Alderson will have a very busy off season
The New York Mets need a massive overhaul. While injuries kept them from being everything they could have been this past season, they are still a long way from being true contenders. This offseason Jose Reyes will be the initial big story for the Mets and their GM Sandy Alderson.
However, they need to do a lot more than sign a shortstop. They need a starting pitcher, a closer, bench players and relievers for the bullpen. The reports from ESPN NY are saying the Mets will only have a payroll of $110 million maximum.
Of that total, approximately $64 million is tied up into five players: David Wright, Johan Santana, Jason Bay, R.A. Dickey and Mike Pelfrey. That gives the team roughly $30 million to use when factoring in other player salaries. A team can do a lot with $30 million.
One thing fans are saying (and I am one that wrote about it) is to go after Albert Pujols. It's nice to dream about that, but the Mets don't really need a player who will demand $20-25 million per season. They need pitching.
With all this as the backdrop, allow me to propose some key moves for this team in the next few months.
Jose Reyes is an expense the Mets just can't afford
The New York Mets have far too many needs to lock up another player with a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal. In the same way that it makes sense not to go after an Albert Pujols, it would be far more beneficial to the team to avoid re-signing Jose Reyes.
I am sure after reading that line, I have upset many fans, but stay with me and you'll see that I'm right. We've established they may only have around $30 million to spend for a half dozen players. Why use nearly half of that on one person?
It would financially free up the Mets to go after other players and let Reyes walk (since he has trouble drawing the walk on the field). The two major arguments against this stand are that he is too explosive to let go of, and they need him at short.
To respond to those points, I'll start with the latter. They don't need him at shortstop. They want him. That's a big difference. They have Tejada to play there and even David Wright is capable of playing that spot in a pinch. Am I saying they should slide Wright over to short? No. Though it would give Daniel Murphy a place to play (at third base).
The other argument is his explosiveness. Is he a productive leadoff hitter? Absolutely! Is he worth the money he may end up signing for? Nope. When you consider the potential for injury with his style of play, he is always one stolen base or one first to third away from ending his season.
Though that can be said about many players, it doesn't hold more true to anyone more than Reyes. He was hurt twice last season (in a season that won him a batting title, mind you). He may get a minimum of $75 million for five years or $15 million a season.
He has missed far too much time in his career to be relied on for that much money for that many years. Rather, the Mets should use the money to spend more wisely. He is replaceable.
With the money they save, they could do all the rest of the moves I am about to suggest.
The Mets need a proven starter. Enter Mark Buehrle
The Mets have decent starting pitching returning next year. They have their share of questions, however. Will Johan Santana ever be what he once was or ever pitch again for that matter? How will the new dimensions affect R.A. Dickey and Jon Neise?
Also, which Mike Pelfrey will show up or will he even return? Will Dillon Gee continue to build on his success? Coincidentally, I had a chance to ask Gee about that in an interview you can read on Mack's Mets (a great Mets site I write for).
The Mets obviously need starting pitching. There are many good pitchers in the free-agent market. Here's a list of all of the free agents (and the list I will be using as a guide). Among all the solid starters is a proven World Series winner in Mark Buehrle.
The White Sox are slimming down their payroll. While Buehrle is a free agent, it's unlikely they will re-sign him. The Mets could use the money they save by not re-signing Reyes and make a strong bid for him.
His experience would be essential for a young staff. He is coming off of a subpar year with a 13-9 record and a 3.59 ERA. His 109 strikeouts, also, was lower than his norm. When factoring that in, I fully expect teams to inquire about him but not blow him away with an offer.
The Mets could get him for $10 million a year for four years. At the age of 33, that would be still in his prime. In a pitcher-friendly park, he could see a resurgence of his old performances and could reemerge as an award contender.
Mike Pelfrey has worn out his welcome in Queens
As I mentioned in the last slide, the Mets have a few questions at their starting rotation. If they were to sign Mark Buehrle or a front-line pitcher like him, they would have a logjam in the starting five.
If Johan Santana is healthy and performing well, the rotation would be him, Dickey, Buehrle, Neise and Pelfrey with Gee on the outside looking in. Going forward, Gee is a pitcher for the future while Pelfrey is not.
If that is the case, they should trade him while they still can get something. The big question is whether or not they can get anything for him? The short answer is, not much. There will be a team out there willing to talk about acquiring him.
Teams like Baltimore, Toronto, Cleveland and Kansas City are all teams that could pay him a portion of his $5 million salary due next year. He is arbitration eligible too, so that may go up. The Mets could agree to pay some of it for next year and lighten the burden. That makes him more enticing.
Even if the Mets get just a draft pick or two in exchange, it would still be salary relief. A change of scenery would help the Mets fans and Pelfrey too.
Joe Nathan needs a fresh start and the Mets need a closer.
Since the Mets traded Francisco Rodriguez just hours after the 2011 All-Star Game, the Mets have needed a closer. They thought the committee option was the way to go, and for a while, it was working.
Jason Isringhausen was doing the job in August, but after he reached 300 saves, the team began grooming Bobby Parnell for the job, and all went downhill quickly.
After closer examination, Parnell is not the answer, and Izzy will want more money. They need to fill the role Frankie left behind, and they need to do it for as little money as possible.
Enter Joe Nathan. In a 2011 season where he was coming off surgery the season before, Nathan posted a 4.84 ERA with just 14 saves. The numbers are not great, but he was still feeling his way back.
Nathan is very familiar with the Mets. It's a team he followed while growing up in New York. The Mets have a need. He will not command the money he may want. He likes the Mets.
It's a great fit. He will be this year's version of Izzy. The Mets have to jump on this.
If the playoffs proved anything, it's that Dotel still has it.
Even if the Mets sign a closer like Joe Nathan, he can't do it all alone. They need to build the bullpen. Sandy Alderson has made this a priority, as well he should. The bullpen is often underestimated in their importance.
The Mets re-signed Tim Byrdak in September. With him, they will have Manny Acosta and Bobby Parnell. They need a true setup man. The Mets need Octavio Dotel.
He is the type of pitcher they need in the role of setup or specialist. He has closer experience and setup experience. Now he has world championship experience. The Mets need that type of veteran leadership.
They blew far too many games in the middle to late innings. That's not the fault of the starters or the closers. It's middle relief. If they fix this, they solidify their pitching.
He gets big outs in big situations. That's what they need.
Angel Pagan gave the Mets one good season. Is that worth holding on to him?
The Mets have some issues in their outfield too. Among them is Angel Pagan. His poor play and light bat this past season have made him much more expendable than most realize.
He hit .262 with just seven home runs and 126 hits this year compared to .290 with 11 home runs and 168 hits in 2010. There was a huge drop off there. When combined with Jason Bay's near-legendary struggles, it makes for a bad outfield combination.
He is still a tradeable commodity. Teams like Baltimore, Seattle and Kansas City would gladly take a chance on him. Especially if the Mets pay some of the arbitration eligible salary that he will be owed.
Right now, he is set to make $3.5 million next year without an arbitration raise. If they want to just save the money altogether by not picking up the option on him, that is a route they could go too. The trouble with that is they wouldn't get anything in return when he signs elsewhere.
They should pick up the option and trade him for something while he has some value to someone. With players like Fernando Martinez waiting in the wings, he is replaceable.
Grady Sizemore could be a solid fit in Queens
With the departure of Angel Pagan and Jose Reyes, the Mets need both an outfielder and a leadoff hitter. One man who just hit free agency today meets both of these requirements. And he will be cheaper than most think.
No one will give him the $9 million he would have been owed on the option the Indians declined. He will be happy to settle for a $5 million deal, and he can be signed to an extended, performance-laced contract.
If he returns to form, he would be diamond in the rough. His playoff experience would certainly be an asset to the team. His high energy would replace the dynamics that Jose Reyes brings. He plays the game like it should be played.
He is a walks/steals type player. He has a career .357 OBP. He is the perfect Alderson type of player. He would be a great offensive fit for the new Citi Field and the new-look Mets.
The question is whether he will bounce back healthy. He's worth the risk at just 29 years old. He's low risk/high reward. Just what the Mets need.
Rod Barajas was a popular player in Queens
The Mets need help behind the plate. If Josh Thole is going to be the man, he's going to need the proper tutelage. He doesn't need Mike Nickeas backing him up. He needs someone he can really learn from.
In 2010, the Mets had a veteran catcher who handled the pitching staff very well and the bat equally well too. His name is Rod Barajas. With the Mets, he had hit 12 home runs with 34 RBI in 74 games before being traded to the Dodgers.
Now, at 36, he is a free agent once again. While he may not be considered the man in Queens, he could certainly embrace the role that other catchers like Ivan Rodriguez have, that of teacher.
He would most certainly add some power and run production too. But more importantly, he could tutor Thole in the proper lessons of the game. Things like how to call a game, how to argue calls while still having to hit, learning your staff, etc.
His wisdom would be immeasurable. After coming off a down year with a down team, he would be cheaper too. That's the added incentive for the Alderson administration.
Chris Capuano was a solid pitcher for the Mets in 2011
When it comes to pitchers, the Mets need versatility. They need pitchers who can give a spot start in a double header, pitch mop-up roles and even extra inning affairs. Most importantly, they need insurance if one of their starters goes down.
One such pitcher that boasts this flexibility as his arsenal is Chris Capuano. Last season, the Mets pitcher posted a 4.55 ERA with 168 strikeouts in 186 innings pitched. His ERA and record (11-12) were not indicative of his importance to the team.
When Chris Young went down early and Dillon Gee stepped in, it was Capuano that stepped up to carry the load. He had 31 starts and even had a complete game shutout. Add a hold to that and he proves he can fill all the roles the team needs. He will not come so cheap now though.
He may be had at a lower price for the Mets than for other teams, but if they offer more guaranteed money this time around, he could sign without trouble. The Mets would not have to offer as many bonus incentives if they guarantee most of the contract.
A two-year deal with an option and around $5 million a year could do it. He would be well worth it. Especially if Santana goes down or does not return to form. He is insurance they can't afford to be without.
Nick Punto knows how to win. He needs to teach the Mets.
The Mets need bench players that know how to be clutch. The 2000 Mets had Lenny Harris, the 1986 Mets had Howard Johnson. The 2012 Mets could have Nick Punto.
Fresh off his celebration with the Cardinals, he is a free agent. In his career, he has made the playoffs with the Minnesota Twins two times and with St. Louis this season. He hustles and plays the game right.
Furthermore, he is a big on-base guy. His career OBP is .325. He draws walks, and he gets clutch hits. In addition to all of this, he can play every infield position and all outfield positions.
That versatility is desperately needed. He wields a solid glove at each position. He can provide late inning defense and big hits off the bench. He is a role player, and therefore, will be relatively inexpensive.
His experience, heart and hustle make him a must add for any team. Young teams like the Mets need players like him even more.
George Sherrill could be the answer to the Mets lefty reliever question
The Mets need a few pitchers that can handle left-handed bats in the league. Tim Byrdak has proven to be valuable in that role, but he is their only lefty specialist on the roster. The trouble is that these are hard to find.
There is one that has become a free agent, and he is familiar with the same division. He's George Sherrill. He spent 2011 with the Atlanta Braves. He posted a 3.00 ERA in 36 innings with seven holds. He has experience as a closer with Baltimore and as a setup reliever and specialist with Atlanta.
He brings experience and flexibility to the bullpen. He would not be shaken by a two on, no-out, bottom-of-the-eighth situation. A younger pitcher like Bobby Parnell may be, but Sherrill's experience allows him to be a calming influence to those around him in tough situations.
The Mets need polished relievers. Sherrill will come cheaper than he wants to as he league is starting to see him as a specialist or a setup man and not a closer. If a team takes a shot at him as their closer, they will severely overpay for him in that role.
The Mets are smart enough not to overpay. If he goes elsewhere, there are other options for this specialist role. There players like J.C. Romero, Damaso Marte and Trever Miller that they could go after.
Among these, Sherrill is the better option due to his ability to pitch in multiple roles. The Mets need that, and they could certainly succeed from it.
David Wright will be the focus on trade rumors this winter
Since before the season ended, I have heard rumor upon rumor regarding David Wright. The Mets placed him on waivers and retracted him when there was interest. The Phillies and other teams have reached out to the Mets about him.
David Wright is a man who bleeds orange and blue. He wears his heart on his sleeve. If all goes according to (or even close to) the way I see this offseason unfolding, they will need him physically healthy and mentally happy.
Hearing five months of trade rumors will have to affect his psyche. The Mets can ease his mind. They can show him that he is not going anywhere by renegotiating his current contract and add a few more years.
He is the face of the team (especially if Reyes leaves). They can afford it on a back heavy deal (especially if Reyes leaves). He earns $15 million a year right now. Add an extra $2 million from that window of $30 million mentioned in the beginning.
Even with all the additions I suggest, there is room to do this. The final payroll will be around $110-$115 million with all these moves, including an extension for Wright. It would reinvigorate him and excite him into playing for his favorite childhood team once again.
The additions of all of these players would make a balanced, young and energetic team that hustles, plays intelligent baseball and executes the fundamentals well. That would put fans in the seats and take care of the bills for the Wilpons.
Sandy Alderson would build a team on the verge of being a contender by letting go of Reyes, Pagan and Pelfrey. By adding one top-tier pitcher on a down year (Buehrle) and taking full advantage of solid players looking to have bounce-back seasons (Nathan, Sizemore, Barajas, Sherrill).
It's a plan that could work and work cheaper than adding one player like Reyes and barely having the money to sign a closer or getting Albert Pujols and having no room for error. They would be building by subtracting.
The perfect Alderson-inspired plan. We'll see how close he comes to it.