my sadness.

Jeurys Familia, RHP - The early returns on this contract being what they were, and given my selfish desire to use the $11.667 million he is owed for 2020 in other places. This is partially a hedge against another rough season from Edwin Diaz next season. Edwin Diaz is probably the better pitcher at this point in his career between the two late-inning relievers, and I’m not comfortable going into the season with two high-upside pitchers that struggled in 2019. I also have serious questions regarding the health of his shoulder, which I definitely think was a contributing factor to Familia’s brutal 2019 season. I would ideally like to ask Janet to trade him and the salary he is owed for payers and payroll flexibility that I can use to improve other parts of the roster.

Here’s the thing my little chili babies, Jeurys Familia probably shouldn’t be counted on to pitch in high leverage situations after his rough 2019 seaosn.

Justin Wilson, LHP - Wilson emerged as one of the few relievers the team could trust in close games in 2019, and is owed just $5 million for the 2020 season. He figures to be an important pitcher for the Mets next season.

Jed Lowrie, IF - I’ve always liked Jed Lowrie, especially after surgery to correct a deviated septum helped him have a bit of a late-career renaissance during his two seasons in Oakland. I don’t think any of us thought he would spend basically the entire 2019 season glacially working his way back from a seemingly never ending series of setbacks and lower body injuries. There is no moving the $11.5 million he is slated to earn in the second year of his backloaded contract, so Lowrie figures to serve in a bench role next season.

I liked the Lowrie contract when he signed it, but there’s no getting around the fact that he missed basically the entire season to a series of lower-body injuries that still haven’t formally been explained to the public.

Wilson Ramos, C - Well............

In hindsight, the Mets forked up by signing Ramos instead of Yasmani Grandal last season.

Ok, that’s a bit harsh. Ramos would be fine if you paired him with another starting caliber catcher in a time share. He’s had a long career with at least a few very good seasons peppered throughout, but his defensive abilities have diminished at this point in his career, and his offensive skills are at their sharpest when he’s afforded ample rest. He’s still a pretty good hitter at this point in his career, and it’s easy to imagine him performing pretty good on an American League team that can offer him an extra day off from playing the field here and there in the DH spot.

Arbitration Eligible:

Michael Conforto, OF - It’s entirely possible that he never has a season quite as good as his 2017 season again, but he’s been a rock steady first division regular since the end of the 2016 season. He’s coming off three consecutive seasons of posting 3 fWAR or higher, and he’s shown more than enough flashes of brilliance to suggest he could end up being more than that for a few seasons before all is said and done. Even if he is what is what he was in 2019, then he’s a well above average regular million and exactly the type of player that the elite teams are comprised of. He is scheduled to make a very reasonable $9.2 million in his second season of arbitration this year.

I swear to Bieber that Michael Conforto is a really good player.

Marcus Stroman, RHP - The Mets added a high end third starter in his second year of arbitration when they traded for Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline. Stroman figures to slot into the starting pitcher spot that Zack Wheeler is leaving behind in free agency, and is owed just $11.8 million in the upcoming season. His contract is expiring after 2020, but he’s exactly the type of player I would like to keep around beyond that if possible, especially considering the lack of impact pitching in left in the minor league system.

Noah Syndergaard, RHP - Just like Stroman, Syndergaard is also the type of player I would like to keep around for a few years after his current contract is up if he were amenable to it, but I honestly can’t imagine he would want to extend with the team long term at the this point. Instead Syndergaard will remain with the team and pitch near the top of the rotation for his final two seasons of arbitration. Owed just $9.9 million in 2020, Syndergaard is either a high end second starter if he ends up closer his performance in 2019 in the upcoming season, and has the potential to contribute another Cy Young contender type season if he snaps off a season closer to his stellar 2016 season.

My thoughts on Syndergaard being too vocal and online and not being a team player.
I’ll respond to your dank memes Noah.

Steven Matz, LHP - At this point Matz is what he is: a perfectly cromulent back end of the rotation pitcher. Matz figures to get as close as he can to the 32 starts he made last year in 2019, which would give him three straight 30 start seasons. Matz is also relatively inexpensive in his second year arbitration, and is owed just $5.3 million for this upcoming season.

Edwin Diaz, RHP -

Trying to make sense of Diaz’s 2019 season makes me just want to sit and stare at nothing.

Assessing Diaz’s 2019 season is interesting. The deeper you look into it, the weirder it gets and the less sense anything makes. There is no getting around that he had an extremely rough first season in Flushing. He finished the season with a 5.59 ERA and slightly more palatable 4.51 FIP. But, there are a lot of statistical things about his 2019 season that make me think that maybe he’s due to right the ship in 2020. Despite the high ERA and FIP, his performance was pretty good according to DRA over at Baseball Prospectus, with a 2.95 mark that suggests a lot of the difference might have been due to bad luck or sequencing.

I’m not sure I fully buy into it all being sequencing luck, but the stuff when it was even in the ballpark of right and working was still absolutely electric. Hitters whiffed on a massive 18.8% of the pitches he threw, and he managed to strike out 39% of the batters he faced, which is legitimately elite. Diaz’s big problem this past season was the homer, having given up a staggering 2.33 home runs per innings in 2019. He is among the league leaders for both overall contact rate, and contact rate within the zone, which makes his massive 26.8% home run per flyball rate that much more surprising. The stuff here is still as good as it gets when it’s working even just a little bit. He can’t possibly give up 2.33 home runs per nine innings again while missing this many bats can he? Can he?

Please tell me he can’t.

For the record, I’ve always liked Diaz, and believe in the stuff being too good to struggle this much again. The slider came and went over the course of the season, but the fastball is still one of the best in the game, and exactly the kind of foundation you want an elite high-leverage reliever to build their arsenal around. He’s owed $7 milion in 2020, and is going to play an integral role in the bullpen moving forward.

Seth Lugo, RHP - Seth Lugo was the rock of the Mets bullpen in 2019, and emerged as one of the best relievers in baseball in his first full season pitching exclusively out of the pen. His famous high-spin hammer curve has long been one of the best in the game, but the fastball has played way up in the pen, and the pair has completely dismantled opposing hitters. Lugo also happens to be the living embodiment of how flawed the arbitration process can be. Lugo is owed just $1.9 million in 2020, primarily because he wasn’t a closer and didn’t rack up saves. Lugo figures to be a stabilizing force in the pen again moving forward.

Seth Lugo was nobody’s problem in a bullpen that was literally full of problems in 2019.

Brandon Nimmo, OF - Nimmo had a difficult 2019, but I feel most of that was due to a pesky neck injury that progressively got worse as he tried to play through it. After going on the disabled list for most of the season, Nimmo returned at the start of September fully healthy for the first time all year, and finished the season incredibly strong. Nimmo is owed just $1.7 million in 2020, and figures to play a prominent role in the team’s outfield plans moving forward.

Brandon Nimmo is way better than a fourth outfielder. End of conversation.

Robert Gsellman, RHP - At this point Gsellman is what he is. He’s a roughly replacement level reliever that has shown flashes of being more than that at times. He definitely figures to play a part in the Mets’ 2020 plans, but I’m hoping to add enough depth around him so that I can limit his innings if he continues to struggle.

Joe Panik, 2B - Panik did what he was supposed to do when the Mets picked him up in the middle of the 2019 season. He filled in at second base for a few weeks while Robinson Cano was injured. Panik is owed $5.1 million dollars in arbitration for the upcoming season, which is really steep for a player with his limited skill-set.

Cheap Talent:

In the Good Place the roster is always filled with pre-arb all-stars, but we’re not in the Good Place yet, are we?

Pete Alonso, 1B - Alonso is coming off of one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history, and became something of a franchise icon in the process. A lot was made of the decision to give up control of Alonso’s age 31 season in 2025 by carrying him on the opening day roster, and I think the team made the objectively correct decision by promoting him to the major league roster to start 2019.

For now, Pete is under control through 2024, and precisely the kind of premium talent that the Mets should be looking to make a cornerstone of the franchise moving forward. Stay tuned for more details...

Me thinking about all of the takes people had about how the Mets should have kept Alonso down to start 2019 so that they would gain control over his age 31 Arb4 season in 2025.

Jeff McNeil, 3B - McNeil proved his versatility last season by manning both corner outfield spots at different times. I feel his best position is probably found somewhere on the dirt, so I would like to play him everyday at third base in the upcoming season. His versatility will probably come in handy as injuries and other problems force others to miss time, but playing McNeil primarily at third base feels like the best way to put him in a position to succeed moving forward.

The thought of having Jeff McNeil playing every day at third base should have all Mets fans Arizona shrimp horny.

J.D. Davis, OF - Davis was nothing short of excellent on offense in 2019. His defense was a different story. Given his performance last season, I’m comfortable making him my “Plan A” in left field for 2020. However, given his defensive limitations, he probably has to hit about as much as he did last year to be worth the rough corner outfield defense. I would like to pencil him in to a starting corner outfield spot, while also adding a few complimentary pieces that can help if he regresses offensively to the point where I am no longer willing to live with his sub-par outfield defense.

Do you hand Davis a starting corner outfield spot or do you bring in a platoon partner to share time in LF?

Amed Rosario, SS - Rosario had something of a small breakout in 2019. He was a roughly league average hitter for the first time in his career, and I would like to reward those games with a potential starting role again in 2020. If this team is going to make it back to the Good Place, Rosario is probably going to have to take another step towards being the first division regular that the prospect community believed he can be.

Do I believe that Amed Rosario will take another step forward in 2020? Watch this:

Dom Smith - Smith blossomed in 2019, finally actualizing his ability to hit for average at the big league level. He’s also proven to be a magnificent goofball, and secured his place in my heart in a season ending moment that I will probably never forget. Unfortunately for me, he still can only really play the position that is currently occupied by Pete Alonso, and this team still has lots of issues to address. I think the best thing for everyone involved here might be to trade Dom for help elsewhere on the roster.

Luis Guillorme, IF / Tomas Nido, C - Nido and Guillorme figure to compete for the last roster spot on the team’s 26 man roster. Either Nido gets the spot as a third catcher who is here mostly because he is out of options and seldom plays, or Guillorme serves as an defensive replacement across the infield. The goal will be to leverage the defensive acumen of whichever player wins the spot while limiting their exposure to the offensive side of the game.

***

Now that we’ve taken stock of all the talent we currently have on the team, it’s time to ask Janet to make a bunch of roster moves in order to try to improve the team as much as I think I can heading into the future. I would make them myself, but this is The Good Place themed. I shouldn’t have to do anything. Besides, I’m busy tasting all of the crazy frozen yogurt flavors that the neighborhood has to offer.

Tender/Non-Tender Decisions and Roster Cleanup:

I tend to overthink things like Chidi, but the tender/non-tender decisions this season seem pretty clear-cut.

Tender Michael Conforto, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and Robert Gsellman.

Non-Tender Joe Panik.

duh.

Decline Juan Lagares 2020 option and pay him the $500,000 buy-out.

Again, duh.

For the record, I’ll miss Lagares, and even if it’s not rational, I’m a little angry he won’t be on the team next season.

TRAIDZ:

We are going to start the actual roster building part of the plan by asking Janet to make a pair of trades that are primarily designed to add cheap, pre-arbitration talent to the bullpen, while also trading away prospects and other young players that don’t necessarily fit our plans to clear salary that I would like to use elsewhere.

Janet please make the following trades...

The New York Mets trade Dominic Smith, Kevin Smith, and Wilson Ramos to the Los Angeles Angels for Ty Buttrey.

Any place where I can’t find room in the lineup for Dom must be the bad place.

I hate this as much as you do, but sometimes you need to say goodbye when it’s in everyone’s best interest. It’s in Smith’s best interests to be on a roster that has a place for him to play everyday at his natural position, and it’s in the Mets best interest to give as few innings to the Syracuse shuttle arms as possible. So, sadly, we’re going to have to include Dom in a trade that will help address the team’s biggest area of need, while also helping to clear payroll space that we will use to further upgrade the 2020 roster.

In addition to Smith, I will also be sending Wilson Ramos, and Kevin Smith to the Angels.

In exchange for the aforementioned trio of players, the Mets will receive right-handed reliever Ty Buttrey from the Angels. Buttrey was quietly one of the better relievers in baseball last season, His ERA was close to four in 2019, but he struck out more than ten batters per nine and walked less than three. I don’t love trading this much young talent away for what amounts to a pretty good pre-arb reliever without a long track record of success, but again, if this is a world in which Dom doesn’t fit on the roster then...

The Mets get a pre-arb reliever with potential to be pretty good, but no real track record to speak of. The type of guy you want towards the middle of your bullpen. The Angels get a functioning catcher that they can slide into the lion’s share of a timeshare, especially if they can give him an extra day off from having to play the field while getting his bat into the lineup in the DH spot. Only the Rockies, Tigers, and Rangers got less production from the catching position by fWAR than the Angels did in 2019, so Ramos figures to be an improvement, on a reasonable $9.25 million contract that ends following the 2020. They also get Dom Smith, a pre-arb player that can slot immediately into a first base platoon with Albert Pujols. Only the Rockies, Tigers, and Royals got less production by fWAR than the Angels in 2019, and Smith figures to be a significant upgrade over Justin Bour in the long side of a platoon if he is able to replicate his 2019 success. There’s some risk of regression here, but the same is true of Buttrey.

Finally, Dom gets a chance to play his natural position regularly and potentially well, not all that far from where he grew up. He also gets to share a dugout with Mike Trout, and potentially help him get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. So it’s really a win for the Mets, Dom, and potentially the greatest ever to play the game. It’s a win-win-win.

Oh wait that’s not right, that’s from the wrong Mike Schur sitcom.

The New York Mets trade Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Thomas Szapucki, and Jeurys Familia to the Cincinnati Reds for Robert Stephenson and Phillip Ervin.

This trade might not be realistic, but I’ve been writing this for too long and want it to end.

This trade might not be totally realistic, but it’s late and I want to stop writing this, so whatever I’m rolling with it. If you really have a problem with this trade, just throw Andres Gimenez into the mix in Szapucki’s place or something. I don’t care. I’m going to bed.

This trade allows me to fill two remaining holes in the roster with cheap pre-arb players in exchange for a few legitimate high-upside prospects and an expensive reliever coming off of a tough season that Cincinnati can attempt to rehabilitate moving forward. Familia was a perfectly solid back high leverage reliever as recently as 2018, and Cincinnati has not been shy in taking chances on reclamation projects in recent years (see Gray, Sonny). The Mets get Stephenson, a pre-arb reliever with exactly one decent season under his belt and what I perceive to be decent upside, and Phillip Ervin, a pre-arb bench player who can provide decent outfield defense and mashes left-handed pitching. The Reds get a pitcher who was one of the better high-leverage relievers in the game as recently as the year before last who can serve as a sort of test case for Kyle Boddy’s new pitching development ideas, and a trio of young prospects with upside to help re-stock their farm. Both sides get something of value potentially, but also take on some risk. It’s not ideal but again, whatever. I also thought my plan was a bit boring without using the $11.667 million that Familia is owed elsewhere, so I’m doing it.

Free Agent Signings:

Screw this, let’s fight for marginal wins on the free agent market.

The Mets sign Yasmani Grandal to a 4 year, $68 million contract ($13 million in 2020, $18 million in 2021, and $18 million in 2022, and $19 million in 2023).

A catcher who is an elite framer AND can hit! Yasmani Grandal is 104% perfect, just like Beyonce.

For the second consecutive season, I will advocate for the Mets to sign Yasmani Grandal. The decision to sign Wilson Ramos for half the price instead of just giving Grandal the contract he wanted was likely the biggest contributing factor to the Mets losing a Wild Card spot to the Brewers last season, and my goal heading into this exercise was to correct some of the problems created by settling for mid-tier free agents over available higher-end ones in the past. Grandal is arguably the best catcher in league in which the catcher position is a train wreck. He’s an elite framer who also is an above average hitter. He’s perfect and the kind of player you should want on your team asking for a pretty reasonable contract when you consider how rare his incredibly specialized skill-set is in the game today. Grandal gets a 4 year $68 million contract, back-loaded slightly to minimize the 2020 payroll implications. If this doesn’t get the deal done, I’m fine adding like another $10 million to it from 2021-2023, and would even consider adding a fifth year at the same AAV. He’s a literal unicorn in the game today and deserves to be compensated like it.

The Mets sign Jake Odorizzi to a 3 year $45 million contract ($12 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, $17 million in 2022).

Jake Odorizzi might not be the best pitcher on the market, but pobody’s nerfect amirite??

With Zack Wheeler leaving, and little almost no pitching depth left in the minors to take his place, I’ve decided to ask Janet to sign Jake Odorizzi to a 3 year $45 million contract. Odorizzi has been a pretty solid mid to back end of the rotation start for most of his career, and was maybe a little better than that in 2019. Odorizzi had perhaps the best season of his career with the Twins last season, partly because he was able to find a little extra velocity on his fastball. If he is able to maintain the velocity gains from his time with the Twins moving forward, then I feel that signing him would be akin to bringing in a pitcher that is comparable to Wheeler, probably not quite as good, at a price that stretches my budget far less.

The Mets sign Brock Holt to a 2 year $8 million contract ($3 million in 2020, $5 million in 2021).

No, we’re not going to face the problem of terrible defense in left field directly, but we are going to sign Brock Holt to potentially platoon with J.D. Davis if he regresses from his 2019 form. Still a problem on defense, but a different problem.

I’m choosing to ask Janet to sign Brock Holt to a reasonably cheap, slightly back-loaded deal, primarily for him to serve two purposes on the roster. First, he figures to be a solid left-handed bat off the bench, that hits right-handed pitching particularly well and can be shoe-horned into the lineup in a variety of different ways. Holt also serves as insurance against possible regression from J.D. Davis, who I would like to have as my starting left-fielder to start the season. If Davis regresses enough offensively that it no longer makes sense to live with his defense in left-field, Holt figures to be the ideal platoon partner for the right-handed Davis, may end up having a pronounced platoon split of his own as he starts playing more regularly.

The Mets sign Austin Romine to a 2 year $5 million contract ($2 million in 2020, $3 million in 2021).

There’s a lot to unpack here, since Romine isn’t very good. But, he’s a better backup catcher than Nido would be, and fits my budget.

Investing a lot of money in Yasmani Grandal also requires a plan to get him plenty of rest and not wear him down into the ground over the course of the season. Doing so involves bringing in a decent back-up catcher that is better than Tomas Nido, and that you are comfortable giving two or three starts a week when needed. Enter Austin Romine, who is a perfectly cromulent timeshare catcher, and fits my budget. He’s been a roughly league average hitter on a playoff team in each of the last two seasons. He may not be spectacular, but he will fit the catching timeshare I have in mind pretty well, and on a 2 year $5 million dollar contract with some very slight back-loading, he figures to play a small but crucial supporting role in the 2020 team.

The Mets sign Billy Hamilton to a 1 year $2 million contract.

Let’s add a replacement for Lagares who is cheaper, a comparably elite defender in CF, and can be used as an impact pinch runner late in games. Jason approves as long as we try really hard to never let him hit...

Hamilton probably could be had for a minor league deal, but I’m willing to give him $2 million and a roster spot to help fill out my bench, and serve in the role previously occupied by Juan Lagares. The goal for him is to try my best to keep him out of the batters box as much as possible, and use him to pinch run and as a defensive replacement in CF as much as possible. As far as I’m concerned, there’s value in a skill-set that can be easily leveraged off the bench.

The Mets sign Drew Pomeranz to a 2 year $16 million contract ($7 million in 2020, $9 million in 2021).

I prefer to think of Drew Pomeranz as less of a failed starter and more of a pre-successful elite late-inning reliever,

To fill out the back-end of my bullpen, I’ve asked Janet to bring me Drew Pomeranz on a 2 year $16 million contract, again with some slight back-loading to help keep us under budget in 2020. Pomeranz figures to be very popular in these kinds of exercises, and I expect he gets more than this from a contender that really believes - like I do - that he is capable of being one of the better relievers in the game after dominating out of the bullpen for the Brewers down the stretch last season. I have no problem adding a few million to the second year if you really have a problem with it, and will have the flexibility to do so in 2021. For now, Pomeranz gets a solid 2 year deal, and the Mets get what I believe to be a shutdown high-leverage reliever for a relative pittance.

Extensions:

Having discussed the payroll situation for 2021 during the blurb for Yoenis Cespedes above, we’re going to use the payroll flexibility of the Cespedes contract coming off the books to do some long-term roster building. There isn’t much left to spend this season, but there are a few decisions the team could make that are close to payroll neutral for 2020, and improve the team’s mid-to-long term future.

The Mets sign Marcus Stroman to a 5 year $80 million contract extension ($12 million in 2020, $17 million in 2021, $17 million in 2022, $17 million in 2023, $17 million in 2024).

This basically amounts to a market rate free agent contract that gives the Mets an additional four years of a perfectly solid mid-rotation pitcher. There is no one in the high minors at present who figures to end up as a better starting option moving forward, and I’d rather keep those innings in house than have to sign another free agent in a year’s time. Stroman gets a small raise for 2020, and four years tacked on at roughly what he could expect to get when he hits free agency. Stroman is talented, a local kid, and one of the hardest working athletes in the game. Ideally, I’d like him to be a Met for a long time to come.

The Mets sign Jeff McNeil to a 7 year $42 million contract extension ($1 million in 2020, $3 million in 2021, $5 million in 2022, $5 million in 2023, $8 million in 2024, $10 million in 2025, $10 million in 2026).

The decision to extend McNeil feels like a no-brainer when you look at the Whit Merrifield contract as a baseline. McNeil gets a few more years, and a slightly higher AAV, but will still be extremely cheap relative to what he could get as a free agent at any given time, and would be locking in life-changing money after debuting at an older age, just like Merrifield did with the Royals. The deal runs through McNeil’s age 34 season, buys out two free agent years, and should help keep an elite talent in the lineup at a below market price for the foreseeable future.

The Mets sign Pete Alonso to an 8 year $120 million contract extension ($1 million in 2020, $5 million in 2021, $15 million in 2022, $15 million in 2023, $20 million in 2024, $20 million in 2025, $20 million in 2026, $24 million in 2027).

Locking up Alonso to a long-term contract is worth celebrating. Time to pop that bench open.

I’m convinced that this needs to happen at some point before Alonso hits arbitration, and the Good Place is all about instant gratification, so let’s just go ahead and ask Janet to offer Pete Alonso an eight year $120 million dollar contract extension. The deal has an AAV of $12 million, which is about what Alonso figures to make in his second year of arbitration if the Mets don’t extend him before he gets there. I think that’s more than a fair extension given it’s roughly what the Braves offered Ronald Acuna, but buys out an extra free agent year. The AAV in the three free agent seasons that the deal would be buying out is roughly the same AAV of the Paul Goldschmidt extension, and still would be roughly what you would expect Alonso to make in a hypothetical fourth year of arbitration that the Mets would have gained if they had manipulated his service time and kept him down to start the 2019 season.

The Mets get cost certainty through Alonso’s potentially expensive arbitration years and buy out his first three free agent seasons at what will hopefully be a well below-market price. The Mets get Alonso’s entire prime, and plenty of chances to make him a lifetime Met along the way if that ends up making sense for both sides. Alonso gets guaranteed life-changing money and a chance to hit free agency at age 32 if that’s something he wants to do when the time comes. Both sides benefit, but more importantly than that a partnership is solidified. The Mets have had a player development miracle fall into their lap for the first time since Jacob deGrom. Let’s not overthink this, like Chidi. Let’s make Pete Alonso a Met for the foreseeable future.

Locking up Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Marcus Stroman for the next few seasons will make me more happy than I’ve been since...oh wow I’ve never been happy.

In general, I wish teams were more proactive in leveraging contract extensions to their advantage, and used them in a lot of the places in which other teams would hold the service manipulation line. All three of these moves seem reasonable for each player to accept, add virtually nothing to the payroll for the 2020 team, and lock in cost savings in future seasons.

It’s possible that some of these long-term deals don’t age super well, but there’s only one time that’s important: Now.

***

All of this combines to create the following roster and payroll obligations moving forward:

2020 Roster and Payroll Obligations

Player Position 2020 Salary 2021 Salary 2022 Salary Future Obligations and Notes
Player Position 2020 Salary 2021 Salary 2022 Salary Future Obligations and Notes
Yoenis Cespedes OF $29,500,000.00 FA FA in 2021
Robinson Cano 2B $20,250,000.00 $24,000,000.00 $24,000,000.00 $24 in 2021, $24 in 2022, $24 in 2023
Jacob deGrom RHP $25,000,000.00 $36,000,000.00 $36,000,000.00 $36 in 2021, $36 in 2022, $30.5 in 2023, Opt in 2024
Jed Lowrie 2B $11,500,000.00 FA FA in 2021
Justin Wilson LHP $5,000,000.00 FA FA in 2021
Michael Conforto OF $9,200,000.00 ARB3 FA FA in 2022
Edwin Diaz RHP $7,000,000.00 ARB2 ARB3 FA in 2023
Steven Matz LHP $5,300,000.00 ARB3 FA FA in 2022
Seth Lugo RHP $1,900,000.00 ARB2 ARB3 FA in 2023
Robert Gsellman RHP $1,200,000.00 ARB2 ARB3 FA in 2023
Brandon Nimmo OF $1,700,000.00 ARB2 ARB3 FA in 2023
Noah Syndergaard RHP $9,900,000.00 ARB3 FA FA in 2022
JD Davis OF $575,000.00 ARB1 ARB2 ARB3 in 2023, FA in 2024
Luis Guillorme SS $575,000.00
Jeff McNeil 3B $575,000.00 $575,000.00 ARB1 ARB1 in 2022, ARB2 in 2023, ARB3 in 2024
Pete Alonso 1B $575,000.00 $575,000.00 ARB1 ARB2 in 2022, ARB3 in 2023
Amed Rosario SS $575,000.00 ARB1 ARB2 ARB3 in 2023, FA in 2024
Juan Lagares OF $500,000.00 FA Option for 2020 declined
Marcus Stroman RHP $12,000,000.00 $17,000,000.00 $17,000,000.00 Sign Marcus Stroman to a 5 year $80 Million contract extension, broken out as 12/17/17/17
Jeff McNeil 3B $1,000,000.00 $3,000,000.00 $5,000,000.00 Sign Jeff McNeil to a 7 Year, $42 Million contract, broken out as 1/3/5/5/8/10/10 runs through age 35 Season
Pete Alonso 1B $1,000,000.00 $5,000,000.00 $12,000,000.00 Sign Pete Alonso to a 8 year, $120 Million contract, broken out as 1/5/12/12/20/20/25/25, runs through age 32 season
Ty Buttrey RHP $575,000.000 $575,000.00 ARB1 ARB1 in 2022, ARB2 in 2023, ARB3 in 2024
Phillip Ervin OF $575,000.000 $575,000.00 ARB1 ARB1 in 2022, ARB2 in 2023, ARB3 in 2024
Robert Stephenson RHP $575,000.000 ARB1 ARB2 ARB1 in 2021, ARB2 in 2022, ARB3 in 2023
Yasmani Grandal C $13,000,000.00 $18,000,000.00 $18,000,000.00 $18 in 2021, $18 in 2022, $19 in 2023
Billy Hamilton OF $2,000,000.00 FA NRI with Performance Incentives or Whatever
Jake Odorizzi RHP $12,000,000.00 $16,000,000.00 $17,000,000.00 $15 in 2021, $15 in 2022
Brock Holt UTE $3,000,000.00 $5,000,000.00 FA $5 in 2021
Austin Romine C $2,000,000.00 $3,000,000.00 FA $3.00 in 2021
Drew Pomeranz LHP $7,000,000.00 $9,000,000.00 FA $8 in 2021
TOTAL: $185,550,000.00 $138,300,000.00 $129,000,000.00

Projected Opening Day Lineup and Pitching Staff

Projected Opening Day Lineup Position Projected Opening Day Rotation Position
Projected Opening Day Lineup Position Projected Opening Day Rotation Position
Yasmani Grandal C Jacob deGrom SP
Pete Alonso 1B Noah Syndergaard SP
Robinson Cano 2B Marcus Stroman SP
Amed Rosario SS Jake Odorizzi SP
Jeff McNeil 3B Steven Matz SP
Michael Conforto RF Projected Opening Day Bullpen
Brandon Nimmo CF Edwin Diaz RP
JD Davis LF Ty Buttrey RP
Phillip Ervin Bench Seth Lugo RP
Brock Holt Bench Justin Wilson RP
Austin Romine Bench Robert Stephenson RP
Jed Lowrie Bench Drew Pomeranz RP
Billy Hamilton Bench Robert Gsellman RP
Luis Guillorme Bench

In this plan, I’ve done my best to add pitching depth in the form of a starter and several relievers, upgrade the catching situation by adding Grandal and Romine through free agency, and hoped to improve the defense of the team by adding Billy Hamilton and giving a spot to Billy Hamilton and either Luis Guillorme or Tomas Nido to serve as late game defensive replacements. The team still isn’t perfect, but I feel Janet and I have done as much as we can to make the team one of the best in the neighborhood.

So, after all of the trades, signings, and extensions, the question remains. Have I done enough to make this team into a contender capable of reaching the Good Place? That only Janet can answer, and I feel like I’ve bossed her around enough for one off-season.

She’s right to throw shade.

I’ve tried to make the team as good as I possibly can moving forward, and I guess that’s all you can really ask for from your team. Besides, all of this is kind of small and arbitrary in the grand scheme of things when you think about it. In the words of a certain moral philosophy professor who shall remain nameless:

The world is empty. There is no point to anything. And you’re just gonna die so do whatever.

I don’t know if I’ve done enough to get the 2020 Mets into the Good Place, but at the end of the day there is no point to anything, and we’re all going to die. Eat Arby’s.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my little chili babies. Here’s some bonus Jason Mendoza content for your trouble.

Poll

So what do you all think? Does this team...

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Stay stuck in the Bad Place?
    (4 votes)
  • 35%
    Finally make it into the Good Place?
    (10 votes)
  • 50%
    look like I completely forked everything up?
    (14 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now