8/18/12

Reese Kaplan - A Radical Rebuild

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A Radical Rebuild?

Let’s start by agreeing on one thing.  The Mets are not going to spend significantly in the off-season to improve the team.  I could see perhaps $10 million allocated beyond the current payroll, but that may be a stretch, too, given the infusion of capital necessary by selling shares simply to make ends meet.  So let’s play the game of rebuilding the club using a cap of $100 million in the budget.
1B
Ike Davis has shown he has legitimate power.  Whether or not he can ever be more than a left handed Dave Kingman remains to be seen, but when he misses (and he often does) he looks like a Little Leaguer out there, not a professional ballplayer.  Still, 25 HRs for minimum wage is something you have to keep.
2B
Daniel Murphy is one of your few tradeable commodities and would likely generate more interest than the late inning hero of 2012, Jordany Valdespin would.  His consistency at the ML level and his versatility to man several positions (though none of them particularly well) would make him desirable.   The more I see him play, the more I like him but I think he has to be put on the trading block as there are very few chips you can offer otherwise that would net as much in return.  A contending team would want the more conservative and proven player in Murphy.
SS
Jose who?  We’ll stick with Ruben Tejada at $11 million per season in less cost, thank you very much.
3B
You have to exercise David Wright’s option and trade him.  The only way to get out from under the financial morass is to create a winning team.  You’re better able to do that without saddling yourself for $80 to $100 million for a player turning 30.  Send him off for the best package of players you can get.  If he is in effect a one year rental, then he should be worth two Zach Wheelers or more since Beltran was paid more and was far less healthy for half a season in SF.
OF
Start with a blank slate here.  There is no one in the current mix of veterans and rookies who is a must-start player.  I’d do my best to hang onto Mike Baxter as a 4th outfielder.  The rest should be up for grabs, non-tendered or put on the trading block to see what they could bring in return.
C
Josh Thole is a nice backup.  He should not be a starter.  Find someone with some thump in his bat to be the primary catcher. 
SP
Eat a HUGE chunk of Johan Santana’s contract but trade him.  Right now you’re on the hook for $30.5 million for next season and a buyout of his option for 2014.  He’s not worth that much in his prime, let alone as he winds down his injury riddled career.  Would another team take a flyer on him if you ate $20 million of that contract?  It might be worth a $10 million gamble to someone that he’d regain some semblance of what he once was.  Maybe you have to eat $22 million.  The point is you get $8 million in return plus some warm bodies that may help in the future.  Santana is not a part of the future.  He is a part of the failed past (through no fault of his own). 
After that you have Jon Niese, RA Dickey (whose option is a no-brainer), Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia.  He’s been lights-out since returning to the starting role in which he flourished earlier in his career. 
That does leave you a pitcher short.  Your in-house options – Jeremy Hefner, Chris Schwinden and Mike Pelfrey – don’t set your pulse beating (but perhaps your blood pressure soaring).  Jeurys Familia has not yet been able to harness his stuff for a prolonged period at AAA.  Wheeler should be the next guy, but this franchise is loath to give young pitchers a shot unless they’re either dominating (a’la Dwight Gooden) or someone’s job is on the line (a’la Jerry Manuel with Mejia – then misusing him).  You could re-sign Chris Young who would be cheaper than Pelfrey, but he’s a 5+ inning pitcher at best.  Dillon Gee may be ready to go if he heals well.  Then you could always sign or trade for another veteran pitcher. 
BP
You’re stuck with Frank Francisco and the 2nd year of his inexplicable contract.  You should make room for Josh Edgin to take over for Tim Byrdak full time.  After that it’s anyone’s guess.  Bobby Parnell should be marketable because there’s always someone who will look at his arm and have a Rick Peterson “fix him in 10 minutes” thought in his head.  Here’s where you’re likely to see the greatest influx of new faces.
OK, so I’ve told you what to excise from the roster.  Now comes the harder part.  Who do you target for the holes you’re about to create?
BP
Ramon Ramirez is coming off a bad year in which he faced injuries for the first time in his career, too.  Look at his 2008-2011 numbers.  He was pretty awesome.  I would see if you can retain him at his current salary or perhaps at slightly less as he’s not destined to get an increase based upon what he’s done in 2012. 
Get not one but two veteran middle men who have a prolonged history of success such as Grant Balfour.  I’d be leery of closers who may not adapt to the set up role just as I’d be leery of players who have had recent health issues.  Then again, reclamation projects have been the mantra for this organization for the past few years, so if you look at a David Aardsma who was very good before getting hurt, or a Hong Kuo who was lights out before this year, perhaps there is a lightning-in-a-bottle option available.  However, you can’t build a bullpen on gambles.  You need a few relatively sure things.
OF
Given his overall athleticism, it appears you’re wasting Valdespin and his speed on the infield when he’s shown he’s adept at running down fly balls.  I’d hand him one of the outfield positions and leave him there to sink or swim.  Speed and power is a nice combination to have.  Remember when Jose Reyes wouldn’t walk no matter what?  He learned.  Maybe Valdespin can, too. 
I’m afraid the rest of the outfield has to come from outside the organization.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis strikes out way too much.  I’m higher on Lucas Duda’s bat but much lower on his glove.  There’s a man born to be a DH in a small-town market.  Trade him to one.  Matt Den Dekker is not yet ready.  He’s slowly adjusting to AAA and probably needs to flourish there for a full year before considering bringing him up to the majors as he’s shown it takes him awhile to adjust to each new level. 
On the FA market, I don’t expect any Josh Hamiltons or Michael Bourns but I think money might be well spent on another speed burner in B.J. Upton who has 15-20 HR power as well.  Coupled with Valdespin, you have two legitimate top-of-the-order threats.  With the size of the park you also can see a lot of triples.  He’s coming off a $7 million contract, so I don’t think he’d be looking for huge money. 
Another one to consider is slow afoot and challenging in the outfield – kind of a right handed version of Duda – the bad boy Delmon Young.   He hits for good average, moderate power and drives in runs.  He’s coming off a $6.5 million contract and given his off-the-field problem I don’t think Detroit would be in a hurry to re-sign him. 
Now if you look at the numbers of either of these players, they’re not All-Stars.  However, they are going to turn in solid, dare I say it, Kevin McReynolds-level numbers every year.  I used to have this issue with fantasy baseball partners who always wanted to spend money in auctions on the superstar players.  My position always was to get a plethora of 20 HR/80 RBI players and spread your risk.  If you put all your eggs into Josh Hamilton’s basket and he gets hurts (or relapses), then what?  If you lose a 20 HR/80 RBI guy you could likely plug in a Mike Baxter and have some drop off but it wouldn’t be like jumping from a cliff as you would when you lost one of the top five players in the game. 
C
There are several on the market this year who can hit the ball – AJ Pierzynski, Mike Napoli, Jesus Montero, etc.  Even Russell Martin might be worth a flyer to see if returning to the NL cures what ails him.  At least he’d be cheap after his horrific Yankee years.
3B
I’m ready to give some combination of Zach Lutz and Josh Satin a chance.  Both can hit, there’s no question about it.  Lutz has had a lot of health issues, but a second division team can afford to see what he can do.  Will he be David Wright?  No way.  But can he be a 20 HR/80 RBI guy?  I’d like to think so.   I think of Satin as a right handed Murphy.  He’s not good with the glove but can probably hit a line drive in his sleep. 
2B
Here’s the radical notion.  Jump Wilmer Flores from AA to the majors.  What have you got to lose?  You’re not going to win any pennants in 2013.  You won’t have serious money to spend until 2014.  See if he can handle it.  Would Murphy and a barren farm system be a better bet than Flores plus whatever you received from Murphy’s new team?  Satin could be a backup.  Ditto Justin Turner.
In Summary
Notice I haven’t ventured any guesses as to what the team would receive in return for any of the trades.  That’s too much of a crap shoot even to speculate.  My motivation going into these trades is to build up the farm system with A-/B+ prospects from other organizations.  For people who think the Mets field a joke of a team, take a closer look at what’s going on in Buffalo.  There is not a single player in the offensive starting lineup there that should be starting in the major leagues right now.  As you move further down the line into AA you have Wilmer Flores and….?  Further on down the line you have some talent but it’s a long way from Rookie and A ball to the majors.  The Mets need to get some good talent into the AA and AAA levels pronto in order to give themselves a pool for the future to be used in Queens or as fodder for future trades.

So there you have it – a dismantle and rebuild of the Mets team for 2013.  Would they be better than what’s here in 2012?  Probably.  Will they contend for the post season?  Probably not.  However, you end up with a replenished farm system and a team new enough to generate some interest for next year once people get over the departures of Wright and Santana.  Keep Bay around.  He can always work the refreshment stands or something where he won’t harm the team’s chances of winning.  You’ve got to pay him anyway, so you might as well put him to work doing something constructive.

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