FanPost

AAOP: The Book Of Stearns

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The New York Mets walked into the 2023 regular season as one of the best teams in the National League and limped out with a 75-win season. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were traded, several talents stumbled after good 2022 seasons and the Mets found themselves at a crossroads.

And yet, there’s optimism here for the Mets. Those deals for Scherzer and Verlander brought back top talent to the farm system and the Mets landed their guy. David Stearns took over September 1st and recently, hired Carlos Mendoza. With Stearns’ ability to work and churn the roster, plus Steve Cohen’s checkbook, the Mets have a chance to make this offseason a transformative one.

Let’s start.

Arbitration

Trevor Gott (5.057): $2MM -- Yes

Drew Smith (5.034): $2.3MM -- Yes

Luis Guillorme (4.159): $1.7MM -- Yes

Tim Locastro (4.122): $1.6MM -- No

Joey Lucchesi (4.112): $2MM -- Yes

Sam Coonrod (4.078): $900K -- No

David Peterson (3.089): $2MM -- Yes

DJ Stewart (2.168): $1.5MM -- Yes

Pete Alonso (5.000): $22MM -- Yes

Daniel Vogelbach (5.138): $2.6MM -- No

I’m keeping it simple here. With the departure of Adam Ottavino, I’m bringing back the majority of the relievers in this group, even though I’m not a fan of Drew Smith. Pete Alonso is an easy return, as are David Peterson and DJ Stewart. Luis Guillorme is the borderline case and I lean yes. For $1.7M, I can have him serve as a defensive-minded backup for second base, third base, and shortstop if need be.

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The Starting Rotation: Raising The Ceiling Of The New York Mets

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Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Eight-year, $200M; player option after year four: The Mets land their number one free agent target. The Yamamoto numbers are staggering - 17-6, 1.16 ERA, and a third straight Sawamura Award for his walkoff season. Touted for a mid-90s fastball and elite command, the chance to acquire a top-level talent in his prime is rare and the Mets jump on it.

Eduardo Rodriguez: Four-year, $80M: Jumping a tier below to add another arm, Eduardo Rodriguez comes with his own concerns, but when he’s on the mound, he’s a number two-level starter. 13-9 record, 3.30 ERA in 150 innings, Rodriguez leans heavily on his fastball, but his cutter is effective on both sides of the ball, and he generates most of his whiffs from his changeup and slider. A perfectly fine mid-rotation starter.

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Seth Lugo: Three-year, $39M: Welcome home, old friend. I’m planning on using a six-man rotation for a bit and I don’t want to have to worry about my fourth or fifth starter. After leaving New York, Lugo found success in San Diego - 8-7 record, 3.57 ERA, 140 strikeouts, and 36 walks in 26 starts. For me, he’s a mid-rotation starter who could also offer bullpen versatility in the playoffs if needed.

The Bullpen: The bridge to Edwin Diaz needs construction

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Reynaldo Lopez: Three-year, $24M: After failing as a starter, Lopez has rebounded to be a solid bullpen piece. Lopez toutes an electric fastball (96th percentile last season), generates plenty of whiffs (80th percentile, 30.5%) and strikeouts (90th percentile; 29.9%). With Edwin Diaz already in tow, the Mets tuck Lopez in for the 8th-inning role and hope it all works out.

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Keynan Middleton: Two-year, $12M: A late add! In 2022, Middleton threw his fastball 51 percent of the time. Last season, he went to the changeup, throwing 43 percent of the time. That change in his pitch mix resulted in a career-high whiff rate (36.0%), strikeout rate (30.2%), and groundball rate (56.5%). Add him to the mix and see if the new changes to his approach can allow him to move from a hard-throwing middle relief arm to a late-innings option.

Brent Suter: Two-year, $10M: With Brooks Raley in tow, the Mets need another lefty out of the pen. Brent Suter is an old friend who just had a solid season in Colorado of all places - 69.1 innings, 3.38 ERA, 3.18 xERA. His fastball sits below 90, but he avoids giving up hard hits (26.3%; 99th percentile) and keeps the ball on the ground (46.9%; 72nd percentile). A reverse split last season is a bit of a concern, but we’ll give him a one-year deal and work from there.

DJ Stewart to Anaheim for Jose Soriano: In this deal, New York acquires Soriano, who had a nice cup of coffee with the Angels. His command needs work, but his high-90s fastball produced a ton of whiffs and groundballs - an interesting combination. The Angels get an upgrade to one of their outfield positions for under $2M, while the Mets acquire a bullpen piece, that could offer a ton of production in the middle innings.

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The Offense: Creatively Drawing Inside The Lines

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Rhys Hoskins: Two-year, $38M; opt-out after year one: A layup. For the majority of last season, the Mets lacked a few additional bats to hold up their offense. Now, we fix that. He mashes the ball (11% barrel rate in five of the last six seasons, 40% barrel rate in four of his six seasons, and 30 HR in his last full season) and gives New York perfect protection behind Pete Alonso. The two-year deal is merely a Scott Boras formality as Hoskins, with a good 2024 season, will opt out and look for a long-term contract.

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Blade Tidwell and Justin Jarvis to Minnesota for Max Kepler: Minnesota adds a couple of arms and saves about $9.5M. The Mets complete their starting outfield with Kepler. Last season, Kepler was solid, showing his ability to make hard contact (91.9 exit velo, 47.9% hard-hit rate) and draw walks (9.2% walk rate, over 10% the previous six seasons). That said, the price is cheaper than usual here because he had a wRC+ under 100 in the previous three seasons. I’m hoping the talent around him helps him maintain this level of play and we’ll worry about the QO later.


Tylor Megill and Luis Guillorme to BOS for Wilyer Abreu and Brandon Walter: Boston adds a backend starter and takes a shot on Guillorme, who could stabilize second base defensively. The Mets add Abreu, another player who had a decent cup of coffee in the majors, batting .316/.388/.474 in 85 at-bats for the Red Sox. The underlying numbers intrigue me more - (49.1% hard-hit rate, 10.6 walk rate, and 91.3 exit velo). Walter is an intriguing lefty reliever, who utilizes keeping the ball on the ground. Both Abreu and Walter can play minor roles in 2024 and could see even larger roles in 2025.

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Smaller Deals: What’s roster construction without a little tinkering?

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We’ll be brief here.

Mark Vientos to OAK for Joey Estes: Vientos needs a team that can offer at-bats and the Mets just don’t have it right now. The Athletics could use him and see if his modest success to close out the season last year was real. The Mets add to their prospect arm base in Estes. Only 22 years old, but already made his major league appearance, Estes has a decent fastball, developing secondaries, and a repeatable delivery. Sending him to Syracuse and going from there.

Tomas Nido and Eric Orze to CWS for Denny Lima: A tanking White Sox team takes Nido from us to help cure their catching woes (30th in baseball last season) for the price of a high minors bullpen piece. Can’t tell you much about Denny Lima other than he received 100K from Chicago eight months ago and allowed 23 earned runs in 52 innings in the DSL. Good luck Tomas and Eric.

Trevor Gott to CLE for Tyler Freeman: I’m moving on from one of Drew Smith or Trevor Gott for another arm. Gott has a bit more cache across the league, so I flip him. The Guardians use Gott as a middle relief pen option and the Mets add Tyler Freeman, who got caught in the wave of Cleveland’s impending middle infield prospects. Freeman has a positive hit tool but doesn’t generate much power. The hope here is that he’s a utility infielder, who can hit just enough to stay on the bench.

The Minor League Deals: Lottery tickets and bounce back guys

Yonathan Perlaza (OF), Diego Castillo (RP), Yerry De Los Santos (RP), Yunsiel Diaz (OF), Jose Castillo (RP), Payton Henry (C), Lewin Diaz (1B), Ryan Vilade (IF), Lolo Sanchez (OF)

Perlaza might be the best minor league free agent on the market - 24 years old, 130 w/RC+, 14.0 walk-rate, and A 21.9% strikeout rate last season in his first tour of Triple-A with the Cubs. Castillo was good in 2022, got hurt, and was removed from the Seattle 40-man in 2023. De Los Santos got a cup of coffee with the Pirates before they removed him off the 40-man. Good groundball data. Both Diego Castillo and De Los Santos have options, allowing the Mets to continue to shuffle the lower end of their bullpen.

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Closing Thoughts

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Within all the trades last season, the Mets showed a weakness in their farm system and needed to retool. I think they want to continue some of the same things, balancing a strong international class, with another draft class and with the opening of the pitching lab, some development of their lower-level arms. Pitching prospects are currency and the Mets just lack the money to jump into potential deals without the feeling of being robbed. And so, I wanted to build a Mets team that was able to absorb potential injuries and have multiple answers for questions that may come up this season.

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The optimism for the 2024 season starts with the bats. Having Alvarez, Alonso, McNeil, Lindor, and Nimmo in place gives me a strong online to modify the roster. DH feels like an easy fix with one of Hoskins or Garver to take that slot, while corner outfield has a few options the Mets can ponder on in Lourdes Gurriel, Teoscar Hernandez, or a trade for Max Kepler. With Kepler being a 2024 free agent and Marte’s health in question, I added Abreu, who I think could be a starter in 2025 with some time. Freeman replaces Guillorme but also offers an in-house option, along with Ronny Mauricio (who starts in Triple-A, i didn't forget about you, Ronny), for a potential third base replacement and/or if McNeil has to move to the outfield due to other injuries.

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The starting pitching market is vast and the Mets should capitalize. I split the money into three arms, but even if the Mets stick to two arms? They have plenty of options here. Even if you eliminate players with qualifying offers attached (For this exercise, I did. Just think Stearns is a bit picky with his selection in year one), the Mets are working with Yamamoto, Montgomery, Imanaga, Giolito, Rodriguez, Lugo, and even trade options like Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow, Corbin Burnes, Griffin Canning, and Brady Singer. For 2024, the rotation is loaded. However, Lucchesi and Quintana are free agents and Senga can opt-out the next year. I wanted a strong rotation that has stability, allowing the likes of Joey Estes, Mike Vasil, Dominic Hamel and the likes to be incorporated into the rotation without rush.

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I kept it light here. Of all the places I think the Mets can grow the fastest, it's the bullpen. With Stearns in tow, I think New York, for now, tries to incorporate farm system arms and value options for their younger, middle relief arms. Of the arms I added this offseason, Walter (starts at Triple-A), Castillo and De Los Santos all have options. That's on top of the likes of Christian Scott, Tyler Stuart and Drew Lavender making their way through the farm system. The Brewers never had great bullpen under Stearns' tenure, but he made low cost adds yearly, he would sell high if need be and he wasn't afraid to call up arms who started in the minors and used them as relievers in the majors. I'm curious to see how the Mets work here.

All in all, a fun exercise that made me even more optimistic heading into the offseason. Below is my salary sheet; sitting at $348M (I edited Eduardo Rodriguez's deal to $17.5M in year one).

Thoughts are always welcomed and Let’s Go Mets!

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