Last in a series. For my plan for catcher, the infield, the outfield, the bullpen, and the rotation, click on over.
I have thrown out a few ideas for what I’d like to see the team do. Now it’s time to put everything together. Let’s put together one plan for the offseason that would rebuild this team around its current core, featuring mostly free agent signings to help rebuild the supporting cast for this Mets team. Here it is, the Official Chris Wilcox’s BlueAndOrange.net Plan for the 2009 Offseason.
Sign Gregg Zaun to a 1 year, $2 million contract
There’s no guarantee that Zaun will even be available, as the Rays could pick up his option, and it seems that he wants to go back to Tampa anyway. And who wouldn’t? It’s beautiful there, and the Rays are probably set to contend for another few years. So this is where the Mets have to flex their financial advantage a little bit and offer Zaun a little bit more than the Rays may be willing to afford for a backup catcher. At one year and $2 million, that should be able to get it done. Signing Zaun would not require parting with any free agent compensation picks, another bonus. Plus, a $2 million commitment isn’t so much that the Mets would mind benching or even cutting Zaun if he struggled and Josh Thole plays well in Buffalo. As a one-year stop gap, Zaun would be fine.
Sign Russell Branyan to a 1 year, $6 million contract
This was originally a trade for Prince Fielder, but there are now questions as to how available Fielder is. I will assume for the moment that Fielder is not available, so we have to work from a pool of mediocre free agent first basemen. Of this group, I like Branyan the most, mostly because I feel like this team needs a big slugging first baseman. Branyan has hit homers out of Safeco Field, so I’m assuming he will translate better to Citi Field than most. I also feel like he is a better bet for getting signed to an affordable deal, because his track record is exactly one season and teams may not be lining up to sign him based on one year. If Fielder becomes available, all bets are off, but if he’s not out there, bring in Branyan. He would not net any free agent compensation for the Mariners if the Mets signed him.
Sign Adam Everett to a 1 year, $2 million contract
Who would you rather give $2 million to, a backup infielder who neither hits nor fields very well, or a backup infielder who can at least play great defense? I’m sure Alex Cora is a nice man, and maybe he does provide leadership, but is leadership and leadership alone worth $2 million? We’re not even paying our manager $2 million, and considering that they didn’t bring him back for his in-game acumen, leadership is apparently the only thing the team values about him. At least Everett will play a great defensive shortstop if Reyes isn’t ready to start 2010, and could spell Castillo at second base from time to time, even if Mets fans will hold their nose every time he bats. Hey, we lived through Endy Chavez, we’re used to it. Signing Everett would not require paying compensation.
Sign Marlon Byrd to a 1 year, $4 million contract
I’d love to sign Mike Cameron here and move Beltran to left field, but that’s probably not economically feasible, and there’s no point in angering Beltran by moving him out of his beloved center field. Instead, let’s look at Marlon Byrd, who’s a good defender in a corner (less so in center) and hits for decent power. I’m not in love with this signing, but if Fernando Martinez is the long-term answer, hopefully the team would only need a one-year stop gap in left field anyway, so paying a low amount for decent corner outfield defense and above average power isn’t the worst thing they could do in left. Marlon Byrd is a Type-B free agent, and the Rangers would receive a supplemental round draft pick, but not at the expense of any Mets picks.
Sign John Lackey to a 5 year, $80 million contract with a sixth year option at $18 million with a $4 million buyout
Having avoided big ticket free agents at first base and left field, it’s time to splurge a little bit. The best place to do that would be in the starting rotation, and Lackey is the best pitcher on the market. He strikes out a decent amount of hitters, he doesn’t walk a ton of guys, and he gets a good split of fly balls to ground balls. It’s a sharp price to pay for a starter, but this team needs a solid second starter that they can slot behind Johan Santana. Last year, the Mets had an opportunity to get Derek Lowe at around this cost, and instead chose to sign Oliver Perez because he was $4 million a year cheaper, proving once again that when you buy cheap, you buy twice. They can’t make that same mistake again. Lackey would be a Type A free agent, and the Mets would forfeit their 2nd round pick to the Angels for signing him.
Sign Rich Harden to a 1 year, $6 million contract
That might seem low for Harden, but remember that he’s spent much of his career hurt. Even the past two years, when he’s been relatively healthy, he’s only pitched 140 or so innings per season. Being patient with Harden could pay dividends as teams will be unlikely to offer such a huge injury risk big dollars. Last year, Brad Penny signed a one year, $5 million contract after an injury-prone 2008 season, and Penny has a better health track record than Harden (not much better, but still, better). If this figures to be another soft market, Harden might take the $6 million to show he can stay healthy for an entire season and try to get the long-term deal in 2010, when money might be less tight. Harden is a Type B, so he would net the Cubs a supplemental round pick, but would not cost the Mets any compensation.
That looks like a lot of money spent, but there is also money that is coming off the books, so all told, payroll for 2010 winds up being pretty close to what we paid in 2009 for a lousy team. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. Ignore the wonky formating below please, I still haven’t completely gotten the hang of making tables into Word Press, but you can at least figure out what I’m trying to do.
That’s not a total of $60.6 million towards the rotation, because either Maine or Ollie goes into the bullpen and becomes the long man, with the idea being a spring training battle between Maine, Ollie, Jon Niese, and Nelson Figueroa. Maine’s contract amount is an estimate based on his injury-plagued 2009 meaning he won’t get much of a raise in 2010 as an arbitration-eligible pitcher.
The bullpen after Frankie (and either Maine/Perez) would be pretty cheap. Feliciano’s salary is an estimate, as is Green’s, as both are arbitration eligible. Whatever they wind up being won’t be much more or less either way, and would qualify as a rounding error for this team. As part of this plan, I would probably non-tender Tim Redding, after I had earlier advocated keeping him around, mostly because the team has other players who can do what he does, and better, for less money. J.J. Putz’s buyout is included here, obviously he will not be back with the Mets.
Now that’s an improved lineup, no? Figure the everyday batting order would be 1) Reyes, 2) Castillo, 3) Wright, 4) Branyan, 5) Beltran, 6) Francoeur, 7) Byrd, Zaun, 9) Pitcher. If Reyes is healthy, that’s a pretty darned good lineup, with a good mix of power, on-base, and defense. I’m content with that. Plus, Zaun, Byrd, and Branyan would all be good one-year stop gaps for Josh Thole, Ike Davis, and Fernando Martinez, allowing them each another season in Buffalo to hone their craft and get ready for bigger roles in 2011. If each of these guys can become major league regulars, then spending huge money for a Holliday or a Bay or a (ugh) Molina is a waste of cash.
Most of these guys are rounding errors, but I’m guessing that’s about what 1-3 year players would be expected to make in 2010, with the exception of Pagan, who is actually arbitration eligible, but I can’t see him making much more than that.
I’ve spent $142.6 million, which isn’t much higher than they spent last year, and the team looks a lot different and a lot better. The Perez and Frankie contracts are really hurting the payroll flexibility here, or else I think I could have done even better. Those two contracts alone should have gotten Omar fired, it’s all dead money. Anyway, a review of what we’ve done:
- Improved the starting rotation with a legitimate #2 starter slotted behind Johan Santana.
- Improved the outfield defense by adding Marlon Byrd to the mix.
- Improved the infield defense by replacing Alex Cora with Adam Everett.
- Added a legit middle of the order power bat in Russell Branyan.
So while we’re spending a good deal of money, the core has legitimate complementary parts that bring something to the table. Plus, we would the following players on the 40 man roster:
- Josh Thole
- Fernando Martinez
- Nelson Figueroa
- Fernando Nieve
- Lance Broadway
- Eddie Kunz (although I would seriously consider designating him for assignment)
- Tobi Stoner
- Anderson Hernandez
- Chris Carter
With room for five other players, minor league free agents and what have you. This doesn’t even include non-tender candidates, since it’s hard to figure out who exactly would be non-tendered this early into the game. It also doesn’t include guys like Ken Takahashi or Wilson Valdez, whom they could easily bring back on minor league deals. Most importantly, I didn’t trade a single prospect to get here, which helps our depth for next season with Thole, F!, and Ike Davis waiting in the wings if somebody goes down. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think this team is a much better bet to contend than anything we’ve seen since 2006. Let’s see what the real team does.
One more time, thanks to MLBtraderumors.com for their list of available free agents for 2010 as well as their list of Type A and Type B free agents. They were an invaluable resource in putting this “plan” together.