First, let’s start with the players with guaranteed contracts for next season:
- Johan Santana $24MM
- Jason Bay $18.3MM
- David Wright $15.25MM
- R.A. Dickey $4.75MM
- D.J. Carrasco $1.2MM
Now, the projections for arbitration eligible players/whether they should be non-tendered:
- Mike Pelfrey- Non-tender: The time has come. Big Pelf was an experiment that sadly failed. At times, Mike has shown potential, but it has been more good than bad. He had a fantastic season in 2010, going 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA, and took over as the interim ace for Johan Santana, but struggled, going 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. I was a huge fan of Pelfrey for a long time, but his inconsistency is too frustrating and not healthy for an organization trying to build a consistent winner.
- Angel Pagan- Non-tender: Angel has been another disappointment. After hitting a combined .296 in 2009 and 2010, Pagan’s numbers dramatically dropped this season. Angel finished the season with ten fewer extra base-hits, a WAR level that went from 5.0 to 0.2, and a batting average 28 points lower than last season.He seemed like he could develop into a solid number two or leadoff hitter, but it never worked out for him.
- Ronny Paulino- Non-tender: It’s Josh Thole‘s time now. After two years of being the starter, then being in a platoon role, Thole will finally have his chance. Paulino was fine in 2011, serving as a good sign for the Mets, but Thole has been waiting in the wings long enough. He has developed as a hitter and a fielder, and has definitely started calling much better games behind the plate.
- Bobby Parnell- $1.4MM: Parnell could be kept around as a trade ship (spoiler alert!). He is still young and has some electric stuff, he just needs to figure out how to use it.
- Taylor Buchholz- $1.5MM: Buchholz is a very serviceable middle relief pitcher, something that every team could use. Why not keep him around if his depression/injury issues are all cleared up?
And the trades…:
- Trade Bobby Parnell, Cory Vaughn, Juan Urbina, and Nick Evans,to the Rays for B.J. Upton ($7.6MM projected salary)
- Some smaller trades for bench or minor league help should probably happen, too, but I’m not going to dive into the minor deals right now.
Free Agent Signings:
- Mark Buehrle: $13MM (2 years + vesting option)
- Joe Nathan: $7MM (1 year + vesting option)
- George Sherrill: $4MM (2 years)
- Corey Patterson: $4MM (1 year)
- Nick Punto: $1.5MM (1 year)
Now, here is the projected lineup/rotation/bullpen for next year with my plan in place:
- B.J. Upton CF
- Daniel Murphy 2B
- David Wright 3B
- Ike Davis 1B
- Lucas Duda RF
- Jason Bay LF
- Ruben Tejada SS
- Josh Thole C
CL: Joe Nathan
SU: George Sherrill
SU: Manny Acosta
Specialist: Tim Byrdak
MRP: Taylor Buchholz
MRP: Pedro Beato
Alright, let’s start with the trade. Without Jose Reyes, the Mets will need a decent leadoff hitter if they want top win. There are no striking options on the free agent market, so why not go after Upton? He will be cheap, with a projected salary (with arbitration) of $7.6MM. He’s not better than Reyes, but he may offer more value than him if you consider his salary. He’s not as productive, but his numbers aren’t too bad. He is a 20 home run player who can steal 40+ bases. If he can raise his batting average up a little bit, he can almost match the production of Reyes (before this season). He is the best option out there to replace Reyes, and won’t cost the Mets too much in return. Teams are still going to bite on Parnell because of his stuf, Cory Vaughn is still young, and Juan Urbina is a blank slate who is only 18, but is ranked in the top 20 Mets prospects. Nick Evans is a player who could be a solid backup, or even an average every day player someday if given a chance. That’s a big return for a player like Upton. The Rays would probably still accept the deal if you take out Vaughn or Parnell.
Next, the free agent signings. The Mets have a ton of spending room without signing Reyes, so why not use it. Mark Buehrle is one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, pitching 11 straight seasons of 200 or more innings. He was 13-9 last season with a 3.59 ERA, proving that even at 32, he is still a very consistent pitcher. His numbers could also improve against the National League and in a pitcher’s park like Citi Field.He could be a big part of the Mets rotation next season, pitching in the number two spot behind Johan Santana if Santana stays healthy.
Now, in the bullpen… well what bullpen? The Mets had one of the worst ones last year, and it needs to be rebuilt. Every good team needs a good closer, and Joe Nathan can fill that void on the Mets. Coming off Tommy John surgery, Nathan has something to prove. He struggled last season, but you can count on him to bounce back. He is the most experienced closers on the market and because of the injury concerns, he will come at a lower price. The Mets also won’t have to give up a draft pick like they would with some of the other closer options out there. Setting him up should be George Sherrill. I’ve always been a big fan of Sherrill. He is a big, intimidating lefty, that I would feel very comfortable pitching the eighth. He has had a stellar career in that role, and the ninth inning role, too. He will be a very valuable pickup at somewhere around $4MM.
Two guys that will be able to fill out the Met bench are Nick Punto and Corey Patterson. Punto has played all three outfield positions, shortstop, second base, and third base in his career. He is a hard-nosed player that will provide versatility and keep the Met regulars fresh. With Patterson, it’s about speed. Remember the days of Endy Chavez? Wasn’t it great having a speedster that can come off the bench? Patterson can play all three outfield positions and provide a pinch runner in late-game situations. Both of these guys are no-brainers for the bench and should be signed.
Overall, I believe this team will be an 85-90 win team if everyone stays healthy. I would spread out the spending money, but I want to leave room for some young players to come up and get playing time. Jenrry Mejia, Matt Harvey, and Jeurys Familia are getting closer and closer to the majors, and they need spots that they can succeed in. That’s why I signed Mark Buehrle instead of two lesser pitchers that would take up two spots in the rotation. This team would definitely have room to grow over the years.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering if the Mets can afford this, and of course the answer is yes. The estimated salary for this team is exactly $110MM, the approximate limit set by Sandy Alderson at the season’s end. Obviously, with the free agent negotiating process, salaries may be higher or lower. I have a feeling Patterson’s and Sherrill’s salary may be a little lower than I estimated and Nathan’s salary may be a little higher, but the total payroll will still be near $110MM.
Well, that’s the plan.
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