MMO Fan Shot: A Potentially Radical Path to Build the 2019 Mets

An MMO Fan Shot by Robert Luciano.

It’s the offseason, so typical to the New York National League baseball fan and fans everywhere, it’s time to fill the void spent watching ballgames and going over game recaps with the news of the offseason.

Team outlooks, free agency, and the speculation of the best minds baseball journalism has to offer; Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, etc. But whom among us doesn’t like to imagine how they would build a roster for the upcoming season? Being the fallible individuals that we are and having just fallen short for the qualifications for general manager (I know, I thought I had a shot for the GM position too) we probably feel we know what is best for the team. Especially with the, let’s say slight organizational dysfunction. Don’t some of us older and experienced enough perhaps have some idea of what could help lead the New York Metropolitans to the promised land?

Well, it’s time for this author to give it the old college try. Read if you will how this typically intelligent and well informed New York National League baseball fan’s plan to go about building the roster for the upcoming season (because are the New York American League fans as intelligent as us? Eh, it’s possible, but come on, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a shot at ‘em).

Now, as mentioned in the title for the article, it is perhaps radical. Not to this author though, just perhaps because certain aspects of what is about to be proposed hasn’t yet been published or read about elsewhere.

It has been mentioned by new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen that he would like to improve the defense up the middle. To those that watch the majority of the ballgames, up the middle is not the only place the defense could be improved upon. Hopefully, not playing players out of position like Michael Conforto in center field when he is an excellent corner outfielder or say a left-handed lifetime first basemen in left field when Wilmer Flores is at first, will from the start of the season improve the defense.

As well as improvements from any young player on the roster, there are paths to improve the defense and the roster that this author hasn’t yet read or seen in the usual places.

So, here I present something radical, or just different. Part of the plan for constructing the roster includes a trade, and a trade for arguably the most sought after player of the offseason; J.T. Realmuto. I know, you’re probably tired of hearing about all of the possible destinations. It has been written by some that the New York Mets don’t have the quality prospects that the Miami Marlins are seeking. However, what if, when open minded enough, the Mets have the young, cost controllable players that are what the quid pro quo of a trade for such a player will demand.

How you may ask? Now it goes nearly without saying that a top five organizational prospect will need to be apart of a package, More than one, realistically. But what if you could argue that the Mets can: one improve the defense up the middle and behind the dish obviously with the arrival of Realmuto, and two, hold on to four of the top five prospects, including Peter Alonso. This is obviously all speculation and hypothetical, I am unable to calculate value the the way the good people at Fangraphs are. But this is just offseason fun and we don’t have to be exact. We can use a trade equivalent of the eye or the smell test.

Most of us know what is completely ridiculous and what is arguably close. That is what I’m going for. Is it enough to get a conversation started, an initial offer to get the Miami Marlins attention? And would you, if given the chance, be brave enough to execute?

Part of this plan, due to players being moved, involves a free agent signing. Not a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Just a middle infield position player who hasn’t been mentioned in connection with the Mets yet this offseason. I will start with the trade proposal I would make to the Marlins and then the roster supplementing that would be necessary as well as an additional signing or two that would be needed. These latter signings will be left more open as the roster will need a type of player, less defined but more able to be filled by multiple available free agents.

The former mentioned signing however is the linchpin of the plan. The roster construction of this wannabe GM would be dependent upon the signing of this player, under 30 (just barely) and being the fourth most valuable defensive player in the league at his position. And this position being arguably the most important of the infield.

Is the anticipation of this player killing you? We’ll get to who it is after the unveiling of the trade proposal. It will become self evident of the position in need upon reading the proposal if you haven’t already figured out. However, let’s get to the trade first.

Trade: SS Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plaweki, one of the Mets top pitching prospects, Justin Dunn or David Peterson plus possibly (yes, more. Gotta give to get), another prospect from the No. 20-30 range for J.T. Realmuto and LHP Adam Conley.

I can already hear the amount and volume of criticism. Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki, AND one of our top pitching prospects, yes. For one of the best, impact catchers in the league who would improve the defense up middle, behind the plate, and improve the offense and stabilize the batting order. Personally, the batting order construction was an under criticized aspect of Mickey Callaway’s coaching (which is not all his fault due to roster construction) but an area in need of improvement, although I am a fan of his and what he does for the team strength, pitching.

I’ll say it again. Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki, plus a top pitching prospect. Set sentiment aside for the individual players if any of them happen to be your favorite and embrace the willingness to do nearly anything to win a World Series. Personally, as hypothetical GM in this thought experiment or daydream, are you willing?

I am not touching the starting pitching and most of the pitchers aren’t under control long enough or affordable enough for the Marlins. Noah Syndergaard is the only exception, but I am not touching the starting pithing staff. It is the only aspect of the Mets roster that is arguably among the best in baseball. We’ve got the market nearly cornered and I’m not weakening the only strength.

On to the next criticism. Justin Dunn, David Peterson or even Franklyn Kilome. My offer would start with Kilome. What? Am I crazy? An injured pitcher for the best catcher in the league? Yes, a little crazy (genius often is mistaken as crazy. Wait I’m a genius now?) But when you look at what the package would be as a whole, three affordable cost controlled Major League players, not so much. I’m willing to admit it will probably take Dunn or Peterson, but I’d start with Kilome.

Dunn is closer to major league ready and ranked higher. Personally, I prefer left-handed pitchers, but that’s an arbitrary opinion and the fact is, Dunn at this point is better. For the chance at a World Series, I’d do it. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

The number of players involved makes the proverb hard to translate, but Dunn and Peterson are still just prospects. Realmuto is arguably the best catcher in baseball, right now. And we’re already including three Major League players in Rosario, Nimmo and Plawecki. But the Marlins want and need pitching. Of Rosario and Nimmo, neither are arguably the best at their position or a dynamic two way player. At least not yet.

I’ll start with Rosario, since the former pitcher in me is easily critical of defense. Last season, Rosario was worth -16 DRS and -5.2 UZR (per Fangraphs). Pair that with a .256/.295/.381, a BB percentage of 4.9 and a K percentage of 20.1, do you still feel the same? Rosario was a breath of fresh air following Asdrubal Cabrera and Ruben Tejada (yeah I’m going back that far), so we as fans were all quite thirsty for his arrival.

I think he has the potential to be an All-Star caliber shortstop. But I think that will take time, and the Mets window of opportunity with the short shelf life of our starting pitching is now. Not in two to three years. Therefor, I’d trade him. I’d trade our starting shortstop because there is a more than capable replacement on the free agent market for the most important defensive position on the infield; Jose Iglesias, the linchpin to this plan.

Iglesias, is a 29-year-old Cuban shortstop (remember Rey Ordonez?) and six-year MLB veteran. Iglesias was worth 8.2 UZR and 1 DRS. Not Andrelton Simmons spectacular, but easily a dramatic improvement from Rosario and for a team that finished 27th in the majors in both DRS (-77) and UZR (-32.1). Add that to his .269/.310/.389, 10.1 K percentage compared to Rosario’s K percentage of 20.1, while not spectacular would be an improvement.

To boot, he had a .318/.365/.500 triple slash against left-handed pitching in 2018 with a career .288/.340/.421 against left-handed pitching. Know any teams that need to improve team batting against left-handed pitching? There’s even a middle infield platoon partner and MLB ready prospect that wasn’t really given a chance, or any consistent playing time. Remember Luis Guillorme, the flying bat catcher? The young man had been billed as the organizations top middle infield glove, better than Rosario, though Rosario was considered more dynamic and a two-way player. I respectfully disagree with that assessment.

Guillorme did falter in very limited playing time last year. Most prospects will struggle with consistency when going from starting everyday in the minor leagues to scarce playing time to adjust at the Major League level. Guillorme hit .304/.380/.417 in Las Vegas in 2018 and .283/.376/.331 in 2017 with Binghamton. He’ll probably never slug much above .400, even if that. Coupled with a 70 grade glove and 60 grade arm on the 20-80 scouting scale, (50 being average, thanks Branch Rickey ,developer of 20-80 scale amongst other things) I’d take that offensive and defensive production from shortstop in a heartbeat.

Platoon Luis Guillorme and Jose Iglesias, with Iglesias being more than capable of handling the position should Guillorme prove to be incapable, and I prefer both the defensive and offensive output of the shortstop position with these two than waiting on the development of Amed Rosario.

Now Brandon Nimmo, the player with the most value from the Mets changing hands. All that build up with Amed Rosario and Jose Iglesias and I have barely mentioned Brandon Nimmo (some genius). Nimmo was worth 4.5 WAR overall, had a wRC+ of 149 (tied for nith in MLB per Fangraphs), and a .404 OBP (seventh in MLB per Fangraphs) in 2018.

Unfortunately Nimmo is not the defensive player the mets need in center field. With a -2.8 UZR and -2 DRS (per Fangraphs) he’s a round peg in a square hole out in certer. With his offensive production, that’s easy to accept, however do we want to be better up the middle defensively or not? It’s a gamble, it’s a huge gamble. But why I’m willing to make the gamble is the presence of left-handed batters Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil along with left-handed top prospect Andres Gimenez and MLB ready Luis Guillorme.

I see more regression from Nimmo’s .263/.404/.483 and 26.2 K percentage than I do McNeil’s bat to ball skill, .329/.381/.471 triple slash line and his 9.7 K percentage. I understand strikeouts aren’t seen as detrimental, I just don’t trust Nimmo’s skill set moving forward, offensively and defensively. Both McNeil and Nimmo will most likely regress some and suffer from the sophomore slump, I just know who my money is on.

Once again quid pro quo, this for that, it cost something to get something. Nimmo’s offensive strength, coupled with Rosario, the 2017 No. 1 organizational prospect and No. 2 MLB top 100 midseason ranking in 2017, an affordable catcher and top pitching prospect should be more than enough to get the deal done.

Offensive, defensive, and overall WAR for players involved and being mentioned as followed; Rosario -5.6 OFF WAR, 1.3 DEF WAR, 1.5 overall WAR, Nimmo 33.8 OFF WAR, -6.6 DEF WAR, overall WAR 4.5, McNeil (not to be included in trade, rationalization for trading Nimmo) 16.7 OFF WAR, 1.9 DEF WAR, overall 2.7 WAR (in only 248 PA’s!), Realmuto; 21.9 OFF WAR, 7.9 DEF WAR, 4.8 overall WAR. I’m going to leave LHRP Adam Conleyy out at this point, for not wanting to inundate you the reader with too many statistics, but he would help offset some of what would be given up by the Mets.

I don’t like the way players can sometimes be dehumanized and treated as assets by ownership, management, and journalists, but in this context, Kevin Plawecki is somewhat of a throw in. After receiving the Marlins starting catcher they’re going to need one. And based off of there modus operandi or m.o. (must be thinking I’m a genius again, all this Latin), the Marlins are going to want a cheap one at that.

All players involved on the Mets side made less than $600,000 in 2018 and haven’t even reached arbitration. Service time remaining for said players according to Cott’s Baseball Contracts is as follows; Plawecki four years remaining, Nimmo four years remaining, Rosario five years remaining, and whichever pitching prospect included would have six years of control assuming they don’t gain Super Two status (to qualify for the Super Two designation, players must rank in the top 22 percent, in terms of service time, among those who have amassed between two and three years in the Majors, per MLB).

So, by my lay person “genius” GM calculations the Marlins would be gaining approximately 19 years total of very affordable control divided among four players. An approximate average of 4.75 years of control per player. Three of which are currently on an MLB roster and none of whom are even arbitration eligible. Plawecki will be the first eligible based on current service time clock. And current statistics and projections for all three will be fairly affordable. Nimmo most likely to earn the most. From what I’ve been reading, same as you, that seems to be what the Marlins want; affordable MLB ready players with years of control. There aren’t a lot of teams that can or are willing meet that criteria. The Mets can, if willing, meet that criteria.

So for a moment, if you will imagine this starting line up around the all star break. Why arbitrarily the All-Star break, you may ask? The strong lineup I imagine includes a healthy Yoenis Cespedes and any player held down for service clock reasons, cough Peter Alonso, cough cough. I must be coming down with something.

  1. Jeff McNeil – 2B
  2. J.T. Realmuto – C
  3. Michael Conforto – RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes – LF
  5. Peter Alonso – 1B
  6. Jose Iglesias (vs. LHP)/Luis Guillorme (vs. RHP) – SS
  7. Todd Frazier – 3B
  8. Juan Lagares – CF
  9. Pitcher

How do you feel about that batting order, that defensive alignment? Still think I’m crazy? Probably. But these actions, along with other minor moves to complete the roster because of the amount of talent exchanged, in this crazed authors opinion would dramatically improve our beloved Mets on both sides of the ball.

I would immediately sign Realmuto to an extension along with signing Jacob deGrom to some sort of long-term five or six year deal. You would have to buy out the last two years of Realmuto’s arbitration and DeGrom’s as well. Pay the guys what they’re worth. Do it, Brodie Van Wagenen. Endear yourself to Mets fans forever. Be bold, perhaps a little crazy or genius. Only time will tell. However as said in the title, this is all just speculation and hypothetical. There’s a lot we as fans don’t know.

All of this speculative, hypothetical thought experiment is just something this barstool manager/GM imagines when it was probably time to go home a beer or two ago. Or is it maybe, just maybe, what this team needs? Improve the defense up the middle, keep the majority of your top prospects, improve the offense and MLB roster with the best catcher in baseball (cue memories of Mike Piazza), while delivering quality baseball immediately this season giving the pitching staff the damn team they’ve needed behind them since 2015.

Remember that World Series? What the hell was Juan Lagares doing on the bench in Game 1 when any of the outfielders could have DH’d. Kelly Johnson as DH, I digress, but I can’t forget the first pitch and first at bat. Even with that bad memory thinking and writing about it gives me chills and fond memories.

To quote a mad genius character, think of Gene Wilder as Dr. Victor Frankenstein from the movie Young Frankenstein (remember phonetically pronounced Frank-en-steen not Frank-en-stine, haha) as he discovered his mad grandfather’s private medical journal; “IT COULD WORK!”

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This Fan Shot was written and contributed by MMO community member and die-hard Mets fan Robert Luciano. 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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