Joel Sherman of the New York Post decided to come up for a plan for the New York Mets to improve under the assumption that team only has about $10 million left in payroll wiggle room. The big move he proposes is trading Yoenis Cespedes.
Sherman starts out with the idea of trading Cespedes though assuring Mets fans that it’s extremely unlikely given the full no-trade clause Yoenis has and the already growing discontent in the fan base.
Cespedes, 32, has three years, $87.5 million left on his contract including $29 million for each of the next two seasons. The slugging outfielder played a career-low 81 games in 2017 because of a season long right hamstring issue.
However, Cespedes did hit .292/.352/.540 with 17 doubles, 17 home runs, 42 RBI and 132 OPS+ in those 81 games.
Sherman proposes two different teams for Cespedes.
In return for Cespedes, Sherman thinks that the combination of second baseman Joe Panik and closer Mark Melancon makes sense for the Mets. New York has been searching for an everyday solution at second and could still use another late-inning option to boost their bullpen.
Panik, 27, is from Yonkers, New York and is estimated to make $3.5 million through arbitration in 2018 while being under team control for three seasons. The left-handed hitter slashed .288/.347/.421 with 28 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 104 OPS+ and struck out only 9.4% of the time. He did win the Gold Glove in 2016, but saw his defense slip to -11 DRS in 2017.
Melancon, 32, is coming off a disastrous first season with the Giants that saw him post 4.50 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 11.1 H/9 and had surgery on his right forearm in September. The veteran closer will make $10 million in 2018 then can make $14 million in each of 2019 and 2020 or decide to opt-out after 2018.
Trading Cespedes to the Giants would net an estimated $15.5 million in salary relief for the Mets in 2018.
The second trade possibility that Sherman feels could work is shipping Cespedes back to the Red Sox for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox have been one of the few teams connected to slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez this offseason as they look to add pop to a team that was last in home runs this past season.
Bradley, 27, would give the Mets an everyday option in center field which has been missing for quite some time. The left-handed hitter had a down season offensively with a .245/.323/.402 slash line. He hit 19 doubles, 17 home runs, drove in 63, stole eight bases and had a 89 OPS+ (Juan Lagares career OPS+ is 84 and was 75 in 2017).
While he offensive output was down (Bradley had 119 OPS+ in 2015 and 118 OPS+ in 2016) the defense was still a huge plus with 10 DRS and 4.2 UZR.
Bradley is estimated to make $5.9 through arbitration in 2018 meaning the Mets could save $23.1 million in the swap. I think that the Red Sox might want to even the salaries out more and utility man Brock Holt (estimated $2 million) would give the Mets needed infield depth.
The second part of Sherman’s plan, trading Juan Lagares. It’s been reported by multiple outlets that teams have called the Mets this offseason about the availability of the often injured defensive gem.
Sherman would again target the Giants as a fit for an outfielder trade and targets Joe Panik yet again. The Giant have sent out Denard Span to play center field the last two years and has a combined -34 DRS in those two seasons. Span was sent packing to the Rays in the Evan Longoria trade and the Giants could get a huge defensive upgrade from Lagares and his 15 DRS last season.
Lagares for Panik would save the Mets $3 million in 2018 and shed the $9 million Juan is owed for 2019.
The second target for Sherman in a Lagares trade is the Oakland Athletics and infield Jed Lowrie. The switch-hitting Lowrie is due to make only $6 million in his final year and his capable of playing all over the infield.
Lowrie, 33, had arguably the best season of his career in 2017 when he posted 4.1 WAR while slashing .277/.360/.448 in 153 games. He had a career-high 49 doubles, 14 home runs, 69 RBI and 119 OPS+.
On the defensive side he played a majority (136 games) at second base where he had -2 DRS. He’s also played 131 games at third base where he’s been a solid defender (5 DRS), 11 games at first and he started his major league career as a shortstop.
Lowrie may not be enough with Sherman say the Mets should try to include one of Jake Smolinski and Daniel Coulombe. Smolinski is an outfielder that smashes lefties to a tune of .877 OPS in the majors. Coulombe is a left-handed reliever that has held lefties to a .585 OPS in his big league career. Both will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2019.
Next Sherman thinks the Mets given their lack of resources should try a pillow contract with a player and his pick is Carlos Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 32 would fill the role of insurance in right field and first base. He has never played first base but routinely takes ground balls there before games and said before last season he would have no problem playing the position if asked.
The free agent veteran has seen a limited market after he struggled in 2017 with a .262/.339/.423 slash line and a 87 OPS+ (his worst since rookie season). Though Gonzalez has 15 DRS overall in right field he had -3 DRS in 2017.
The left-handed hitter did hit .314/.390/.531 in the second half of last season but is still likely to get a one-year rebound type of deal after being below replacement level (-0.2 WAR) overall in 2017.
Obviously given the Mets payroll restrictions they will have to search for cheap veterans on short-term deals. Sherman mentions the versatile Howie Kendrick, veteran slugger Jose Bautista, defensive specialist Danny Espinosa and former Met Dillon Gee (signed with Japanese team on Wednesday night).
Let’s work with these moves a little bit to see if we can combine them to make a picture because just one of these moves on its own isn’t making the Mets a contender.
If your going to trade Cespedes for Bradley it would add ~$23.1 million to the estimated 2018 budget giving the Mets $33 million to work with. Bradley makes Lagares expendable so you then ship him to the A’s for Lowrie and Smolinski. This move is basically a wash from a payroll standpoint.
The Mets now need a corner outfielder and let’s go with Sherman’s want in Gonzalez on a one-year, $12 million deal (predictions by MLBTR). Mets budget is now at $21 million for 2018. Add the veteran utility guy Kendrick who is predicted to get $6 million per year by MLB Trade Rumors, budget now at $15 million.
In this highly unlikely (but hey the offseason is dead let’s get creative) scenario:
Mets lose – Cespedes, Lagares
Mets add – Bradley, Lowrie, Smolinski, Gonzalez, Kendrick and still have roughly $15 million to spend on pitching
Again, most of this is probably not going to happen and trading away one of your best players is rarely a good idea. Though it would release a significant amount of funds to try and fix multiple areas of need.