With everything said, MLB is the only one of the three major to not reward a team solely by manager. Who’s on the team is most important and that means quantity over a few studs. The 2018 Mets will be hard pressed to do what they did offensively this year with all their power bats gone. Gone also, hopefully, is the idea that defense doesn’t matter which has been perpetuated for a while with this regime. I think we all see that it does matter and that New York’s starting pitching cannot survive without it. Unfortunately, like was obviously going to be the case, the five Met aces thing didn’t happen or come close to fruition. The dream rotation was precisely that and molding a team alone around that was as short sighted. Pitchers break, especially when they wear our uniform and are treated by a medical staff that’s still employed. All that is left is to reach hard realities and figure out the next steps of who to keep because surely they cannot all be back. Let’s start with Matt Harvey. Harvey is potentially the least valuable, formerly big time ballplayer in the sport right now. His reputation around the league is probably so low that you have no choice but to keep him and pray he can turn it around or at least pitch enough to slot in the backend. I don’t think it is fair to expect him to reach previous heights with his thoracic outlet syndrome that has no good track record among pitchers. If he becomes good again, great. Trade him right away and don’t look back. In the meantime, you’ll have to get his confidence up so that he can hitters out with any fastball and diminished velocity, starting with his delivery that he can’t repeat. Perhaps the next pitching coach, or the man I’d ask to step in for Warthen, Frank Viola can do that. Dan, it should be said, did nothing wrong. He was great at what he did although he has a tendency to teach everyone his famous slider that just gets them hurt. The second most disappointing player is Steven Matz. There was a time not long ago where I thought he had what it took to be an ace but his body cannot hold up and his intensity gets the best of him sometimes, a la Matt. Because he’s been bad for only a year, there are surely 29 teams that would love to add a starter of his caliber. For me, I’d like those teams to be the Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies.
Let me explain: the M’s soon begin really paying their one of their cornerstones, Mr. Kyle Seager. Nationally, he’s known as Corey’s big brother but he can seriously play. He fits my broader picture of a stellar defensive configuration to help the Harvey’s of the world that need it as he’s won a Gold Glove and the Mariners can afford to let him go with Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano there. Recently, they have traded for Mike Leake. I am not sure how this affects a trade but I cannot imagine them being able to afford both $16-18 salaries. I would try to get them to pitch in at least $5 million a year for acquiring Matz so the cost of getting a Seager is only $10-12 million. I’m aware the Mets are on the hook for David Wright and it would unwise to not be even though insurance has saved their butts 75% of the time at no price to David which is great. There’d be nothing better than for him to one play again and I’d keep encouraging him to try to do so as long as it does not jeopardize his longterm health. Still, I don’t see Wright playing at third full time and would introduce him to first base like Ryan Zimmerman in order for him to at least platoon there with Dom Smith going forward against lefties. The Tigers are clearly beginning a long process that involves cleaning out their entire team and starting from scratch after the trade of Justin Verlander to the Astros and that might mean Nick Castellanos could be on the move even more with them acquiring Jeimer Candelario from the Cubs. He’s not having the season he had in 2016 but I think his best performances are in front of him as he reminds me of Anthony Rendon who’s now an MVP candidate. Assuming I’m the Tigers, I’d be intrigued with Steven as the last deal with Michael Fulmer has panned out nicely for them. A rotation of two Mets future aces could be just what they need with more coming up in the pipeline. In the event they say no, the last call I’m making is to the Phillies and admittingly this comes with some risk dealing with your division rivals. You guessed it, I would inquire about Maikel Franco who they’ve already reportedly shopped with his dreadful year. Yes, he chases and doesn’t do much except hit the home run but why can’t he be Miguel Sano? To me, I see a lot of similarities between him and a younger Yoenis Cespedes with their hulking physical presence at the plate. Cespedes could mold him into the type of batter Yo is today, aggressive and patient when he needs to be. I’m not overly worried of dealing Matz to the Phils and obviously I would rather not but they don’t exactly have anyone except Aaron Nola who they can trust and that I’m scared of because they’re a few years away when he’ll be closer to a free agent. Sure, I’d also ask for Aaron Altherr and be willing to give up his comparable Desmond Linsday to do so but they’re not going to do it even if he’s injury prone, somewhere in the middle of the player he’s been this year and last year.
The final trade scenario I pose is one that is the most fun and creative, following the line of reasoning the Brewers implemented when they stole Travis Shaw from Boston or Jedd Gyorko being shipped off and no one caring about it. Shaw underwhelmed the Sox after they expected him to take a big step forward and the same is happening in Arizona with Brandon Drury. Drury, whose new management comes from the Red Sox, saw him as a building block and he has let them down to a point where they are choosing to play Daniel Descalso and Adam Rosales over him at second base. Getting him out of there and back to third base would not be a bad plan B none whatsoever. The former Braves product is blocked there with the emergence of Jake Lamb and winning teams generally have no patience for under performers and he hasn’t even been terrible. With T.J. Rivera having Tommy John surgery, he could at least fill in for him if not more as he has significantly more power and athleticism. He’s a grade above Wilmer Flores defensively, more so if he’s moved back to third as he is comfortable there and I would intend to have Flo play second base all season long so he knows that’s his fulltime position and expect 40 homers out of the duo as they have similar right handed bats. Drury, 25, doesn’t have the arm of Franco but he won’t cost a frontline starter and might lead you to consider additions elsewhere with room. Everybody knows the Mets aren’t signing Mike Moustakas. I pray they don’t pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s club option and flush his cash down the drain but they’ll do it to avoid expenditures. Todd Frazier would be an acceptable way to address the hot corner and it wouldn’t cost you the Long Island kid and I’d absolutely be in favor of it as long as it’s a short term deal. He’s more steady handed playing the position than you’d be led to guess and I wouldn’t mind plucking him away from the Bombers after hearing the story about his older cousin that he honors each time he homers who passed away from cancer as she was a huge Mets fan. It’s a strength that he has the ability to spell Dom whenever he needs a day at first too like he does for the Yankees. I’m still trying to figure out how his hit tool has fallen after leaving the Reds but maybe coming back to a familiar league aids him in improving those stats. He doesn’t walk much either to his critics that claim his forty blasts are meaningless like Chris Carter’s and Mark Reynold’s.
Assessing the rest of starting pitching is more challenging. This leads me to future bullpen assignments. The smart move would’ve been to sell high on Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman last offseason but per usual, the Mets waited too long and saw their stock dip with terrible 2017s. Rather than count their blessings and know a good thing when they see it, they expected them to replicate a fluke year no one in their front office saw coming or even had on the radar. But since it happened with deGrom, we waited for another to arrive. Jacob deGrom’s do not grow on tree and I am absolutely not trading him for anything because he’s under control till he’s 32. Lugo has interest due to his curveball and analytically inclines thinking he’s special because of it but will be scared away because of his arm ailments so if you can get a defensive catcher for him, go ahead but he’s a four like old friend Mike Pelfrey. Gsellman should be kept on as a sixth starter, long relief type who can step in when needed. Zack Wheeler is the interesting one as there were moments where you were encouraged. Then the second month happened and he was back to throwing 20 pitches a inning. Wheeler needs to be groomed as a future closer and 2019 replacement to Jeurys Familia and he has to be open to it with all his struggles. Next up is Rafael Montero who has had a string of effective starts of late. The amount of opportunities he’s gotten is remarkable and maybe you go into the season with him as the fifth starter but I see tremendous upside with him pitching every couple of days as there wouldn’t be as much pressure there as long he starts each inning and doesn’t come in with trouble. His stuff would play up and he would replace Hansel Robles. With that out of the way, the Mets need to go out and get themselves another SP and mid rotation type. Now is the point where I address budget concerns. Ideally, a New York team would be signing a Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta to form forces with Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom but we are not that team. This team will be getting a mid rotation starter and someone to slide into the number spot ahead of Harvey or Lugo, whomever if healthy because God knows both can’t be at the same time.
My top target would be Chris Tillman, former ace of the Baltimore Orioles and owner of a 7.85 ERA in 80 innings after a 3.77 in 170 last season. His appeal is simply due to his durability as generally he’s available to pitch every fifth day and that’s nice to have. He’s still young and is a big bodied. Pitching at Citi Field from Camden Yard and away from the AL East gives him the best chance to cash in next year like he wasn’t able to do now. Had he done well, he would’ve gotten a ton more than the one year contract worth $10 million I’d offer him to reestablish himself as the pitcher he was the last four or five years in a mutually beneficial arrangement. Another starter I express interest is lefty Jason Vargas, a surprise All Star. Vargas, especially, I like because he knows how to pitch and he has to considering the fact he doesn’t throw even 90 MPH. He also began his career with the Mets before he had many starts under his belt and pitched incredible the first half of this season in Kansas City before blowing up in July/August. He’s undersized too but has the track record of innings that I want and his age makes it unlikely he gets more than the deal I gave to Tillman although you might have to bump it up to two years at the same annual salary. His teammate with the Royals, former prodigy Mike Minor, has been spectacular utilized in the fashion of a Jerry Blevins and would be a good idea to help him out also from the left side. Tyler Chatwood is the other midtier worth a look as he can blossom outside of Coors Field as evidenced by his solid road splits but you can bet a lot teams know this too. I like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn much better but they’ll cost a pretty penny as contracts worth close to $50 million come their way regardless of recent injury. Matt Moore is someone to monitor too. The rest are fifth starter types and I wouldn’t mind biting on a few of them like Miguel Gonzalez or Hector Santiago at $5 million for bounce back campaigns. Marco Estrada is ideal for his strikeout totals but he’s an alternative to Tillman or Vargas and has been stretched out in the past. John Lackey and CC Sabathia are exceptional at what they do with consistency and I find it hard to believe that they leave their current situations even if you throw lot of money at them.
I briefly touched on the bullpen and how it’ll need one more reliable person to handle the sixth and seventh innings. Many steady relievers are available and I want to focus on Brandon Kintzler. His profile is a lot like Greg Holland’s and he has experience closing for the Twins. He’s going to receive a multiyear commitment worth $7 to $8 million and I would feel comfortable giving it to him. The same applies for Steve Cishek and Pat Neshek, the two underhanded monsters who don’t seem to age. What you could also do instead is spend that close to ten million on two relievers like Bryan Shaw and Anthony Swarzak who both are iron men used close to everyday in all sorts of ways. Or you can give out a bunch of incentive laden deals to Zach Duke and Glen Perkins to heal and then contribute. I say them because Jake McGee and Tony Watson will have their choice of suitors as left handed commodities in demand but there’s also a chance they won’t. With that out of the way, the task up now is what to do about positions of uncertainty at center field and possibly the corner outfield depending on the severity of Conforto’s shoulder which is said to take around 6 months recovery. Unfortunately, it seems like the Mets have decided to keep their tandem at catcher which they for some reason think as being above average when compared to most. There is nothing to support this. Defensively, d’Arnaud and Plawecki are awful and for hit first backstops, they can’t do it well. Any capable runner can steal a base on them and we’ve seen it on so many occasions where it has cost games. Travis calls a good game as Plaw does but neither are skilled at pitch framing. My goal at first was to take advantage of Jonathan Lucroy’s loss and hand him $10 million for as many years as he wants when the price would’ve been $100 heading into this spring training. New York counts itself lucky for not trading for him last July as if they know for a fact how he would’ve played here the following year and like they gave anything of substance anyway. They’re just as prescient for not signing Eduardo Nunez to a MiLB deal when literally everybody told them to after he was cut by the Yankees and look where he is. Oh wait, he’s about to get paid! Whoops. The least the Mets should do is get themselves a complement like Al Avila and Chris Iannetta, veterans who can help both of them and can hold their own at the plate as well as behind the dish for the starting spot.
Juan Lagares is the biggest enigma in my mind as I’m not totally sure what to do with him. Platooning him with Nimmo would be one way to solve the problem at center but they cannot combine for anything respectable offensively even with Brandon’s tendency to get on base. Watching him play with that much joy is cute but at times it feels like even he is surprised he’s made it this far, something you don’t see with most professional athletes who aren’t as ordinary as him. For his build, he doesn’t pull the ball as much as you’d want with that swing. Lagares’ lingering health is the biggest contributor to him not starting as he’s always down with something and it’d be a stretch to expect him to be able to handle 120 games in my view. If Lagares doesn’t get the starting job, it’d be best to free him to another team so he can play as that’s what is fair to the player and it’d free up resources for his replacement. There’s been some suggestions of signing a Jarrod Dyson but that doesn’t make sense to me as it’s not much different and Lagares paired with him would cost more than $15 million anyway. Why not just go big like you did with Granderson and ink Lorenzo Cain to a four year contract worth $60 million? He’s the ultimate WAR player, a true fielder and was one of the main reasons the Mets lost the World Series. He can definitely handle the big stage as he’s done it before, hits .300, pop 15 homers and swipes 30 bases: all things Juan and Brandon cannot do. Additionally, he’ll mature well and hit third in a lineup you won’t have to worry about changing. More of the resources should be allocated also towards the outfield as we saw this year that you truly can’t enough of them. You sincerely hope Yoenis loses a lot of the muscle so that his legs can stand the rigors of 162 but if it doesn’t, you’ll need another to step in and that cannot be 35 year old Norichika Aoki. I’m not counting on Michael to be ready to start the season either and have no setbacks in his rehab. You shouldn’t want to rush him back and risk tearing it again so if he has to miss the first two or three months, then be it. In his place, Jayson Werth would be mighty fine with his leadership instincts and thunder still left in his bat. Soon to be 39, I think he can still handle the corner like Carlos Beltran a few years ago as long as he doesn’t play more than 100 games which could keep him fresh physically. Michael’s development, that isn’t done by the way, would be positively affected by him as well. Seth Smith is just a very professional hitter that could essentially fill the same capacity as Werth. Austin Jackson is a lot younger than all of them and I see that he’s changed a lot of his set up and approach which has led to his success this season so I’d be interested in trying that out for us in a non Chris Young kind of way. He made the catch of year and may just be coming onto to his own after being so highly touted like Carlos Gomez did a few years ago. To cap it off, bringing in a JJ Hardy to be a Kelly Johnson type who can play everywhere if needed is icing on the cake simply for the good he can do for the middle infielders. Think Chase Utley without being a bad person. I kid. Logan Forsythe is an upper echelon version of Hardy and if LA cuts bait for not living up to the bill and emergence of Chris Taylor, picking him up couldn’t hurt as second base depth and competition.
As you can see, my multifaceted plan does not involve extravagant purchases or unrealistic $100 million contracts. In fact, I doubt the total for the sum I mentioned throughout would be more than $40 million. This is revenue the New York Mets have as attendance has been surprisingly decent in a lost season, where they’re drawing over 30,000 fans each day for a less than stellar product. The payroll at season’s end will be $65 million even including deferred salaries and after arbitration raises in the winter close to $95 million. That leaves $60 million from what the Mets started the season with and this is really meeting them halfway with their promises to reinvest. With each of the holes, shelling out $10-15 mil for rotation insurance, at least $15 million for the outfield and $5-10 million on the bullpen is doable with a trade for a corner infielder where we give back salary and take a little more back with minimal expenses at catcher. Some form of the team below or above should definitely exist come Opening Day 2019 and I guarantee you 90 wins! What are the moves that you loved or see as greater than others?
Werth or S. Smith or A-Jax to fill in for Conforto
Seager or Castellanos or Franco or Frazier
Avila or Ianetta
Tillman or Vargas
Lugo or Matz whoever is traded. Flexen/Oswalt AAA
Kintzler or Cishek or Neshek