AAOP: Turning Japanese, I Really Think So


Nope. No Shohei! banners flying in this one. Not that I don't covet him but with a $350m cap the dollars, dinero, yen etc. just don't work.

This high-risk/high-reward plan leverages Cohen bucks to add quality pieces while protecting the cream of the prospect crop. It adds a dozen new pieces to the big-league puzzle, many of whom are just around for a year as a bridge to what will hopefully be minor-league reinforcements or a pretty strong 2024-2025 class of free agents.


  • I have purposefully not read any other AAOP's, so any resemblance is entirely coincidence.
  • I think one of my targets may have gone elsewhere but I still have him in my plan because it sounds like we're allowed to!

First a look at the proposed roster then path to get there.


The Rotation

  • Sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto. I imagine this is common to most if not all other plans. I'm going 8 years/$175m to the player which is what counts against the cap plus $28,125,000 in posting fees so the total outlay is $203.125m. Even if "he's not all that" his floor/age combo mean he's eminently movable by paying him down $5-7.5m a year. I just don't see much risk in him when Nola, Snell, Montgomery and Sonny Gray are getting $26-28m AAV's.In 6 years $25m will feel about the same as $18m does now.
  • Trade for Dylan Cease - details elsewhere. Word is that he's on the trade block.And he's in Queens for two full seasons.
  • Returning hero Kodai Senga fits here perfectly.
  • Yu Darvish is acquired via trade. He has dodged elbow surgery - even if he simply replicates his 2023, he's an extremely solid #4 as long as his arm holds up. A bounce-back is not out of the question.
  • Free-agent Luis Severino. He finished his atrocious 2023 with a 2.49 ERA over his final four starts/21.2 innings, 16 hits and 4 walks. He'll be looking for a make-good one year deal that fits this budget and if he regains his form, he's either a front-line horse or a valuable trade chip if one of the kids is pushing for an August rotation slot. If he sucks again?

Rotation Depth

  • Free agent Jakob Junis. A classic swingman he made 17 starts and 6 appearances in relief last year and threw to a 4.17 ERA. In 2023 that script was flipped 4 starts and 36 relief appearances with a 3.87 ERA. He starts the year as the long man in the pen unless there is injury, or the club uses a 6-man rotation.
  • Jose Butto who starts in the pen.
  • Joey Lucchesi who will start the season at AAA.
  • David Peterson should be back sometime between mid-May and mid-July.
  • With a little luck we'll have a homegrown arm or two looking ready to push any underperformers.


I'm skeptical that anyone has truly cracked the RVC Reliever Volatility Code so these guys are a mix of vets, imports, guys off good seasons, guys that might rebound etc. On paper I think they look safely above average, but I thought the same thing last April ...

  • Edwin Diaz - Trumpets galore!
  • Scott Barlow - The third but still critical piece of my mega-deal with San Diego
  • Yuki Matsui - The Ringo of the Japanese Fab Four will be under-rated yet over-perform. Love that he's another southpaw to face the Bryce Harper's of the world.
  • Brooks Raley - Solid lefty returnee.
  • Jakob Junis/Jose Butto - See rotation depth.
  • Adam Cimber - Meh but mehbe...
  • Sean Reid-Foley - Someone's got to be last in line.

Lineup Newbies and Notes:

  • Juan Soto - Is anything other than "he's 25" really necessary. Well, maybe it's worth noting that Japanese pitcher is the same age.
  • Free agent Tim Anderson's 2023 collapse was so sudden and complete that I'm willing to roll the dice on a rebound. I don't buy that Justin Turner can play defense for enough innings. Anderson comes on a one-year deal so if he flops, the kids get a crack and if he thrives we might have a trade chip.Anderson is more athletic and has acknowledged a move to 2B could be good for him. That means ...
  • Jeff McNeil moves back to 3B. He's shown yearly progress on defense. He's very likely to provide better defense than Baty. If Anderson flops, Jeff moves back to 2ndand Baty/Mauricio get their shot at 3B.
  • Andrew Benintendi arrives from Chicago to lower the prospect cost for Dylan Cease and be the long-side left-fielder. We're absorbing $63.5m over four years to shed Marte. This is where Cohen-bucks come in handy.His 105 wRC+ vs. RHP is 19 points higher than vs. LHP and works in the 9 hole.
  • Michael A. Taylor gives us a plus defender in CF should Brandon Nimmo go down and Taylor handles RF versus lefties. His 118 career wRC+ against southpaws helps address a perennial weakness even if he fails to match his 141 against them last year. Another one-year deal makes him expendable should the kids storm Queens in August.
  • Platoon-Palooza! Mark Vientos DH's against LHP and DJ Stewart roams RF against RHP.
  • Ronny Mauricio starts as the utility guy with the big club, Christian Bethancourt is brought in as the second catcher, and Brett Baty is a call away in Syracuse.


The Deals



Deal 1: Starling Marte, Tylor Megill, Luis Guillorme Alex Ramirez, Grant Hartwig and $7.5m x 2yrs to White Sox for Benintendi & Cease. Trade Simulator Valuation White Sox +6.3, Mets +4.5

The White Sox failure to exercise Tim Anderson's option suggest the new regime is eyeing a budget friendly housecleaning, aka music to Steve Cohen's ears ... As previously noted, the Mets take on the remaining 4 years/$64m while offloading $25m net of Marte since the Mets will send $15m along with the Star-man.

Guillorme fills the hole left by the pass on Anderson at a fraction of the cost. Megill gives them a much lesser but cheaper rotation hopeful with control, Ramirez is the candy and Hartwig a back-end penman with some level of breakout potential. The likelihood of this structure directly correlates to the level of financial motivation of the White Sox.


Deal 2: Our next big trade takes us out west to where I'm banking on AJ Preller being constitutionally incapable of punting a season despite having to cut payroll.

Kevin Parada, Omar Narvaez, Drew Smith, Jose Quintana, Mike Vasil & Colin Houck to Padres for Juan Soto, Yu Darvish & Scott Barlow.

I'm obviously banking on Mr. Cohen to extend Soto as the offensive anchor for the next decade. I actually believe he might extend in the off-season a la Lindor. But in Soto & Yamamoto the Mets are getting two 25-year-olds, one of whom looks like a generational talent and the other who is a near lock to out-perform any of the pitchers in the Mets minor league system. Barlow becomes the 8th inning set-up man and now that Darvish is avoiding elbow surgery, he's a risk-reward play designed to lower the prospect cost of acquiring Soto.

The Padres replace his slot with Jose Quintana and shed the substantial future obligations attached to Darvish. Vasil gives them someone to likely debut this year, they likely flip Parada in another Preller-madness deal and Narvaez is the veteran back-up catcher they are reportedly seeking. I add Vasil and Houck because it just feels ridiculous to get Soto without attaching more than Parada as the prospect value. That said Trade Simulator calls this one a landslide for the Padres at +27.7 and a hit for the Mets at -11. If we don't sign Soto this is clearly a debacle. But that's all right we will!


Deal 3: A minor trade to offload Daniel Vogelbach in exchange for the Blue Jays Adam Cimber might be feasible because the Jays have been reportedly open to a DH sans positional skill, and it would save them $1.7m. Trade Simulator also says this is more than fair to the Jays at +1.1 vs. Mets -3.0.


Free Agents. But we're turning over a ton of roster spots so there are now six free agents that fit the $350m cap! We've already noted Yamamoto, we'll also add his fellow countryman Yuki Matsui to the pen, roll the dice on a rebound from Luis Severino at the back of the rotation and add Jakob Junis as a 6th/spot starter/long man in the pen. Remember how I mentioned Tim Anderson earlier? He's the new 2Ber with Jeff McNeil sliding to 3B. And last but not least Michael A. Taylor will platoon in RF with Benintendi.

What? Am I crazy? Maybe. But it's all about dem splits!

The Numbers



Despite adding both Soto & Yamamoto for 2024 there will be plenty of cushion to fit Alonso into a $350m budget in 2025. That's because Max & McCann's "Carried" Salaries are gone as is part of Verlander's. Actually if Verlander fails to pitch 140 innings in 2024, then an additional $17m would be available.

Assuming Verlander vests then after signing Pete to an AAV of $30m (more than he'll get) there is still $58m plus left to replace Tim Anderson, Luis Severino, Michael A Taylor, Christian Bethancourt, Scott Barlow, Brooks Raley and Adam Cimber. Then the following year Dylan Cease will need to be replaced heading into 2026 when an additional $24m will fall off the "Carried" salaries ledger.. The obvious hope is that some of Jett Williams, Acuna, Gilbert, Baty, Mauricio, Vasil, Scott, Tidwell et. al. turn into above average regulars.

The 2025 budget is worst case regarding Verlander who could be zeroed out and gives Senga a bump to $20m to buy him out of his option. That is actually a move that I would make this year.


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