would like to preface this by saying that I am not a Mets fan. However, I do think many of their fans are not giving the team enough credit. The team is very good at its core, and many seem to forget that they entered last season as contenders before a slew of injuries.
The team does need some revamping, though. So, if I were in their place, I would enact the following multi-step plan for the off-season to try and make the team competitive in 2010:
Let Jason Bay and Bengie Molina wait.
I have seen some fans suggesting that the Mets’ management is stupid for waiting for these two to respond, and that they should ensure that the players come to the Mets by upping their offers.
Let’s face it; they’re holding out for more money, not because they think the Mets are “cursed” or some other nonsense.
They have no need to up their offer, as all current information suggests the Mets are bidding against themselves. Bengie is a soon-to-be 36-year-old catcher who has only been above average offensively once. That’s isn’t anything 29-year-old Omir Santos can’t duplicate for less (in fact, in 96 games last year, he bested Bengie Molina’s season high in OPS+).
Edit:Actually, rereading his stats, this last note looks wrong. I would suggest signing a cheap catcher and either starting him or platooning him with Santos. Josh Bard might be a good example (career OPS+ of 92, and like Santos, has played about 100 games as a career high). They might make a decent enough pair.
I would even suggest yanking Molina’s offer. If you’re that worried, sign Jose Molina, Josh Bard, Rod Bajaras, Miguel Olivo, or some other cheap catcher who won’t cost a first round draft pick and platoon them. Really, catcher isn’t that much of a priority.
Jason Bay is also going to be 31 for most of next season, and will likely be declining. Let him leave the contract if he wants, but don’t increase the offer. But, in the meantime, put pressure on them to decide by making smaller signings.
Get a No. 2 starter.
There a number of ways to go about this. The Reds have been rumored to be trying to trade Aaron Harang. Rob Neyer provided a good analysis on Sweetspot on December 17th.
Harang will likely be undervalued due to some misfortune (such as playing in a great hitter’s park, missing time last year from appendicitis, and playing on poor teams).
The Mets could likely get him for a lower-grade prospect if they agree to eat most of his salary (maybe they could also throw Luis Castillo in if they agree to pay his salary in addition, but that’s unlikely-he’ll probably have to move into a bench role or be traded separately).
Alternatively, they could try to sign Joel Piniero. Harang is more durable, and may go for less than a high round draft pick that they would lose for signing Piniero. At the very least, he has a chance to be better than Piniero.
Sign a few low-risk, high-reward pitchers.
Easy enough. Sign them on the cheap, if they work out, great. If not, the Mets already have a high payroll, and can probably afford a small, 2-3 million dollar loss.
My recommendation would be one or two from the list of Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets, and Pedro Martinez. Also, Shawn Hill and Noah Lowry are both relatively young at 29, have had health issues, and had promising minor league stats. They will also likely be even cheaper.
Work on the offense.
Xavier Nady could prove a cheap one year stop gap to put pressure on Jason Bay to sign, and he can play first base or corner outfield.
Signing Carlos Delgado to an incentive-laden deal of signing Adam LaRoche could also prove useful. If Bay signs, only one of these would be necessary.
I seem to also recall hearing that Daniel Murphy could play second, or was willing to try. If this is the case, put him at second, either to replace Castillo or platoon with him.
Murphy’s bat is weak at a corner spot, but much more bearable as a middle infielder. Alternatively, he can be used in case of emergency as a platoon with Jeff Francoeur.
One type A signing, one trade, two type B signings
Lineup: SS-Jose Reyes; 2B-Murphy; 3B-David Wright; CF-Carlos Beltran; LF-Bay; 1B-LaRoche; RF-Francoeur; C-Santos (possibly with Castillo on the bench)
Rotation: Johan Santana, Aaron Harang, Erik Bedard, John Maine / Shawn Hill / Mike Pelfrey.
I don’t claim that this team would be a lock for the post-season, but a the very least, it seems like it could compete. Of course, injuries could again prove a deciding factor, and I have no idea how to prevent them, other than maybe hire a different training staff.
Thoughts and comments on this approach would be welcome.