Fantasy GM: What Would I Do If I Were Running The Mets?

It’s easy to sit and write an article saying that the Mets should sign Jason Bay, trade for Adrian Gonzalez and Roy Halladay and who knows what else. To examine the Mets offseason like they are working without the constrictions of a budget would be a mistake. They aren’t the Yankees.

Given the number of holes they have, the Mets are going to need to be smart in order to not only fill them all, but to do so in a manner that improves the ball club. I tried to keep my budget in the $35-40 million range, which is what I’ve seen reported that the Mets will have, but did come off slightly above that. With ownership saying that Omar Minaya will have whatever funds necessary to get the job done, then I can certainly see the slight increase being acceptable.

With that said, let’s take a look at what I would do if I were in the driver’s seat:

1. Trade Luis Castillo to the Tigers for Nate Robertson

Honestly, you can fill in the blank for who the Mets take back for Castillo, but the most important thing is that he is no longer on the roster. With 2 years and $12 million left on his contract, you have to think that someone would be willing to swallow that contract to rid themselves of an equally bad contract.

Why the Tigers? First of all, their incumbent second baseman, Placido Polanco, is a free agent and chances are the Tigers aren’t going to bring him back due to the presence of prospect Scott Sizemore. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Sizemore was injured in the AFL and while they are saying he should be ready for Spring Training, you never really know. An insurance policy is certainly needed

That is something Castillo could provide, while also helping the Tigers alleviate some of their own budget-crunch. At $10 million in 2010, this swap actually opens up $4 million for the Tigers to work with this season, something they desperately need to help plug some of their other holes.

Granted, Robertson will be an extremely overpaid long reliever/spot starter for the Mets, but it’s the price that needs to be paid in order to fully realize my offseason plans.

2. Sign Chone Figgins via free agency

There are a few options available, so this is the order that I would target them:

1. Chone Figgins
2. Mark DeRosa
3. Orlando Hudson

I’m going to focus on Figgins, because I think he is the perfect type of player to build a line-up with in CitiField. Could you imagine having Reyes/Figgins hitting 1-2 at the top of the line-up? The Mets would be one of the biggest pains to play against with that combo, reminiscent of the Marlins Juan Pierre/Castillo combination.

I also think that rumors of Figgins looking for a 5 year, $50 million contract are probably slightly overblown. He’ll be 32-years old by Opening Day, and I don’t see most teams looking to be paying a 36-year old $10 million, especially when a lot of his value comes from his legs.

I do not have a problem giving him slightly more money a year, however, in order to get him to accept a 3-4 year deal, as well as to play 2B. It’ll likely cost between $8-10 million to get him signed, so I hope the Mets go the extra mile (and use the Francisco Rodriguez connection) to get him signed.

As much as I want to dream about the Reyes/Figgins pairing, what if Reyes’ leg injury prohibits him from being the player that he once was? What if he can’t be that dynamic force at the top of the line-up? With Figgins, you have the replacement in house already. People say that you can’t replace what Reyes does, but with Figgins you come reasonably close.

3. Trade a low-level prospect for Kelly Shoppach

I don’t want any of the garbage that is flooding the free agent market. The only player who is mildly interesting is Bengie Molina, but the chances of him signing a 1-year deal are minimal and at 35-years old (he turns 36 in July) I don’t want to be giving him any significant type of contract.

Shoppach, meanwhile, is a non-tender candidate who the Indians want to dump. They are one of the few teams with excessive catching depth and at $2 million, they are looking to allocate that money elsewhere.

He is a potentially good bat, as he’s hit 33 home runs in 623 AB over the past two seasons. Granted, the average may not be stellar, but how many catchers provide a high-level average?

Defensively, he is pretty solid as well. Remember, Victor Martinez missed a huge chunk of the 2008 season so it was Shoppach catching Cliff Lee during his Cy Young campaign (22-3, 2.54 ERA).

I’m not sold on Omir Santos maintaining his shocking 2009 season and we all know Josh Thole needs more seasoning in the minor leagues. Shoppach has never been given the chance to play everyday, but he appears to have the bat to do so. Otherwise, you use him in a platoon. Either way, he’s the perfect fit for the Mets, so I would go out and get him before the Indians cut him and allow the rest of baseball free range on him.

4. Sign Erik Bedard via free agency

I’m penciling him for a 1-year, $5 million contract with a ton of incentives. It’s a deal that would make sense for both sides. The Mets need a potential #2 starting pitcher and Bedard needs a chance to rebuild his value after struggling with injuries the past two seasons. We’ve seen time and time again, if you want to rebuild some value, you jump to the NL.

Is he a risk? Absolutely, but the money just isn’t going to be in the budget to get a high-level guarantee considering the other holes the team has. Bedard has proven that if healthy, he is almost a lock to be a Cy Young candidate, so he makes the most sense from the risk/reward standpoint.

Fallback options here would be Rich Harden, Brett Myers or Ben Sheets.

5. Sign Rich Hill to a minor league contract

Exactly where is the downside? He’s proven he could be effective when he has his control, so I would fully support the Mets making the low-risk move. If he can put things together, he could be a #3 starter, especially as a flyball pitcher calling a pitcher’s park home.

If he fails? You release him at no real loss.

6. Sign Jason Marquis via free agency

The Mets have enough risks already, don’t they? While the roster is already riddled with them (as well as my proposal to add two more), you need to add someone that you can depend on. I considered others, like John Garland, Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf, but I think Marquis is the best option that fits into the budget.

He’s a groundball pitcher who has struggled with the longball a bit in the past, something that would be limited in CitiField. Is he a spectacular option? Of course not, but he can be penciled in for at least 190 innings and quite possibly with an ERA in the 3.75-4.10 range.

Of the options I considered, I also think he is the one who is probable signable in the $5-6 million a year range, so that’s the direction we’ll go here (if they can find the money to sign Randy Wolf along with the other moves, he would be my top choice).

7. Sign Marlon Byrd via free agency

This may not be the popular pick, but he fits the Mets needs. While he’s not the prototypical #5 hitter, he spent 287 AB hitting fourth and fifth for a Texas Rangers team that was one of the best offenses in the game.

He had 65 extra base hits last season, 43 of which were doubles. That certainly would play well in the confines of CitiField. He’s not slow and would do a good job lengthening the Mets line-up.

He also is a solid defensive outfielder, exactly what the Mets need. Is he a Gold Glover? No, but with Carlos Beltran & Jeff Francoeur, he’s a perfect fit.

Coming off a career season where he made just over $3 million, the 32-year old could easily sign 3 year, $21 million contract (if not a little bit more). Throw in some incentive bonuses and it’s a perfect match.

8. Trade Angel Pagan, Reese Havens & Daniel Murphy to the Toronto Blue Jays for Lyle Overbay, David Purcey & Jeremy Accardo (or some other relief pitcher like Brian Tallet)

This is the type of trade where Omar Minaya has done well with in the past. Remember, both John Maine and Oliver Perez were seen as “throw-ins” when they were originally acquired, yet they became important cogs in the rotation (at least for a little while). Purcey has the same type of upside and would give the team tremendous depth.

While Overbay may not be the most popular choice, he is a solid bat and a good glove, the things the Mets really need at the position. He could be the same type of player as John Olerud was for the team, another former Blue Jay that they imported. His contract also expires after the 2010 season, opening up the position for Ike Davis, if he is ready to take it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Let’s look at how things would stand if the Mets followed my plan:

Reyes, SS
Figgins, 2B
Wright, 3B
Beltran, CF
Byrd, RF
Overbay, 1B
Francoeur, LF
Shoppach, C

Rotation Options:
Johan Santana
Erik Bedard
Jason Marquis
Mike Pelfrey
John Maine
Oliver Perez
David Purcey
Rich Hill
Jon Niese

I’ll call this the Boston Plan, taking low-risk gambles on a group of pitchers and hoping that a few of them pan out. With the group that they have here, I would be comfortable. They’d have the depth to handle injuries and could move someone like Maine to the bullpen if need be.

The offense may not look spectacular, but you have a line-up that is solid from 1 through 8, as well as some pop at every spot after the top two. You also have a much stronger defensive team, which is exactly what the Mets should be looking to build.

Obviously, there are a few other moves that need to be made. They need to add a relief pitcher or two (Chad Bradford would be a good fit) and some solid bench options (how about Rocco Baldelli). Those are just as important as the rest of the moves I’ve mentioned, but they are interchangeable. You never know which relief pitcher is going to emerge. There are other bench options that are available.

No, it’s not going to be the most popular plan, because it lacks the big splash many want to see the Mets make, but that is not necessarily needed. What they need to do is be smart, fill all of their holes and add plenty of depth. If they can do that, they should once again be competitive in the NL East.

What do you think of this? What moves would you make? Which do you think are bad ideas?

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