MMO Fan Shot: The Road To A Mets Postseason Contender

An MMO Fan Shot by Wall Flores

It’s certainly been an interesting offseason to date.  There’s been much anticipation, though not much in the way of substance for the longest of times. We’ve all been discussing at length with respect to optimal roster construction to get the Mets back to where they need to be as a contending team.

While there’s still a degree of difficulty when it comes to roster construction given payroll limits, there remain a few targeted moves in my view that Sandy Alderson and the Mets can make to solidify the roster and appropriately hedge their downside risk. Below are my general thoughts.

To preface this, I was making the assumption of a $141 million baseline payroll figure at the time this article was written.

Sign Two Starting Pitchers

There are fewer things that I’ve been more emphatic about than Gavin Cecchini, but this would certainly top the list. I’m of the view that the path of least resistance to get the Mets to contention is through a reversion to form of their starting staff.

They’re quite fortunate to have a once in a generation tandem at the top of rotation in Jacob Degrom and Noah Syndergaard, who can both in each case threaten for ~200 innings of 140 ERA+ production, which presents a distinct competitive advantage relative to most teams.

To this end, it would behoove the Mets to maximize the contending window to win a championship while they are pitching in lockstep. The hurdle to get the Mets back to a top 10 rotation isn’t particularly high, but it will require a degree of good fortune as it stands today.

Between Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler, the Mets don’t have a single starter who pitched at a supra 80 ERA+ level over a representative sample. Matz sans last season has shown historically that he can pitch quite well (supra 120 ERA+) when he is on the mound. I’m particularly bullish on him going into ’18, but with the uncertainty of his recovery from ulnar nerve surgery as well as his historic susceptibility to miss long periods of time (~2 months+) during the season, it seems a bit perilous to rely on this rotation during a good faith contention proposal.

The Mets can appropriately cover this deficiency by signing two 100 ERA+ starters (e.g., R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia, John Lackey). With Dickey and Lackey in particular they should be able to get 170+ quality innings, which should bode well if managed prudently.

The preferable move on the other hand would be to sign a 110 ERA+ pitcher in Alex Cobb along with one more 100 ERA+ pitcher such as Dickey. The combination of this will give the Mets a rotation with 4/5 of the starters locked in at supra 100 ERA+ (3 with potential for supra 120 ERA+), a quality 5th starter in Dickey, and a kingmaker in Matz if he indeed reverts to the form we all envisioned at a point in time.

The incremental effect of this would be that the Mets could look to put Zack Wheeler in the bullpen, which may help to preserve Wheeler’s arm while providing the potential for an excellent reliever in due course.

Sign Neil Walker

This should be caveated with the assumption that there aren’t qualitative factors that prevent a reunion, but I’m assuming this isn’t the case. Neil Walker would be a fantastic option for the Mets given his profile as a productive hitter. He’s averaged out to around a ~.350 OBP hitter with ~115 wRC+ over the last two seasons, which would be very helpful in adding further length and diversity to the lineup.

Walker should also come at a lower than expected duration if the current market fundamentals persist. While it’s not as flashy as a Josh Harrison or a Jason Kipnis, it’s a good option for the 2018 Mets. The addition in principle would give the Mets the potential for six supra 100 wRC+ hitters in the lineup, which would make for an above average offense.

Creative Economic Structuring

As a standalone, the above will cost in the neighborhood of ~$21-34 MM or so. When added to the ~$141 MM baseline figures, the total comes out to a gross of ~$162 (assumes two 100 ERA+ starter) to ~$175 MM (assumes Alex Cobb and 1 100 ERA+ starter), which isn’t likely a viable number.

However, the Mets can free up funds through some creative roster management. Trading Matt Harvey (~$5.63 MM) and Wilmer Flores (~$3.23 MM) to free up financial resources would provide ~$9 MM in salary relief for 2018.

Backloading Alex Cobb’s contract could help to save another ~$1-2 MM. The total payroll figures in this event could look something like the following:

Baseline: $141 MM
Baseline Win Projections: 81 wins (1)

Scenario 1

  • Sign Alex Cobb to a 4 year/$68 MM deal: +$17 MM AAV ($15 MM 2018 salary)
  • Sign R.A Dickey to a 1 year/$7 MM deal: +$7 MM AAV
  • Sign Neil Walker to a 1 year/$10 MM deal with a player option: +$10 MM AAV
  • Trade Matt Harvey for salary relief: -$5.63 MM
  • Trade Wilmer Flores for salary relief: $-3.23 MM

Total 2018 Payroll Expenditure (Gross): ~$164 MM

Approximate WAR Value Added: +4-8 wins

Scenario 2

  • Sign John Lackey to a 1 year/$7 MM deal: +$7 MM AAV
  • Sign R.A Dickey to a 1 year/$7 MM deal: +$7 MM AAV
  • Sign Neil Walker to a 1 year/$10 MM deal with a player option: +$10 MM AAV
  • Trade Matt Harvey for salary relief: -$5.63 MM
  • Trade Wilmer Flores for salary relief: $-3.23 MM

Total 2018 Payroll Expenditure (Gross): ~$156 MM

Approximate WAR Value Added: +3-5 wins

While gross payroll is still higher in both scenarios than was 2017 Opening Day, it has the ability to pare down another ~$10-12 MM should the Mets seek to trade away Swarzak, Walker, Cabrera, Dickey, and Lagares at the deadline for salary relief, as was done similarly in ’17.

Scenario 2 is a more realistic approach given a similar payroll profile to ’17, but I imagine Sandy could convince the Wilpons to up this figure slightly, with the rationale that payroll can be reduced given the lower duration contracts.

Final Thoughts

This concludes my proposal to round out the Mets’ roster construction. It’s by no means flashy, and it definitely doesn’t have any names that particularly stand out, but it will help to build a defensible contender with an outside shot at the NL East division with some luck and forward progression from the younger players.

By my back of the envelope, the composition of the team would make for an 85 win WC contender in a floor scenario, up to a 93-95 win team if:

  1. Both of Matz and Wheeler have outstanding years in excess of 120 ERA+
  2. Alex Cobb pitches to 120 ERA+ over a similar 2017 sample.
  3. Amed Rosario hits to a 95 wRC+ level with elite defense. This would raise guidance from current projections all the way up to a supra 3 WAR player.

The team on paper today certainly has potential. While the darkest days certainly seem most bleak, I have a feeling personally that the Mets will have a fantastic year this season.

If or when that comes to fruition, perhaps we can all come together at 2018’s season ending MMO summit. I envisage it to be an Algonquin Round Table of Sorts. 😛

Writer’s Note: Many thanks to everyone who read, and I hope that it was a useful read. Much of the credit for the proposals above should be attributed to Lefty, CJM, and TRS for helping to form my perspectives on this. As always, my thanks to Joe D and the rest of the superlative staff for their exceptional work in producing thoughtful and deliberative content. Here’s to greater times in 2018!

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This Fan Shot was written and contributed by MMO community member and die-hard Mets fan Wall Flores.  Have something you want to say about the Mets?  Send your article to or use this Contact Form. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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