Last week I asked my editorial staff to help me produce a series of offseason plans for the Mets ahead of the Winter Meetings, which kickoff on Monday. Essentially, I asked each of my editors what they would do if they were the GM of the team and had just $30-35 million to work with.
As far as guidelines go, I asked everyone to use the free agent contract projections of MLB Trade Rumors and Jon Heyman to complete their plans and help them stay under budget. It’s all for fun, and I think you’ll enjoy what we came up with.
So without further a do, we leadoff with my offseason plan. My focus was on improving the team’s defense with all-around offensive players, while anchoring the rotation with a legit quality innings-eater and adding a pair of quality arms that could strengthen and stabilize the Mets bullpen. Here goes…
Offseason Plan No. 1 – Joe D
Lorenzo Cain, Crown Jewel of Mets Offseason
A player that I have coveted the last few years, Lorenzo Cain would strike an incredible balance of defensive and offensive ability that the Mets haven’t seen in center field since Carlos Beltran donned the orange & blue.
A true five-tool player in every respect, Cain has been worth a 20.5 WAR since 2014, with at least 4.0 in three of the last four seasons, his only blip in 2016 when he missed 59 games with injuries. He’s also had wRC+ marks of 109, 128, 99 and 115 respectively over the last four seasons, and he has substantially improved his strikeout rates over recent seasons. His 15.5 percent strikeout rate last year was the best mark of his career.
In other words, there’s no signs of slowing down for the right-handed speedster who posted a .363 on-base percentage last season, while swiping 26 bases and only being caught twice. Cain would give the Mets a potent offensive weapon at the top of the order and would also provide some pop as his 15 home runs would attest.
Defensively, Cain doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves. He’s an above-average defender, one that has saved 77 runs above average in 634 games in center. Last season he made 99 percent of routine rated catches and posted a 1.6 UZR, which while solid, was a step down for him. He has averaged a 7.9 UZR in four previous seasons and a defensive rebound should be in order.
Cain, 31, has posted a .300/.347/.436 slash line since 2014 and has been very consistent since being slotted in the Kansas City Royals leadoff spot. His platoon splits are pretty even, posting a .824 versus RHP and a .797 OPS against LHP.
For a team that often struggled to score runs and frequently had the bases empty whenever someone went deep, Cain could help remedy that situation and his glove will save some runs for a pitching staff that allowed way too many unearned runs.
Projections have Cain averaging about $15 million annually or basically what Curtis Granderson earned as a Met. I’m projecting a four year deal valued at $66 million dollars, which would be worth every penny for the Mets.
Look, I’m not saying Cain is perfect, but he’s a substantial upgrade over what we’ve had in center over the last four years and he’s ideal in the leadoff spot. He’ll help a team that ranked last in stolen bases as well.
Mets Trade For 5-Time All Star Ian Kinsler
The Tigers are reportedly expected to address center field this Winter and may even kick the tires on Lorenzo Cain though nobody believes they’ll be able to afford him. Mikie Mahtook had -13 defensive runs saved for the Tigers last season and they are looking to get a defensive minded center fielder.
By getting Juan Lagares in a deal for Ian Kinsler, the Tigers will have a true center fielder and perhaps the league’s best defensively. Because Lagares will earn $6.5 million next season, the Mets can up their offer by kicking in relief prospect Jamie Callahan along with right-hander Seth Lugo in exchange for Kinsler. The deal would fill three areas of need that the Tigers have identified for their offseason.
For the Mets, moving Lagares offsets the $11 million that Kinsler is owed in 2018 and he ends up netting out at $4.5 million and upgrades a vital infield position defensively and offensively.
The New York Mets and Detroit Tigers are already in “preliminary discussions” regarding a trade for Kinsler as reported by Jon Morosi.
Kinsler was a finalist for the gold glove this year after winning the award in 2016. He had six defensive runs saved in 2017.
Offensively, Kinsler is coming off an off year that saw him bat .236 with 22 home runs, 90 runs scored and 14 stolen bases while posting a .725 OPS and 2.1 WAR. But he’s only a year removed from batting .288 with a .348 on base percentage, 28 home runs and a 6.1 WAR season.
Team insiders have said that all the trade talk weighed heavily on Kinsler last season, and he could see a return to form in 2018. He has been lauded for his veteran leadership and winning attitude.
GM Sandy Alderson has on more than one occasion called second base a critical issue that the Mets need to solve before spring training.
Mets Reunite With R.A. Dickey
R.A. Dickey could be the perfect addition for a Mets starting rotation that had just one starter in Jacob deGrom to give the team 30 starts last season. The former Met ended up starting 31 games for the Braves last season and led the team with 190 innings pitched. His 4.26 ERA and 4.33 FIP also led the team and he posted a 2.1 WAR which would have placed second on the Mets ahead of Addison Reed (1.8 WAR).
While he hasn’t been nearly as dominant since his Cy Young Award campaign with the Mets, he’s been a league-average pitcher for the Blue Jays and Braves since 2013, going 59-62 with a 4.09 ERA, and a 100 ERA+. He’s thrown at least 190 innings in four of the last five seasons, and has made at least 29 starts in all of them. He’s no star, but he’s a capable No. 4 or No. 5 starter for sure — and someone without an extensive recent injury history.
The knuckleballer earned $7.5 million last season and the Braves declined his $8 million option for 2018. If the Mets could talk him into one more season, they could probably seal the deal for $6 million or less.
Mets Sign Pair Of Relievers
Even though he’s been pitching for Colorado over the last two seasons, reliever Jake McGee has a 3.15 ERA and 1.101 WHIP over his seven year career.
Last season, McGee delivered a solid season that was even better than his 3.61 ERA would indicate. The Rockies’ setup man posted a 2.93 FIP and 1.099 WHIP with a 9.1 strikeout rate and remarkably allowed just four home runs in 62 appearances, 30 of them in Coors Field.
McGee, 31, is one of the best left-handed relievers in the league and he comes with closing experience, having racked up 44 career saves.
I’m a firm believer that the Mets need more than just one arm in the bullpen, and I’m in love with the idea of bringing right-hander Joe Smith back to the fold.
Smith, 33, split last year between the Blue Jays and Indians, averaging a career-best 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings with a 2.10 FIP and 1.037 WHIP. He held right-handed batters to a .546 OPS last season and a .587 OPS for his career.
The additions of McGee and Smith to a backend of the bullpen that already includes Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins, could take the Mets from one of the worst bullpens to one of the best, and they don’t have to break the bank to do it.
Total Cost: $35 Million