Everybody Loves Winter Season

An article by posted on November 13, 2009

Everybody loves the winter baseball season. It’s the time when we all become experts. We all get to spend X amount of imaginary dollars, and if some of our moves happen, we get to call into AM radio and say “I said all along the Mets should get _____.” (By the way if they sign Nick Johnson, I’m re-posting my blog about that!) 

It’s never too early to start writing your Christmas Wish List right? This year the Winter Meetings are in Indianapolis, so unlike years when it was in Vegas or Orlando, there’s actually not much to do except talk Baseball this year. I’m expecting an active session this year.

I’m not one to get into speculation as much. It seems like every day you hear about a “rumor” or a trade possibility just days after the World Series. I’m the kind of guy that writes up my wish list, and then when I get nothing I want, I try and look at the bright side of getting a pair of socks. 

I’ve gotten into a debate on one of my other articles regarding Luis Castillo versus Brandon Phillips. Here’s my basic statement regarding that kind of move. I don’t like teams getting players just to get them. We saw how Citi Field played last year. That’s not going to change. So we as fans need to stop wanting things that our team and our stadium are not built for. 

Here is what we should be building around. 

We have an explosive SS who can hit leadoff, and if given the chance by his #2 hitter, many singles and walks can turn into doubles and eventual runs. 

We have a guy who has won a Gold Glove at 3B, he’s still young, and while he didn’t hit for power last year, he has the potential to do so. Until he does, he’s a very capable #3 hitter. 

We have one of the best CF’s in the entire sport who also can hit for power in the middle of the lineup. 

We have a top 5 starting pitcher in Johan Santana who when healthy can go toe to toe with any starter in the sport. 

We have a top 5 closer who struggles at times, but almost every team would prefer to have him on their roster over their current closer. 

Now let’s go build a team. 

Let’s ignore the bullpen for now. The bullpen is such an unpredictable aspect of the sport, and if you have your closer, you have figured out the hard part. 

You know that Francoeur is in RF, so plug him in. You also know whether you like it or not that Oliver Perez will be in the starting rotation in 2010. Then, you know either Mike Pelfrey or John Maine will have a spot as well (possibly both.)

It’s sad, but those are their certainties in terms of our starting 8, and their staff. 

So without even looking at possibilities you have Reyes hitting #1, which means you don’t need a leadoff hitter. You have Beltran/Wright in an interchangeable 3/4 slot, and you have Francoeur capable to be a #5 hitter, but probably ideally a #6. You have Perez occupying your 4/5 slot, and Pelfrey or Maine being your #3. 

This means the Mets need to fill LF, 2B, 1B, C and ideally get a 2, 5, 7, 8 hitter out of them. Then for the staff you know you need a #2 arm, plus a #5 who is capable of being a #4 if Oliver is well…Oliver. 

#2: I’m going to concede getting rid of Castillo. I do not think it’s fair to be so against him after the 2009 season he had. However, I’m no fool and I recognize the need to dump that contract and sell high before it’s too late. You as the avid Mets fan need to remember we play in the National League. We’re not the Yankees; we shouldn’t be trying to get 20+ Homeruns out of our #2 hitter. What we should be asking for is a hitter who has quality bat control and being able to either get on base more frequently than an average hitter, or if they aren’t going to get on base, have the baseball knowledge to hit the ball behind the base runner to avoid a double play. What we don’t want is a guy hitting behind Reyes who will either strike out a lot, or fly out a lot. We certainly do not want a guy who is only as successful as his power numbers are high. 

Therefore, to me the logical move is to sign Chone Figgins to play second base. 

The biggest knock I’ve heard on Figgins lately is his post-season numbers. Look, the day I want to worry about potential players’ post-season numbers is the day after Game 1 of the LDS. You have to get there first. You need to play 162 games before you can even think about the final 19 (max.) 

What Figgins does well is what the Mets need behind Reyes. He has a great knowledge for the strike zone, taking 101 walks in 2009. While he does strike out more than I’d like, he brings a great ability to put the ball in play, get on base, and if Reyes doesn’t get on ahead of him, you have a 2nd leadoff hitter trying to get things started. 

So now we have 1. Reyes (SS) 2. Figgins (2B) 3. Wright (3B) 4. Beltran (CF)  5.______    6. Francouer (RF) 7. _______  8. __________ 

#5 This is where it gets tricky and the Mets need to be both good and lucky in their pursuits. I am cynical when it comes to both Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. I think Bay is a very poor defensive LF, and he just never has excited me as a player. Holliday is the type of player you love to root for, but there’s just something about those 93 games in Oakland this year that worry me. However, the lack of options and the need for a legitimate 5 hitter behind Beltran force me to say, the Mets have to get Holliday. 

Matt Holliday has big game experience, and he has already proven he can drop a fly ball, so we know he’ll fit right in. I don’t really care about his power so much as I care about his ability to put the bat on the ball. Jason Bay had a contact percentage of around 70% last year, when Matt Holliday was in the low 80’s. That may sound small to you, but that’s a big deal when you are hitting behind Carlos Beltran. With 2 out, the opposing pitcher needs to be worried about what he’s going to do if he lets Beltran get on base, not “let me walk Beltran and take my chances on striking the next guy out.” So let’s go shopping and sign the 29 year old left fielder to a deal he has earned.

So now we have 1. Reyes (SS) 2. Figgins (2B) 3. Wright (3B) 4. Beltran (CF)  5. Holliday (LF) 6. Francouer (RF) 7. _______  8. __________ 

We need a catcher and a 1B. If you’ve read my stuff you know I love Nick Johnson. I know he’s injured and yada yada, but he would be a good guy to have while letting Murphy mature. However, in this scheme, he doesn’t work. You’re not going to sign Johnson to bat 7th or 8th, and you certainly can’t move Wright/Beltran/Holliday down a slot each. 

So while I want Johnson, I’m going to say 1B is where the Mets stay put. I’m a Murphy supporter, I think he had entirely way too much pressure on him to perform in what was in reality his 1st full season as a big leaguer. He’s not a guy you build a lineup around, yet with all of the injuries last year we needed him to be something he’s not. With Ike Davis in the minors, and possibly making his way up within a year or so, I think you can’t get crazy at 1B if you want to hang on to Davis. You also have to remember, there are some limitations to the moves you make. Compare Murphy’s rookie season (not by ROY standards) to other Rookies. The fact he plays in New York, and was essentially a major media story for a better half of a season is why we are all so eager to replace him. If the future is Ike Davis at 1B, then the present is Daniel Murphy. 

I’m plugging Murphy into the 7 spot whether I like it or not. 

So now we have 1. Reyes (SS) 2. Figgins (2B) 3. Wright (3B) 4. Beltran (CF)  5. Holliday (LF) 6. Francouer (RF) 7. Murphy (1B) 8. __________ 

Okay we need an 8th hitter, and we need a catcher. The catcher position is becoming a spot where you seem to either have a great one in the MLB, or you don’t have one. Everybody loves the last name Molina. Frankly, Bengie and Jose are not Yadier. Look at their caught stealing numbers and then look at their offensive production. We also know Torrealba is not coming here, I’m pretty sure he’s still suing the Mets. I’m all for a defensive catcher, but I also want a guy who can at least do something at the plate. I don’t need MVP numbers, but I need a big league hitter. That is why I am hoping the Mets go and get Ramon Hernandez to be their starting catcher in 2010. 

Hernandez is coming off knee surgery in July, so his price tag won’t be as high as you’d expect for a starting player. The Reds look like they will decline his 8.5 million dollar option because they know he’s not worth that money. Compare Hernandez to Bengie Molina for a second.

Molina has the last name, but in 2009 he threw out just 23% of attempted base stealers. In 2008, Brian Schneider threw out 33% for the Mets by the way. Anyway, in comparison Hernandez threw out 20% in 2008’s full season. So between them you’re not making up much ground defensively with Molina. In fact both, whether you like it or not are downgrades defensively from Schneider. 

Offensively, Bengie and Hernandez are pretty close and if we’re looking for an 8 hitter, we want somebody cheap obviously, but we also want somebody who can get on base and clear out that pitcher’s spot. Hernandez is the better option in that sense. Neither of them are impressive, but Hernandez works a pitcher more during at-bats, he can draw a walk and overall gets on base. I don’t need a homerun hitter batting 8th, I need a guy who can keep a seat warm for Josh Thole until/unless we find out if Thole is for real. I like Hernandez for that spot. 

So there is my lineup
1. SS Reyes
2. 2B Figgins
3. 3B Wright
4. CF Beltran
5. LF Holliday
6. RF Francoeur
7. 1B Murphy
8. C. Hernandez/Santos 

Now we have to find a home for Luis Castillo. I like the idea of trading him to Los Angeles for Juan Pierre but man that’s a big contract for a backup outfielder. Unless they can get a better 1B or C option out of the deal or a bullpen arm or two, I can’t see the Mets dealing Castillo for anything more than a mid-level shot in the dark prospect or some utility fielder that we’ll only notice if the Mets have a replay of the 2009 injury plagued season. 

Now it’s time for Omar Minaya to be bold. It’s a risky move but the Mets have to make a play for Roy Halladay. Halladay is a free agent after this year and obviously will be looking for the big pay day that he deserves. The Mets need to look at getting Halladay in a sense that they are getting two #1 starters, and pay Halladay what he deserves after the trade, just as they did with Santana. If they don’t then they have to sign John Lackey, which is fine, but Lackey isn’t Halladay and likely will demand just as much $ on an open market. 

I’m actually not a huge Halladay guy, I mean obviously he’s great but he has pitched in a small market his whole career, so there’s always that “New York media,” issue. For Roy Halladay, the Mets need to unload. They need to send Fernando Martinez, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey or John Maine and Nick Evans and hope it’s enough. Toronto has a talented roster but they know they won’t keep Halladay, so they need to maintain some sort of possibility of a successful year by dealing Halladay. The problem is here is will new GM Alex Anthopoulous be willing to make his 1st move be the one that sends Halladay out of town. Plus, how long will it take? He’s likely going to be gun shy, so if in the meantime Lackey signs elsewhere, the Mets are in quite the pickle.

So that gives us the rotation of Santana, Halladay, Maine, _____, Perez. I kept Maine over Pelfrey because while I like Pelfrey a lot, he’s more valuable than Maine in that deal for Toronto. 

The last pickup I’d make would be Jason Marquis. The thing I like most about him is his ability to stay in games past the 6th, and the fact he’s a groundball pitcher. He doesn’t strike a lot of guys out, but at the 4/5 slot you don’t need that kind of guy, especially if you have Santana and Halladay 1/2. Marquis is the kind of low budget/low profile type pitcher that would fit in nicely with this team and this stadium. 

So I finish out my rotation with Santana, Halladay, Maine, Marquis, Perez. 

Finally, the guys we all talk about, and the reasons I don’t like them: 

Orlando Hudson – To me, the only reason Mets fans want him is because we didn’t have him last year. All he is to me is a turn back the clock on Luis Castillo. He’s nothing special except his glove, and he has never impressed me at the plate. 

Brandon Phillips – I guess it’s an unpopular opinion, but I don’t want this guy on the Mets. You can’t tell me that after 3 years of misery, the best thing we can do is bring in a guy who was called out by his own manager as having a poor attitude and work ethic. I’m sorry but we don’t need more problems, we need solutions. Phillips doesn’t fit with the core of this team, and I have no interest in finding out if Dusty Baker was right. 

Aubrey Huff – It’s not that I’d flip out if the Mets acquired him. I just don’t see how he’s really any better than Murphy to be honest. Everybody loves talking about Huff because it’s like it makes us sound smart that we even know who he is. He’s coming off a pretty bad year, so is Murphy. So why pay 1 guy millions to rebound from it? 

Randy Wolf – Another one of those “sign him because we didn’t last year,” moves. I just don’t like making moves to try and make up for not doing the same thing last year. If Marquis was unavailable I’d say maybe let’s go for Wolf. I just feel as though Wolf is going to want that 2/3 slot, which he is not good enough for. Plus, he never really has impressed me. When he was with Philadelphia, I was never like “oh crap, Wolf is pitching.” 

Erik Bedard – Didn’t everybody see what happens when you treat Bedard like he’s anything more than a #5 starter? He probably still thinks he’s worthy of being a front line guy, and I want no part of that.

Joel Piniero – I like him, but I also think he’s a step below Marquis. I think Piniero benefits from the Duncan system more than any pitcher on that staff. I’m afraid of what happens when he comes to NY and is expected to pitch with the big boys. I think he’ll stay in St. Louis actually because he knows it’s where he belongs. 

Well there you have it. You know, everybody likes to have their wish list down on paper. We all have no clue what Omar has to spend, and what the trade market is. My goal was to spend big money on 1 free agent, above average on Chone and just hope to get lucky with the rest of the moves.

The lineup and staff I present is not the New York Yankees, but it fits the New York Mets core and the stadium they play in. It fits National League standards and if that was the team on Opening Day I think you’d see the Mets odds in Vegas are in the top 5 yet again.

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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