Moving On Without Reyes and Wright - PART 3

In this final segment, I’ll go over the moves the Mets could make next offseason to put together a serious contender. Since it’s impossible to know exactly what the landscape will be like in a year (who will be available via trade, what FA’s will be available, who will be coming off a down or career year, etc.) I’ll talk about the moves in general terms but give my suggestions based on what candidates would be good fits as of right now looking forward.

After playing through the 2012 season, the Mets could be looking at lineup with young talent around the infield, a young leadoff OFer, a potential franchise catcher, and 4 very good pitchers, all young, cheap, and under team control for years to come. This young core is almost complete, but unfortunately lacking a few key pieces that have to be added from outside the organization and at a high (either dollars or traded talent) cost. To be true contenders, the Mets would have to add two middle-of-the-order-hitting OFers (1 LH and 1 RH) and an SP1.

The moves to look for in the 2012-13 offseason:

- Sign CF Matt Kemp as a FA.

This is the big one. Of course, the Mets cannot build their entire strategy around one player being available and having the ability to sign that player. However, if Kemp makes it to free agency, the Mets have a hole in the middle of their lineup, they are lacking a true star, they have a need in the OF, and they will have money to spend. Kemp answers all of those problems and really would be a perfect fit for the team. How do the Mets sign him with so many questions around baseball about the future of the franchise? Sell him on NYC and what it means to win here. Sell him on how being a star in NYC is bigger than being one anywhere else. Sell him on being the centerpiece and leader of a young group of talented ballplayers poised to go on a run for multiple years. Also, pay him more money than anyone else. With costs low for the team across the board, the Mets can afford to splurge on one shiny new acquisition next year. And, they can afford a big contract going forward because most players on the roster won’t see significant raises for at least 3 seasons. For the few players that do, there will be more than enough room in the budget in the coming years.

- Trade a package of prospects built around Jeurys Familia to Kansas City for LF Alex Gordon.

As mentioned, the Mets will need to add another middle-of-the-order bat. As I’m assuming that they make signing RH-hitting Matt Kemp a priority, I’m also going to assume that they’ll target a LH hitter in trade. Although Gordon should be considered a placeholder at this point, I do believe he will be available and I like him as a fit for these Mets. KC has already talked about signing him to an extension but I don’t believe he’ll play the entire contract out with the Royals. I think they’ll buy out his arbitration years and maybe a year or two of FA. With Hosmer, Myers, and Moustakas figuring to comprise the middle of their order, I don’t see the Royals committing what will amount to 20% of their payroll ($10-$12M per year) to Gordon for the long-term. I think they’ll trade him for pitching, something the Mets can provide. Familia figures to be expendable among the Mets young pitchers as his ceiling has not been projected as high as Pomeranz, Harvey, and Wheeler and the reports of him (whether correct or not) having to move to the bullpen are still lingering. If the Mets can sell him as a future SP1 or SP2 in the right deal, they should.

- Trade a package built around Lucas Duda to Tampa Bay for James Shields.
The Mets need an SP1 to lead their stable of young pitchers. There promises to be a number of FA pitchers available next offseason as well as a few potential trade targets. For now, I’ll settle in on a trade target as the Mets should have some pieces to move and I’d rather trade for a pitcher who will be around for 2-3 years than sign one to a 5-year, $100M albatross of a contract that has the potential to go very bad very quickly. This brings my attention to James Shields. There have already been rumblings about the Rays trading James Shields this offseason, however I don’t think he’ll be moved until next winter, right before he gets a little too pricey for the small market team. I think the Rays would like to keep Shields around for 1 more season until Price-Hellickson-Moore and truly ready to take over the top of the rotation and Wade Davis has established himself a bit better at the back end. As I have written (multiple times at this point) I believe Duda will not be able to handle the OF over a full season and will wind up at 1B long-term, making him prime trade bait next offseason. As I mentioned in Part 2, I believe Duda will continue hitting next year as well as he did in 2011. That makes him a LH 1B with 30HR, 100RBI, .900 OPS potential. This is exactly the type of player the Rays are in need of. The teams match up very well for this trade, even if more pieces will have to be added to Duda to make the deal happen.

After adding the new pieces and building on the foundation established by the end of 2011, I would expect the 25-man to shake out as:

1. Ryan Kalish RF (0.5)
2. Ruben Tejada SS (0.5)
3. Alex Gordon LF (11)
4. Matt Kemp CF (26)
5. Ike Davis 1B (1)
6. Yasmani Grandal Ca (0.5)
7. Reese Havens 2B (0.5)
8. (R)Nolan Arenado 3B (0.5)

SP1 James Shields (9)
SP2 Drew Pomeranz (0.5)
SP3 Matt Harvey (0.5)
SP4 Jonthan Niese (1)
SP5 (R)Zach Wheeler (0.5)

Josh Thole (0.5)
Josh Satin (0.5)
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (0.5)
Justin Turner (0.5)

Rex Brothers (0.5)
Jenrry Mejia (0.5)
Dillon Gee (0.5)
Brad Holt (0.5)
(R)Darin Gorski (0.5)

This lineup carries a price tag of $56.5M. Add in the $12M incurred by trading Bay and Santana at the deadline in 2011 and that brings the total to $68.5M, leaving plenty of room for Sandy&Co. to add 2 veterans for the bench as well as have the freedom spend whatever they might want on a proven closer. The Mets can bring in an established closer for 2-3 years while Mejia, Brothers, and Holt mature until they’re ready to lock down the late innings for the team.

Kalish slides over to RF and settles in as the full-time leadoff hitter after winning the job in the middle of 2012. I’d expect Tejada to play very good defensively and give the Mets Placido Polanco-like production from the #2 spot (decent average, high OBP, solid contact, light power). I would expect Gordon to continue hitting like an all-star and Kemp to continue challenging for the Triple Crown and MVP Award. Davis should continue his progress as a legitimate major league slugger and will have a shot at a monster RBI year with Kalish, Tejada, Gordon, and Kemp all getting on base at a high clip in front of him. Grandal should do well behind the plate and handle the pitching staff as well as provide some decent pop from the 6th spot. If Havens progresses at the same rate as Ike did when first called up, he could become one of the better offensive 2B in MLB in his first full season. Arenado will likely struggle as a rookie, however he figures to hit with some power and continue to not striekout much at all. Hitting at the end of the lineup should take pressure off him.

Shields comes in and leads the rotation for two years while Pomeranz, Harvey, and Wheeler (making his rookie debut in 2013) mature. Niese hopefully continues improving and provides solid production as one of the best #4 pitchers in MLB. The bullpen stays almost the same from the end of 2011, only adding in another needed lefty in rookie Darin Gorski. Depending on who is the closer in 2011 and who is available to close in 2012, the team might decide to make a change (I’ve left the spot intentionally empty for now).

The team as structured could contend for a playoff spot as early as their first year together. I wouldn’t expect miracles and believe it will take a year’s experience before they are truly championship contenders in 2014. The young pitchers will likely have to go through some growing pains before they are truly ready to lead a push towards a title. However I expect that they could steal a wild card berth in 2013.

Going forward, the payroll should be relatively stable for a few years, with only a few extended contracts signed and most players making less than $1M per year. The organization would have the flexibility to keep this group together for a long time with team-friendly extensions OR add replacements if needed, something they could do with excess money to spend and very tradable players (from a financial standpoint). Once the better players are getting to the point that they deserve expensive contracts, the more expensive players on the team will be nearing the ends of their own deals – turning the page will be just natural attrition. Just when Gordon's and Kemp's contracts are coming to and end, Davis and Arenado(?) should be mature enough to move up in the lineup. I don't think it's outrageous to project a future lineup featuring a 3-4-5 of Havens-Arenado-Davis. I think Grandal can also become a middle-of-the-order run producer, however I would never expect the team to rely on a catcher to hit higher than 6th given how many games most catchers wind up missing due to the wear and tear of the position (Piazza was the once-in-a-lifetime exception). If the FO is doing its job in player development, in 3-5 years when replacement talent is beginning to be needed, the team will have a pipeline from its farm system ready to move up. A young and talented major league roster with few holes buys the FO time to revamp the farm to where it needs to be.

Whether the specific players mentioned are acquired or not, the Mets would be best-served to proactively fill as many of the team's holes with young talent sooner rather than later. After a foundation is established, the team will have excess resources and flexibility to go out and add whatever final pieces they need.

As we've seen in the past, building a young core and then supplementing it with veteran talent can pay serious dividends. All in all, everyone has the chance to win: The owners get a low payroll, the FO gets a young, talented, and flexible roster to work with, and the fans get a great team to root for – homegrown talent, great pitching, a coupe of stars mixed in, and hopefully a winner.


Mack said...

(uh-oh... Charles is gonna delete a bunch of messages on this one...)

Mike Freire said...

I like the series, overall. It is difficult to project that far ahead, with specific names (as you stated in your article). However, the overall premise is interesting (letting the expensive players go, and building via the farm system and supplementing with veteran talent).

I think that is the path that Sandy and Co will take. I just have to work on my own patience! 2014 is so far away, but it will be worth the wait if it means the Mets in the playoffs again.

Charles said...

U got that right. I vent, and then think...whats the point...this one i'll keep up...I'm sorry Mike, I just dont see the point of basically writing a novel about what the Mets could do. Unless theres a firesale, how can a team totally replace it's roster in two years when they have high priced, low production players? Immovable players like Bay and Santana. Everything youve written is based on best case scenarios. Havens stays healthy. Wright gets traded for Pomeranz. Bay starts producing. Holt finds the strike zone. All the pitching prospects actually realize their potential (remember generation K?) Santana pitches well enough to move his contract (or at least some of it). Who the Mets trading to get Grandal? Gee in the bullpen? He's historically horrible there and would be a much better trade chip. There's always someone looking for a starting pitcher that can give you twenty or more quality starts. I became dizzy at that part. The Mets sign Kemp, trade for Shields, and also for Gordon. Thats a shit load of dominos to set up without something falling. However, I do congratulate you on writing posts that definatly get conversation going here. The comments are flowing and thats a great thing. Keep it up, I guess...

Michael S. said...


Thanks again. You nailed it - my point is that they need to follow the early 80's model for building a winner. The needs are what they are, feel free to change out whatever names you like.

Having patience is very difficult, at this point I figure what's one more year? For 2012, I'm looking forward to Ike getting healthy, Havens coming up, and watching the pitching develop.

Charles -

As always, thanks for taking the time to read what I wrote and provide your perspective. I'm glad you see what I'm trying to do - point out the Mets needs and show a few possibilities as to how they can fill them in short order.

We do disagree on some points, however I'm glad that you point out the obvious inherent risk in some of these moves. The best part is, by keeping the payroll low through small trades this offseason, the Mets will have the flexibility and resources to make corrective trades or signings if some decisions don't pan out.

I don't want to clutter the comments up by defending and further explaining all of my suggestions, I just want to clarify three things. On Bay and Santana, the fact the I've kept the payroll so low means that the Mets could keep both if necessary - just add $30M to this 2013 budget number. None of this is contingent on these two players being moved, it was just a suggestion about how to gain even further flexibility. Moving them can be a luxury, not a necessity.

On Shields, Gordon, and Kemp, I specifically ended the post by saying that specific players are not the point of the exercise. The point was to set it up so that next offseason the Mets can acquire 2 middle-of-the-order OF and a starting pitcher. It's not out of the question for them to have 1 busy offseason where they acquire 3 players.

FInally, you made an interesting point on Gee - so maybe the Mets should trade him. Maybe this answers your question as to who gets traded for a top catching prospect - not by himself mind you, but maybe he's part of a deal. This is the kind of discussion I'm trying to get fans having.

Mack's Mets © 2012