The Mets are not going to compete for a division title - forget the World Series - in 2013 so every move should be made with an eye towards 2014 and beyond. It is with that belief in mind that I shape my offseason plan for the New York Mets. I will call it “The Bridge Plan” as it will, you guessed it, bridge the current joke-of-a-roster to what will hopefully become a consistent contender.
1-Trade David Wright to the Dodgers for P Zach Lee. As a Mets fan, I love the guy despite his shortcomings in clutch situations (full disclosure: I believe in clutch but that’s an issue for another day). Unfortunately, DWright cannot carry a team by himself, and it seems foolish to pay a premium contract to a player on a non-contending team.
This deal seems like a no-brainer for the Mets. Lee would help form a formidable rotation with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jon Niese, all of whom would be under team control until at least 2016 at reasonable salaries. Sure, the Mets lose a ton of offensive production this year, but they are not going to be good anyway. In my mind, it is better to be bad than it is to be mediocre. At least bad teams get high draft picks.
The Dodgers are in win-now mode. They have blank checks to throw at star players and would be able to lock Wright up long-term. Throw him into a lineup that already features Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Hanley Ramirez (who would have to stay at short), and you are looking at the makings of a dominant lineup.
2-Trade RA Dickey for OF Gary Brown and C Andrew Susac. Another player that I love, but RA’s trade value will never be higher. He’s 38 years old, but coming off a Cy Young season. Can he stay good for long enough to be a part of the next contender in New York? I’ll wager no.
The good news is that RA is only due $5m this season which makes him an attractive option for a team like the Giants that probably doesn’t want to break the bank on more pitching but has question marks on the mound, namely around Tim Lincecum. A Matt Cain-Madison Bumgarner-Dickey top of the rotation keeps the Giants as serious World Series contenders even if Lincecum can’t return to his pre-2012 form. The move could allow the Giants to focus resources on other areas of the roster (re-signing Angel Pagan) and/or signing a premier hitter (Josh Hamilton).
This is a pretty large haul for the Giants to part with. The Giants have the best catcher in baseball so dealing Susac won’t be a huge issue, and anyone with a pulse represents an upgrade over Josh Thole for the Mets. Brown, however, would be tough for the Giants to deal as he rates well defensively on all the scouting reports I have read, and he flies (88 stolen bases over the last two minor league seasons). He would be a perfect centerfielder in cavernous Citi Field.
3-Trade Johan Santana and $15.5m to the Royals for OF Brett Eibner. No-han is due $25.5m in 2013, and the Mets have a team option to pick up his $25m salary for 2014. If they don’t - which they clearly won’t - they owe him a $5.5m buyout. In other words, Santana is playing on a one-year, $31m deal. Not bad work if you can get it. In order for the Mets to get anything in return for him, they will have to eat a bunch of this money, with my guess being about half the money due to him.
Eibner is bordering on non-prospect status due to injuries and underperformance with the stick, but coming out of college, he was a two-way prospect so maybe the Mets could get something out of him on the hill.
The Royals have desperately been looking for an ace. If they were willing to take a chance on Ervin Santana, maybe they would be willing to do the same on Johan at a reasonable one-year, $15.5m. Sandy Alderson could convince Dayton Moore the brothers Santana would be a dynamic 1-2 punch in KC.
4- Sign Ryan Madson (two-years, $12m deals with incentives) and Joakim Soria (two-years, $8m deal with incentives).
Both are former closers with name recognition, two huge plusses come trade deadline time. The hope here is that they can be turned into B+ / B prospects in July. In the meantime, they can prove they are healthy while solidifying a bullpen that was an absolute travesty last year.
5-Non-tender Mike Pelfrey and Andres Torres. Addition by subtraction.
6-Sign Ryan Ludwick ($6m), Scott Hairston ($2m), and Cesar Izturis ($1m) to one-year deals. The goal with all free agent signings should be to target guys that do one thing exceptionally well.
Ludwick and Hairston crush lefties. Izturis plays great defense. These are potentially desirable commodities in July when they can be flipped for more prospects.
Unitl then, they give Terry Collins some flexibility as well.
7-Sign Kevin Correia ($5m), Chris Young ($5m), Jeff Keppinger ($2m), and Kelly Shoppach ($2m) to fill the roster.
Correia and Young are your proverbial innings-eaters that should keep the team in most games they start. Not looking for them to be top-end starters. Keppinger can be an average third baseman. That’s really all you can ask for at this price. Shoppach provides good defense and will play against lefties.
8-Spend the maximum amount of money possible on the draft without surrendering future draft picks. The draft is the cheapest way to acquire talent, but for some reason, the Mets have never understood this. (I know this isn’t an “offseason” item but the moves above are meant to be made with the budget in mind so they can spend in the draft.)
As I wrote on TheSportsBanter (here) last season, the Mets could have essentially traded half a season of Scott Hairston for a second round pick. This is a microcosm of the way things have operated in Flushing, and that needs to change.
With a projected 2013 salary of approximately $75m*, the Mets have every reason to invest as much money as possible (without losing any picks) to acquire the best talent available in June’s draft.
*This $75m figure does not include the effect of trades. If Ryan Ludwick is dealt mid-season, they shave another $3m off that number.
Again, this is a team that has some interesting parts that can hopefully traded in July for prospects with much brighter futures. This roster has very few long-term obligations:
25-Man Roster (2013 salary in millions; arbitration-eligibles rounded to nearest million)
C: Shoppach ($2) / Thole ($1)
1B: Ike Davis ($1)
2B: Daniel Murphy ($1)
SS: Ruben Tejada ($1) / Izturis ($1)
3B: Keppinger ($2)
LF: Ludwick ($6) / Mike Baxter ($1)
CF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis ($1) / Jordany Valdespin ($1)
RF: Lucas Duda ($1) / Hairston ($2)
SP: Correia ($5), Young ($5m), Niese ($3), Harvey ($1), Dillon Gee ($1)
RP: Frank Francisco ($6.5), Madson ($6), Soria ($4), Bobby Parnell ($1), Josh Edgin ($1), Jenrry Mejia ($1), Jeremy Hefner ($1)
Hitters: 13 at $21m
Pitchers: 12 at $35.5m
Dead Money: $18.5m Johan Santana ($15.5) and Jason Bay ($3)
Total 2013 Salary: $75m
Lineup vs RHP
Lineup vs LHP