MMO Fan Shot: How to Fix the Mets

An MMO Fan Shot by Marc M. (Not 4)

The first and most obvious step is that the Mets desperately need an intelligent, thoughtful, forward-thinking head of baseball operations to oversee all aspects of the team – including the MLB team, development of minor league players, scouting/draft/international signings, free agent signings, roster construction, the medical staff and even communications/PR – all without the interference of ownership.

Yes, that’s a tall task; perhaps more like a fairly unfortunately. So I’ll take a shot at some of the things I would like the Mets to do to get back on track with one caveat – I do not view anything as etched in stone and hope that whomever is running the Mets takes the same approach; all plans should be organic and flexible, depending upon how players perform and circumstances develop.

The one thing I would insist on, however, is no more square pegs in round holes – only sign or trade for players who fit what is needed.  In other words, avoid a signing like Jay Bruce last year.

This offseason, I would like to see the Mets make the following moves:

  • Sign Jacob deGrom to a multi-year deal. Buy out his last two years of arbitration (where he is poised to receive perhaps the highest salaries ever received by an arbitration-eligible pitcher – around $16.5 million next year and $20.5 million in 2020) and three years of free agency. While that may seem short compared to other contracts recently given to some top pitchers, he is already 30 and would not be a free agent until he is 32-years-old. Thinking a five year/$131 million contract may get it done, with a $10 million signing bonus and base salaries of $16.5/20.5/28/28/28 million over the five years (all of which will be $2 million more for salary cap purposes to account for the signing bonus).
  • Sign Zack Wheeler to a three-year/$35.5 million contract – $5.5 million in 2019 (last year of arb, which is probably about what he can expect to receive), followed by $15 million in the ensuing two years. Between the injuries, his up and down performance, it’s a risk on both sides. But if Wheeler keeps pitching like he has the past several weeks, this is a risk worth taking for the Mets, while giving Wheeler some serious security.  
  • Although I really like how Robert Gsellman has pitched, I believe the team should still invest in a closer/back end arm. Craig Kimbrel will likely command close to $18 million per year for at least 4-5 years. As good as he has been, that is a lot of money to tie up in a closer for his age 31-35 seasons (assuming it’s a five-year deal).  Some may hate it, but I would rather see the Mets resign Jeurys Familia, who seemingly can be had for somewhere around a three-yr/$27 million deal and, despite some fans’ view of him, is a very solid closer.
  • Consider signing a catcher.  This obviously will depend upon how Kevin Plawecki looks the rest of the year and who is available. This is also less important if the Mets make the final offseason move that so many want…
  • Sign Manny Machado. True, it is a second generation contract for big money and too many years, but Machado is only 26-years-old, so he is the exception to the rule. It’s not clear how crazy the bidding may get, but perhaps a seven-year/$192.5M contract will get it done, which is an AAV of $27.5 million per year.

With those moves, the Mets would have a payroll of just over $175 million, but after insurance recoveries for David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes (assuming Cespedes returns for the second half of the year and Wright misses the entire year), the payroll would stand around $157 million, which is not too far off the past couple of years.

This number excludes Travis d’Arnaud’s approximately $3.4 million estimated salary and Jenrry Mejia’s approximate $2 million contract (as it’s hard to imagine relying on him for anything until he actually does it). That is also assuming the Mets are unable to trade any of the players who do not really fit the team.

Pitching:

The starting rotation will be anchored by deGrom, Noah Syndergaard (who, as long as he stays healthy, I’d sign to a long term deal the following offseason), Wheeler, Steven Matz and one of Jason Vargas, Corey Oswalt or Seth Lugo (with the other two probably pitching out of the bullpen).

Familia and Gsellman would be our primary high leverage guys. The last three spots of the bullpen would be filled by Anthony Swarzak (who hopefully has a bounce back year), Drew Smith and perhaps Daniel Zamora (if he proves to be an effective LOOGY).

There is no shortage of arms behind them and would expect to see a shuttle system at times like this year that likely will include Tyler Bashlor, Paul Sewald, Bobby Wahl, Jacob Rhame, Gerson Bautista, Eric Hanhold, Jamie Callahan, P.J. Conlon, Franklyn Kilome, Tim Peterson and even Mejia.

I have a feeling that Lugo may be the fifth starter, and Vargas will be used out of the pen, which will be anchored by Familia, Gsellman, Swarzak and hopefully Smith (who has really looked good so far). I expect Oswalt and Bashlor to see the most time of the remaining players, but again, that is a very organic situation dependent upon how everyone is pitching.

Position Players:

While I know that many will crucify my choice for the two-hole, I am suggesting this lineup in part because of how I hope/expect (more hope admittedly) he will produce these last several weeks of the season, in part because he always thrived in the two and three holes in the minors and in part because I think it lengthens the lineup.

This lineup is what I hope for about three weeks into the season after the Mets hopefully call up Peter Alonso:

  1. Brandon Nimmo CF
  2. Amed Rosario SS
  3. Michael Conforto RF
  4. Manny Machado 3B
  5. Jeff McNeil 2B
  6. Peter Alonso 1B
  7. Jay Bruce LF
  8. Kevin Plawecki C

The bench will be Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, Luis Guillorme and Tomas Nido (or some other backup catcher if the Mets want to let Nido develop more in Syracuse).

Obviously, this is not ideal in that it only includes one backup OF, but I am hoping that by the time that Cespedes comes back around mid-season, we can trade Frazier, with Bruce being the primary backup outfielder and part time first baseman. When Cespedes returns, I’d also change around the lineup by putting Machado in the two hole, Cespedes hitting cleanup and drop Rosario to the nine hole.

If McNeil proves to be a flash in the pan, you can always play Flores (or Guillorme) in at 2B in the short run, with Andres Gimenez as the longer term safety valve, who could be ready as early as mid-season next year if he tears it up.

If Alonso does not win the 1B job, or cannot hold it down, again Flores can handle it in the short term, with Bruce (once Cespedes is back) and even Dominic Smith as additional alternatives in the short-run.

The following offseason, assuming he stayed healthy in 2019, I would sign Syndergaard to a seven year/$165.5 million contract, which effectively buys out his last two years of arbitration (at $11.5 million and $16 million) and five years of free agency, with $26 million the third year, and then $28 million for the next four years (or some variation thereof).

We can also use the $34.5 million coming off the books from Swarzak, Vargas, Frazier and Lagares becoming free agents to sign another back-end reliever and/or a fifth starter, depending upon what the Mets needs are at that time – hoping of course that enough of our young bullpen arms develop enough that we have an embarrassment of riches in the pen (which is an oxymoron, as you can never have enough pitchers, due to injury, under-performance, etc).

Once again, I would also consider filling the catcher position, depending upon Plawecki’s performance and what is available in the open market and via trade.

It’s tough to keep projecting out into 2020 and beyond because there are so many moving parts, but by then Andres Gimenez, Justin Dunn and Tomas Nido should both have legitimate shots to be truly MLB ready and contribute to the team.

Plus, many of our currently top prospects will have moved up the system, hopefully providing us some depth in the farm system, which will be used to help flesh out the team and as trade chips if the right situation comes along.

In particular, guys like David Peterson, Thomas Szapucki, Jordan Humphreys, Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Jose Santana, Jarred Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Tony Dibrell and Chris Viall should be scattered anywhere from AA (or even possibly AAA for Peterson) to A+ (or maybe still Columbia for a few of the younger guys).

And we still have some highly paid, very young international signees filling out the lower minors. The following year, the Mets will have another $44 million drop of the books just from Cespedes and Bruce becoming free agents, as well as Wright’s contract finally disappearing (though the actual savings from that is not likely to be more than a few million because of insurance recoveries in past years). By then we’ll also have to consider who else should be extended – guys like Conforto, Nimmo and Matz will be the most urgent on that list.

Putting aside what I started with – the glaring need for a strong baseball mind in the front office to truly run operations, which is the most important need – the ability for this team to turn it around quickly really hinges on the ability to bring in Machado and the willingness of the FO/ownership to open up their purse strings a bit wider than they have been recently.

 Signing Machado, coupled with extending deGrom and Wheeler and bringing in a closer this offseason, gives us a legitimate chance to compete with anyone. And over the ensuing years, that chance becomes more and more viable as we shed players who are the wrong fit, and have players making their way through the minors.

***

This was a Fan Shot by Marc M. (Not 4). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to GetMetsmerized@aol.com or use this Contact Form. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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