The New York Mets Outlook...A Story of Patience Ahead

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The New York Mets Outlook...A Story of Patience Ahead
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So as it stands right now, the New York Mets are at a crossroads. There is no doubt that as each day comes and goes, fans increasingly begin to lose faith. And please stop telling us fans “ya gotta believe.” Believe in what? Collapses? Catastrophic losses? Bad contracts? Historically bad trades? I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

Let’s be honest. The Mets, whether you love them or hate them, have been a laughingstock for the better part of Omar Minaya’s tenure as GM. Perhaps it all began in 2006 on that misty October night when Carlos Beltran watched Adam Wainwright’s curveball flutter past the strike zone for the final pitch of the team’s magical, yet typically disappointing run.

Or perhaps it began the next year, when the Mets infamously squandered a seven and a half game lead with 17 games to go in the 2007 season—a season in which they held first place for the first 160 games of the year only to fall in second and out of the playoffs behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

If that wasn’t enough for you to stomach, then how about the year after that when the Mets blew a three and a half game lead with 17 games left in the year to miss the playoffs in similar season-ending fashion, and worse, in the team’s last game at Shea Stadium.

And if there wasn’t enough fuel on the fire already, how about the 2009 season? Like the previous three seasons, this team was favored to go the distance by most experts. After the additions in the bullpen (Putz and K-Rod), the Mets were sure to be contenders right?

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Wrong.

Thanks to injuries, a depleted farm system at the time, and bad depth, the Mets were worse than ever, and flat out unwatchable. I remember watching “a not top 10” segment on SportsCenter dedicated solely to Mets blunders—IN JULY! The team had its own segment of disastrous plays just midway through the season, something a professional baseball team would seemingly have to strive to do in order to succeed at. But these Mets were something alright. They may’ve been unwatchable to their own fans, but to the baseball world, they were a nightly comedy act.

So much for World Series contention.

So now that I’ve pointed out our painful recent history as fans of the New York “Muts”, let’s look to the future, which for 2010 seems to be dwindling each day. But let’s try to look beyond 2010, cause heck, I don’t see much reason given the team’s history, and judging by the way they just handled the month of July, to put stock in any playoff dreams this season.

I do, however, believe in the future beyond 2010 (starting in 2012), however and here are three reasons why:

 

Expiring Contracts after 2011

  1.  
    1. Carlos Beltran: $18.5 Million
    2. Oliver Perez: $12 Million
    3. Francisco Rodriguez: Currently makes Million $11.5, has a $17.5 Million option for 2012 with a $3.5 Million buyout
    4. Jose Reyes: $11 Million (If club option is taken)
    5. Luis Castillo: $6 Million

 

Total Money off the books: $58.5 Million

 

Unfortunately, there is not much Omar Minaya can do to fix the Mets via free agency this (2010-2011) offseason. Why is this? Well, it is because no one important or with much monetary value is coming off the Mets books after the season. In addition, due to Minaya’s contract through 2011, along with the fact that little can be done by a new GM this offseason, the Minaya tenure, for better or worse, will last another long-winded season beyond 2010 and into 2011.

Unfortunately, Mets fans, I highly doubt an action-packed offseason that we all live for will occur in the winter of 2010-2011. The team simply can’t spend money unless it surprisingly decides to increase its current payroll, which we should all know is unlikely when dealing with the Wilpons. It appears that this off-season will be Minaya’s last ditch effort to keep his job, and given the fact that the payroll will not decrease due to expiring contracts yet and that the team doesn’t look to be inclined on raising its current payroll number, Minaya will need to be extra creative and savvy in his moves should he wish to be retained for 2012 and beyond.

However, the following offseason should provide some fireworks. The team needs to first lock up Jose Reyes to a long-term deal before moving on to other additions. One could make the argument in retaining both K-Rod and Beltran, but I think Beltran’s time is over past this season, and K-Rod is a tough call. As noted above, K-Rod has a club option that would cost $17.5 million to retain him for an additional year, or $3.5 million to let him go. The K-Rod decision will likely depend on his reliability over the next two seasons. As it stands right now, I can’t see how K-Rod can warrant such a salary, especially for a team with other gaping holes.

Then, there’s Perez and Castillo. It's doubtful the Mets can trade either of these decrepit, overpaid players before their contracts expire. So, the Mets must simply bite the bullet and wait for their deals to expire.

At the very least, the Mets will have $18 million coming off the books between Castillo and Perez alone. If they choose to re-sign Jose Reyes, one would have to assume he would receive an annual salary at or around $15 million. I believe Beltran will be let go, which will double the realistic money off the books post 2011 to $36 million. K-Rod will be the biggest wild card in the busy offseason that 2011-2012  hopes to be.

It appears that a realistic number for money coming off the books after next season will stand somewhere between $36 and $50 million, depending on what direction the Mets go with Reyes, Beltran, and K-Rod.

So, Met fans, I ask you to do something we are used to doing. Be Patient. The main holes that we have right now are at second base, catcher, and starting and relief pitching. By simply standing put and allowing Perez and Castillo’s contract to expire after 2011, the Mets will finally be able to improve upon these positions if they are dissatisfied with what the farm presents us with at such holes in 2012. However, I believe that our farm system will not disappoint. And below explains why.

The Farm System

That’s right, I said it…the farm system. About a year ago, you may have called me crazy for citing this as a beacon of hope. But over the last year, the Mets have gone under the radar and truly bolstered their farm system. The prospects I’m about to introduce mainstream Mets fans to may not help out in 2010—heck they may not even help out in 2011.

When they come up, they should provide a spark that could remind us of the emergence of Jose Reyes and David Wright, back when the team was in a similar, yet less hopeful phase of its franchise. And assuming the majority of them are ready to contribute in 2012, they will have ample opportunity to do so, given all of the teams expiring contracts. Couple that with the flexibility to upgrade via free agency going into 2012 and we may finally have a true contender on our hands if we play our cards right.

Below is the future of the Mets’ organization, as we know it.

 

Top 10 Mets Prospects

  1. SS/OF Wilmer Flores (ETA: 2012)
  2. SP Jenrry Mejia (ETA: 2011) (he came up this year but will be a starter in 2011)
  3. OF Fernando Martinez (just got called up for the end of 2010)
  4. SP/RP Matt Harvey (ETA: 2012)
  5. 2B Reese Havens (ETA: 2011, If he can stay healthy)
  6. OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis (ETA: 2012)
  7. OF Cory Vaughn (ETA: 2013)
  8. SS/2B Jordany Valdespin (ETA: 2013)
  9. 3B/OF Aderlin Rodriguez (ETA: 2013)
  10. 1B/OF Lucas Duda (ETA: 2011)

 

Honorable Mention:

SS Ruben Tejada

OF Javier Rodriguez

SP James Fuller

SP Brandon Moore

SP Mark Cohoon

SP Bradley Holt

SP Armando Rodriguez

SP Jeurys Familia

SP Juan Urbina

 

If you look at the Mets, or any team for that matter, it is clear that there is just something different and special about homegrown talent. The Mets current homegrown boys feature Reyes, Wright, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, Pelfrey, Niese, and Parnell. As a whole, those players are making a grand total of around $20 million as it stands (but clearly not for long).

If you look at the additions the Mets have made to their roster via free agency and trades including Beltran, Santana, Bay, Franceour, K-Rod, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Castillo, guess how much money they make collectively? $86 MILLION! That is more than three times the amount of money that the teams home grown talent makes collectively.

All money aside, if I had to choose a core between the two groups of players, I’d probably go with the former, despite Johan Santana’s brilliance. It is clear that homegrown talent is cheaper and can, in many cases, be better. Just look at the way the Tampa Rays are built.

I know we are in New York, and there is pressure to compete with the Yankees, but why try to keep up with them, especially when your owners won’t tolerate a payroll upwards of $150 Million like the Yankees do? The Mets simply need to do a better job of allocating their money to varying areas of need rather than making a big splash on one free agent each off-season as they’ve done over Minaya’s tenure. It has been proven that such a way of building a team, or the Mets at least, is risky and can in many cases prove to be counterproductive. Allow the Farm to grow, and one will reap the benefits.

 

2012 Free Agency

So in our first reason to believe in the Mets for the future, I mapped out the amount of money the Mets will be able to spend on free agents during the winter of 2011-2012. Below is a list of players that will be available via free agency during this off-season.

(The 2012 Free Agents are by position and value from highest to lowest in order. Below each list is a grade for the position’s strength)

 

Catchers

Yadier Molina (29) - $7MM club option with a $750K buyout

Ryan Doumit (31) - $7.25MM club option for 2012, $8.25MM club option for '13 with a $500K buyout

Dioner Navarro (28)

Kelly Shoppach (29) - $3.2MM club option with a $300K buyout

Chris Snyder (31) - $6.75MM club option with a $750K buyout

Jorge Posada (40)

Ivan Rodriguez (40)

Brian Schneider (35)

Jason Kendall (38)

Grade: C

 

First basemen

Prince Fielder (28)

Adrian Gonzalez (30)

Nick Swisher (31) - $10.25MM club option with a $1MM buyout

Michael Cuddyer (33)

Casey Kotchman (29)

Ross Gload (36)

Grade: A-

 

Second basemen

Robinson Cano (29) - $14MM club option with a $2MM buyout

Brandon Phillips (31) - $12MM club option with a $1MM buyout

Dan Uggla (32)

Rickie Weeks (29)

Aaron Hill (30) - $8MM club option for 2012, $8MM club option for '13, $10MM club option for '14

Kelly Johnson (30)

Jose Lopez (28)

Freddy Sanchez (34)

Clint Barmes (33)

Luis Castillo (36)

Augie Ojeda (37)

Grade: A

 

Shortstops

Rafael Furcal (34) - $12MM club/vesting option

Jimmy Rollins (33)

J.J. Hardy (29)

Jason Bartlett (32)

Marco Scutaro (36) - $6MM club option/$3MM player option with a $1.5MM buyout

Jack Wilson (34)

Yuniesky Betancourt (30) - $6MM club option with a $2MM buyout

Ronny Cedeno (29)

John McDonald (37)

Augie Ojeda (37)

Ramon Santiago (32)

Grade C+

 

Third basemen

Jose Bautista (31)

Edwin Encarnacion (29)

Casey Blake (38) - $6MM club option with a $1.25MM buyout

Mark DeRosa (37)

Greg Dobbs (33)

Grade: D

 

Left fielders

Jose Bautista (31)

Josh Willingham (33)

Conor Jackson (30)

Jonny Gomes (31)

Jeremy Hermida (28)

Matt Diaz (34)

Juan Pierre (34)

Juan Rivera (33)

Mark DeRosa (37)

Carlos Guillen (36)

Scott Hairston (32)

Jack Cust (33)

Raul Ibanez (40)

Ryan Langerhans (32)

Grade: D

 

Center fielders

Grady Sizemore (29) - $8.5MM club option with a $500K buyout

Carlos Beltran (35)

Cody Ross (31)

Mike Cameron (39)

Scott Hairston (32)

Nate McLouth (30) - $10.65MM club option with a $1.25MM buyout

Grade: C+

 

Right fielders

Ryan Ludwick (33) 

Jose Bautista (31)

Nick Swisher (31) - $10.25MM club option with a $1MM buyout

Michael Cuddyer (33)

Josh Willingham (33)

Cody Ross (31)

Jeremy Hermida (28)

Bobby Abreu (38) - $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout; vests with 550 PAs in 2011 or 1,100 PA in 2010-11

Kosuke Fukudome (35)

Milton Bradley (34)

Ryan Church (33)

Jack Cust (33)

J.D. Drew (36)

Jeff Francoeur (28)

Gabe Gross (32)

Grade: B-

 

Designated hitters

Milton Bradley (34)

Jack Cust (33)

Carlos Guillen (36)

Grade: D

 

Starting pitchers

Adam Wainwright (30) - $9MM club option for 2012, $12MM club option for '13 

C.C. Sabathia (31) - may opt out of remaining four years, $92MM

Roy Oswalt (34) - $16MM mutual option with a $2MM buyout

Chris Carpenter (37) - $15MM club option with a $1MM buyout

Mark Buehrle (33)

Ryan Dempster (35) - $14MM player option

Edwin Jackson (28)

Scott Kazmir (28) - $13.5MM club option with a $2.5MM buyout

Joel Pineiro (33)

Wandy Rodriguez (33)

C.J. Wilson (31)

Zach Duke (29)

Aaron Cook (33) - $11MM mutual option with a $500K buyout

Gil Meche (33)

Kyle Davies (28)

Brandon McCarthy (28)

Jason Marquis (33)

Jeff Francis (30)

Kenshin Kawakami (37)

Paul Maholm (30) - $9.75MM club option with a $750K buyout

Carlos Silva (33) - $12MM mutual option with a $2MM buyout

Ian Snell (30) - $9.25MM club option

Sergio Mitre (31)

Scott Olsen (28)

Brian Tallet (34)

Chien-Ming Wang (32)

John Maine (31)

Oliver Perez (30)

Tim Wakefield (45)

Grade: B

 

Closers

Jonathan Broxton (28)

Joe Nathan (37) - $12.5MM club option with a $2MM buyout

Jonathan Papelbon (31)

Heath Bell (34)

Francisco Rodriguez (30) - $17.5MM club/vesting option with a $3.5MM buyout

Jose Valverde (34) - $9MM club option

Francisco Cordero (37) - $12MM club option with a $1MM buyout 

Bobby Jenks (31)

Matt Capps (28)

Brad Lidge (35) - $12.5MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout Brian Fuentes (36)

Ryan Franklin (39)

Mike Gonzalez (34)

Grade: A+

 

Right-handed relievers

Joel Zumaya (27)

Ryan Madson (31)

Fernando Rodney (35)

Danys Baez (34)

Matt Belisle (32)

Michael Wuertz (33) - $3.25MM club option with a $250K buyout

Shawn Camp (36)

Todd Coffey (31)

Rafael Betancourt (37)

Chris Ray (30)

Brian Bruney (30)

Clay Condrey (36)

Lance Cormier (31)

LaTroy Hawkins (37)

Scott Linebrink (35)

Tyler Walker (36)

Grade: B

 

Left-handed relievers

Tim Byrdak (38)

John Grabow (33)

Javier Lopez (34)

Damaso Marte (37) - $4MM club option with a $250K buyout

George Sherrill (35)

 

Grade: D

 

Overall Class of 2012 Free Agents Grade: B

 

Given the New York Mets current holes of second base, catcher, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers, the 2012 free agency class is very favorable for the franchise. The team should be able to spend upwards of $40-50 Million in free agency during this offseason should it choose to do so. It is realistic for the Mets to come away with an above average to All-Star caliber player at each of the holes listed above. Couple that with the teams up and coming prospects and Mets fans may have a team to get excited about again. Time will tell, but as it stands I hate to say it, but it looks like we are realistically another two seasons away from seeing the Mets as legitimate contenders once again.

Below is my predicted range of win total if the Mets continue on the course that I have mapped out. Thus we are looking at a Mets team that can be competitive, yet inconsistent until the pieces align in 2012 and beyond.

 

2010: 75-82                        2011: 75-85                         2012: 82-95

 

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