In a lot of ways this offseason is brutal for a Mets fan. After years of mediocrity, everything seemed to come together in 2022. The Mets put together one of the best years in their history only to run out of steam at the finish line. Under normal circumstances, a fan of a 101-win-team could rightfully look forward to the next season with expectations that their club will be right back in contention. However, this is the Mets. The lenses on my rose-colored-glasses have long since fallen out. Things don’t portend well for next year. The Mets entered the offseason with the real possibility of losing their leadoff hitter, four of their starting pitches, and all of their primary relievers to free agency. Steve Cohen’s pockets are deep, but the collective bargaining agreement was designed specifically to keep owners like Cohen from flooding the market with money. Consequently, the Mets will have limited resources to reset the roster for next year. If they use those resources poorly and bring in the wrong pieces, the 2023 Mets could easily slip right back into mediocrity.
My approach to the offseason attempts to guard against this possibility by maintaining as much continuity as possible. My top priority for the offseason was to retain the key pieces from last year’s team. I decided to devote the majority of the available budget towards resigning Jacob deGrom, Brandon Nimmo, and Edwin Diaz. For good measure, I resigned Trevor Williams as well. Given the high salaries required to bring back these stars, I had to prioritize finding low cost options to fill the rotation and bullpen. To do this, I turned to the trade market.
When looking at free agents, I established my contracts through the crowdsourced predictions found on Fangraphs. They provide three different predictions (one from an editor, one the crowdsource average, and one for the crowdsource median) for free agents, I always selected the highest of the three to try and be as realistic as possible. For trades, I used baseballtradevalues.com to establish fair value for all the teams involved. I was obsessive about getting the values to equal out as close as possible (specifically, I made sure the Mets never came out ahead when entering deals into their calculator). As you will see, I made a lot of complicated moves. I realize the sheer number of pieces involved would make many of these moves difficult to swing in reality. However, I didn’t obsess about the likelihood that these deals would actually be made. My focus was trying to build trades that fit the needs of each team involved. If they worked out on paper from a value proposition standpoint, that was good enough for the exercise.
I offered contracts to Daniel Vogelbach, Tomas Nido, Jeff McNeil, Joey Lucchesi, Drew Smith, Pete Alonso, and Luis Guillorme.
I exercised the club option for Carlos Carrasco.
I non-tendered Dominic Smith.
RHP Edwin Diaz signed to a five year deal worth $102M (with bonus and deferred money equates to $18.5M AAV)
Comment: The Mets had resigned Diaz before I started my plan. I’m not sure I would have made such a large commitment to a reliever. Edwin was incredible, so I certainly can understand why they did it.
RHP Jacob deGrom signed to a three year deal worth $141M, with a player vesting option triggered should he reach 450 innings pitched
Comment: Signing deGrom is extremely risky given his injury history. However, I would not bet against him. He is a truly special competitor. There is also a sentimental aspect to this decision. I just dint think I could bear watching him take the mound against the Mets. None of the Fangraph predictions forecast he will receive a four year deal. However, I bet he gets the forth year. In my model, I make it contingent on demonstrating some measure of durability.
OF Brandon Nimmo signed to a five year deal worth $110M
Comment: Brandon is the perfect fit for the Mets. He fits their offensive approach and the clubhouse culture they have worked hard to establish. I think his intelligence and work ethic should allow him to age well.
RHP Trevor Willliams signed to a two year deal worth $8M
Comment: Trevor was absolutely fantastic last year. His versatility is extremely valuable in this age where even the best pictures miss a handful of starts.
IB Jose Abreu signed to a two year deal worth $36M
Comment: The Mets seemed to be a bat short during those critical games in September and October. After Aaron Judge, Abreu might be the best pure hitter in this free agency class. At 36, he does come with risk. That said, his age also limits the investment required. Abreu saw a dip in his home runs in 2022, but advanced statistics show he continues to hit the ball extremely hard. Home runs were down, but he did club 40 doubles. He is also known as a great clubhouse presence.
Minor League Deals
C Roberto Perez signed to a minor league deal worth $650k
OF Jackie Bradley Jr. signed to a minor league deal worth $650k
OF Kevin Pillar signed to a minor league deal worth $650k
RHP Dylan Bundy signed to a minor league deal worth $650k
Comment: Depth is critical for any team with championship aspirations. My active roster provides lots versatility and interchangeable parts. However, there will still be a need for stopgap options in the minor leagues. Perez, Bradley, Pillar, and Bundy represent some of the more intriguing players that might be willing to take a gamble on a minor league deal.
Mets trade SS Ronny Mauricio, RHP Joey Lucchesi, 2B/OFF Carlos Cortes, and IB/OF/DH Darin Ruf to the Diamondbacks for RHP Merrill Kelly, LHP Joe Mantiply, and LHP Kyle Nelson
Comment: As stated above, my objective after resigning deGrom, Nimmo, and Diaz was to find low cost options to fill the many holes on the pitching staff. Merrill Kelly is an under the radar option that makes a lot of sense for any team. Kelly was one of only eight pitchers to log 200 innings last year. It is hard to overestimate how valuable an innings eater can be for a staff. Kelly is similar to Chris Bassitt, in that he is a bit of a late bloomer and relies on mixing his pitches and keeping the hitter off balance. He’s not sexy; he’s just good. At 34, he is not age appropriate for a team like the Diamondbacks. He is signed on a very team friendly deal that has him under control until 2025. Joe Maniply was lights out last year. He is a high leverage left handed reliever that should complement Diaz very well. At 31, he too is a late bloomer. He does not hit free agency until 2027. Kyle Nelson is another left handed reliever who had an excellent year in the desert. He has only one service year, so he too is under control for years to come. For the Diamondbacks, they are in the thick of a full rebuild. The key to trade from their perspective is Ronny Mauricio, a borderline top 100 prospect. In Lucchesi and Cortes, Arizona also received cheap stopgap options to help them weather the rebuild.
Mets trade 3B/DH Mark Vientos, OF Khalil Lee, and C Vincent Perozo to White Sox for RHP Lucas Giolito and RHP Kendall Graveman
Comment: My next target for trade was Lucas Giolito. At one point, trading Giolito would have been unthinkable. However, Lucas had a pretty poor season in 2022. The poor results corresponded to a dip in velocity for the big right-hander. This is certainly concerning, but Giolito has had dips in velocity before. Despite his lack of success, he was still durable last year, making 30 starts. Just 28 years old, it is reasonable to hope for a bounce back. If that occurs, the Mets will have another ace in the rotation. Giolita is entering his second year of arbitration. He is not super cheap, but certainly costs less than what somebody with his history and upside would cost on the open market. Graveman is entering his second year of three year deal. He was very good last year, but nowhere close to the elite pitcher he was in 2021. He makes $8M per year, so he is not exactly cheap. The White Sox finished exactly .500 last year. They certainly have aspirations for competing in 2023. That said, Giolito and Graveman are not critical to them going forward. Giolito was their fifth best starter last year. Critically, the deal takes $18M off the books. That money can be reallocated towards bigger roster needs. In Vientos, the White Sox receive a major league ready bat with tremendous power potential.
Three Team Trade: Mets trade C James McCann to the Blue Jays for LHP Yusei Kikuchi; The Blue Jays trade C Danny jensen to the Brewers for RHP Devin Williams
Comment: This trade is a straight swap of bad contracts. Both McCann and Kikuchi have two years left on their deals and the money is about a wash. Kikuchi has not yet made the adjustment to American ball. A left-hander with premium stuff, he struggles with command and the long ball. Always a starter, he did make the transition to the bullpen late in the year and had some success. He offers versatility in this regard. James McCann desperately needs a change in scenery. I did have to add a trade between the Blue Jays and the Brewers to open up the backup catching spot on Toronto's roster. That said, I think that deal would work for both sides.
Mets Trade 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach, RHP Jose Butto, RHP Eric Orze, and RHP Junior Santos for INF/OF Jon Berti
Comment: Looking into my crystal ball, I forecast the stolen base to become a much more valuable skillset next year. Bigger bases, the pitch clock, and restrictions on how often a pitcher cane throw over will give the baserunner a substantial advantage. With this in mind, I went after the best stolen base artist in the league. Berti had breakout year in 2021. He’s scrappy, versatile defensively, and an absolute terror on the base paths. With Berti, Marte, and Lindor, on the roster, the stolen base will definitely be a key element to the 2023 Mets. Vogelbach is a fun presence on the roster, but unless he is DHing, he lacks the defensive versatility needed for a bench spot. With the signing of Abreu, it made since to sell him off. Daniel could make a good platoon partner for Soler in Miami. In addition to Voggie, the Marlins get three valuable pitching prospects.
CF Brandon Nimmo, $22M
RF Starlling Marte, $20.75M
SS Francisco Lindor, $34.10M
1B Pete Alonso, $15.9M
DH Jose Abreu, $18M
2B Jeff McNeil, $6.2M
C Francisco Alvarez, $650k
3B Brett Baty, $650K
LF Mark Canha, $10.5M
C Tomas Nido, $1.6M
INF/OF Jon Berti, $2.4M
3B Eduardo Escobar, $9.5M
SS Luis Guillorme, $1.5M
RHP Max Scherzer, $43.33M
RHP Jacob deGrom, $47M
RHP Merrill Kelly, $8M
RHP Lucas Giolito, $10.8M
RHP Carlos Carrrasco, $14M
LHP David Peterson, $650k
RHP Edwin Diaz, $18.5M
RHP Kendall Graveman, $8M
LHP Joe Mantiply, $650k
LHP Kyle Nelson, $650K
RHP Trevor Williams, $4M
RHP John Curtiss, $775K
RHP Drew Smith, $650k
LHP Yusei Kikuchi $10M
RHP Tylor Megill, $650k
RHP Bryce Montes de Oca $650k
RHP Steven Nogosek $650k
RHP Sean Reid-Foley $650k
RHP Dylan Bundy $650K
C Roberto Perez, $650k
OF Jackie Bradley Jr. $650k
OF Kevin Pillar, $650k
Total Budget: $315.96M
I think the team I’ve assembled would be a contender. If healthy, deGrom and Scherzer should continue to be the best one-two combination in baseball. Kelly should be very solid and absorb a lot of innings. Giolito offers tantalizing upside. The bullpen should be elite with plenty of guys capable of handling high leverage situations. The lineup is very deep and can attack in a lot of ways. The addition of Abreu, Alvarez, and Baty adds needed thump to the lineup. Berti offers the speed component. McNeil, Guillorme, and Berti offer nice positional versatility. If there is a weakness to the team, it would bee the questions regarding the durability of Scherzer and deGrom. Hopefully, the presence of Megill, Trevor Williams, and Kikuchi would offer viable contingencies should injuries occur.