Monday, October 18, 2004

The Plan, Part 2: Who I Want, Who I Really Really Want

A few quick notes on Part I before we get started:

A few people have e-mailed me about being unrealistic about a few things, namely 1) Minaya being able to trade Cliff Floyd 2) The Mets casually handing left field over to Victor Diaz and 3) the Mets allowing Al Leiter to go free.

Now I fully realize given the Mets track record the past few years that all of these things coming to pass are not necessarily likely. They are, however, possible. Taking the three in reverse order, we know that the Mets are not simply going to pick up Leiter's $10 million option. Therefore not only do they have to decide whether to bring him back at all but they have to find a mutually agreeable price to do so -- not the easiest thing in the world. In addition, I do feel that Al himself can read the writing on the wall, especially in this article that came out back in September. Given the age of the rotation, the Mets have to be able to give some of the youngsters some starts to get them ready for 2006 (and Yusmeiro Petit will probably be up by next September as well). This is why I honestly think there's a decent chance the Mets will let Leiter go.

As for the Floyd/Diaz situation, the Mets are definitely shopping Floyd (especially after his comments earler this year) and all indications are that they're willing to pay a good deal of his salary to ship him off to an Amercian League team. Floyd still has value with 69 runs created this season, not spectacular but good for a player who missed over a month of the season and good for second on the team behind Piazza. The Mets may not get much in return but I'm willing to bet they could free up the roster spot.

Saying that they do manage to trade Floyd, the question then becomes would the Mets turn over the starting left field slot to Victor Diaz? Given the Mets track record with playing time for youngsters, my gut instinct is to say "no". However, remember that just two years ago the Mets turned the starting third base job over to Ty Wigginton who not only performed admirably but became a fan favorite to boot. In addition, let's say that the Mets go out and sign a big name free agent to fill the right field hole. All of a sudden, giving the left field job to a rookie looks less risky. It all hinges on who the Mets manage to sign but I really don't think that giving the job to Diaz would be totally out of the question for next year.

Now onto the additions:

1) A Right Fielder. Here are the primary outfielders on the market this offseason:

Carlos Beltran (age 27) 128.9 RC, 7.56 RC/27
J.D. Drew (age 28) 130 RC, 9.40 RC/27
Magglio Ordonez (age 30) 32.9RC, 5.93 RC/27
Jermaine Dye (age 30) 78.3RC, 5.10 RC/27

So what we have here are a superstar with no history of injuries, two players with supertar potential who are injury risks, and a low budget option who could be a fill in for a year (I threw Dye in the mix since Jeremy mentioned him the other day although the consensus seems to be a big thumbs down). Notice there's no Lance Berkman in there since he's not eligible for free agency until 2006. In addition, if Beltran goes bye-bye the Astros just may decide to take that money and lock up Berkman for a long time.

Now obviously Ordonez's 2004 numbers pale in comparison to the others but his 2003 season, 117.3, 7.15, is very comparable to Beltran and Drew. The striking thing here is how well J.D. Drew compares to Beltran with a healthy season (something Eric Simon over at SaberMets suggested a while ago). The question is with his history of injuries do you want to take a chance at giving him a long term contract (and he has Scott Boras as an agent as well). Going after Drew also has the added bonus of weakening the Braves, a fringe benefit not to be understated.

Honestly looking at these choices, you have to go after Beltran in this situation for the simple reason that he carries less risk than any of the others. If negotiations fall through and the Yankees snatch him up, go after Drew as your backup plan. One of the Mets biggest problems the last couple years has been taking chances on players with injuries in the hopes that they will have bounce back years and then having them break down once they get to Shea. This, more than anything, has really sapped the morale of the fan base away. It needs to change. It has to change. And the Mets can start by doing everything in their power to get Beltran to Shea.

Have Piazza and crew call and woo him. Sign Kris Benson and have him and his wife take him out for a night on the town. Do everything possible to make him feel wanted and he'll come. C'mon Fred, you can wipe away three years of bitterness with one stroke of the pen. The Mets need Beltran more than anything. They need to get this done. The cheap fill-in route just won't cut it this year. Pick: Beltran

2) A First Baseman

Now here's where the Mets can go on the cheap. What they really need is an everyday first baseman who's primary role will be to anchor a young infield, being able to pick balls out of the dirt and out of the air above his head. Furthermore with Cliff Floyd gone, another lefty bat in the lineup would be a plus.

Now I know that Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexton have both been mentioned many times by the media but honestly I think the Mets resources would be better spent on an outfielder than on a first baseman. Saying that, here are my five defensive first base candidates (with defensive stats, put outs, assists, fielding percentage, range factor, zone rating):

Tino Martinez 114GS, 876PO, 67A, .997FP, 8.84RF, .878ZR
Doug Mientkiewicz 124GS, 924PO, 62A, .995FP, 9.43RF, .851ZR
Travis Lee 141GS, 1223PO, 101A, .998FP, 9.58RF, .890ZR (2003 stats)
J.T. Snow 100GS, 801PO, 55A, .995FP, 9.72RF, .840ZR
John Olerud 124GS, 917PO, 77A, .998FP, 8.56RF, .849ZR

For those of you unfamiliar with defensive stats, range factor is PO + A divided by nine innings and zone rating is the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone" (measured by STATS).

All these guys are lefties and all, to some degree, can help with the bat. Lee was injured pretty much the entire season and had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder back in May. Ordinarily I wouldn't even consider him but he's such an excellent first baseman I thought I'd add him too the list.

Honestly with the exception of Lee, who's a question mark from surgery, any of these guys would make a fine anchor for the Mets infield and could all probably be signed to a reasonably cheap 1 or 2 year deal. From a PR standpoint, Tino would probably be the pick of most so let's go with him for now. Pick: Martinez

3) A Fifth Starter

The fifth starter should come out of our youngsters, using spring training as yet another competition. If he weren't so inconsistent, Jae Seo would probably be given the nod given his experience. However the Mets seemed to sour on Seo and I wouldn't be surprised to see him traded before the start of next year. So who are the candidates (with minors ERA and K/BB ratio).

Aaron Heilman (4.33 ERA, 123/66 K/BB, 7.32 K/9IP)
Bob Keppel (4.71 ERA , 42/22 K/BB, 4.06 K/9IP)
Neal Musser (6.25 ERA, 24/17 K/BB, 6.00 K/9IP)
Matt Ginter (2.95 ERA, 49/8 K/BB, 6.89 K/9IP)
Randy Keisler (3.81 ERA, 110/45 K/BB, 7.62 K/9IP)

Now here are Heilman's and Ginter's major league stats:

Heilman (5.46 ERA, 22/23 K/BB, 7.07 K/9IP)
Ginter (4.54 ERA, 38/20 K/BB, 4.93 K/9IP)

I included Keppel and Musser even though they both were injured last year and had a limited amout of playing time. However since they both have AAA experience I imagine they'll get a spring training invite and probably will have an outside shot at the rotation. (The real question, however, is whether Yusmeiro Petit will get an invite. He better).

If Leiter is let go and there is a third annual Mets fifth starter competition, this is all kind of moot; the pitcher who has the best spring training will be the fifth starter and Heilman, Ginter, and Keisler will be the primary candidates. However I just want to point out one thing, namely if you look at Aaron Heilman's strikeout rate from AAA to the majors you'll notice it's practically identical. Heilman's problem is that he thinks too much, makes some mental mistakes, and gets hit as a result. He had a good September though, striking out almost a batter an inning, and holding opposing batters to a .216 batting average.

Again, it will likely all come down to a competition, but if I had to pick a guy, I'd Pick: Heilman.

4 & 5) The Bullpen

In an ideal world, the sun would be shining, the birds would be singing, and Mike Stanton would be pitching somewhere else. This is Flushing, however, and we're going to be stuck with him for another year. Now the castaways from the rotation competition will likely join the bullpen competition as well although the Mets have plenty of additional candidates:

Heath Bell (R, 27): 3.33 ERA, 27/6 K/BB, 9.99 K/9IP
Vic Darensbourg (L, 33): 2.87 ERA, 54/21 K/BB, 9.00 K/9IP (minors)
Jose Parra (R, 31): 3.21 ERA, 14/6, 9.00 K/9IP
Bartolome Fortunato
(R, 30): 3.86 ERA, 20/13, 9.64 K/9IP
Pedro Feliciano (L, 28): 5.40 ERA, 14/12, 6.87 K/9IP
Royce Ring (L, 24): 3.63 ERA, 22/12, 6.16 K/9IP) (AAA stats)


Dan Wheeler, if you remember, was traded to the Astros in August. Ricky Bottalico and Mike DeJean, if they aren't released, will also be in the mix although I really hope the Mets cut them loose. While they were surprisingly effective for the Mets last year, I don't think the Mets want to have to count on them repeating their performances in 2005.

The lefty battle will likely come down between Darensbourg and Feliciano but Royce Ring is currently having a decent Arizona Fall League, pitching five scoreless innings while striking out five, and is someone to keep in mind. At this point, I'd probably go with Darensbourg simply because I've seen enough of Feliciano and am quite underwhelmed. Pick: Darensbourg

The righty battle will be much more interesting. Heath Bell really impressed with his stuff but don't forget how good Jose Parra was before he got injured. This will be a competition as well but let's give the slot to Bell for now. Pick: Bell

So what does our 2005 roster/lineup look like then (with 2005 ages):

Lineup:
Reyes (S, 22)
Matsui (S, 29)
Wright (R, 22)
Beltran (S, 28)
Piazza (R, 37)
Martinez (L, 37)
Cameron (R, 32)
Diaz (R, 23)

Rotation: Glavine (39), Benson (30), Trachsel (34), Zambrano (30), and Heilman (26)

Bullpen: Looper (30), Moreno (28), Yates (28), Stanton (38), Darensbourg (34), and Bell (28)

Bench: Phillips (29), Wilson (32), Valent (28), McEwing (32), Brazell (25), Garcia (25)

The average age of this team next year will be 29.84 which cuts about a year and a half off the average age for the majority of last year. Notice how we have five players in our lineup under thirty too.

Will the team end up this way? Probably not. Is this the ideal team the Mets could field? Absolutely not. Is it a step in the right direction though? I think so. I hope so. But now everything's in the hands of Minaya and the Wilpons.

Tomorrow I'll have a postscript with some thoughts on the future of the team and the organization in general. So what do y'all think? Is this a good plan? A reasonable plan? Who would you rather sign/promote/trade for? Inquiring minds want to know. Cheers!

15 Comments:

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Marc said...

I liked most of your suggestions; however, the one that stands out the most is trying to sign Carlos Beltran. When the Mets were in Kansas City he went on record as not wanting to change positions. It stirred up a little controversy because Mike Cameron began fielding questions about his willingness to move positions, which of course he was not happy to do. So one of them would have to switch to right field and since Beltran is a free agent it is likely he will not even look in the Mets direction as long as Mike C. is in center.
I enjoy reading your "Amazing blog", thanks for the hard work!

Marc

 
At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, my name is Joe...I am always reading your columns on NJ.com, I enjoy it every day..but a couple questions...Where will Cameron play? Both Cameron and Beltran had said that they refuse to move to RF or LF for that matter. Unless we find a taker for Cameron..then the odds of Beltran coming to the Mets are even less than they were in the first place. I personally believe we shouldn't waste the time pursuing Beltran if we can't deal Cameron..just let him join the evil empire like everybody does I guess. We should make a strong push for JD Drew, and Magglio Ordonez, and if BOTH don't work out..then try to get Jermaine Dye for a couple years. Outside of that situation I believe this was very realistic, it was a good read. Also, I would not want Tino Martinez at first for us, I don't believe he would at all succeed here...I'd make a push for Doug Mientkiewicz or JT Snow...if neither could be obtained, then I'd like to give Brazell,Valent etc. a chance..who knows what Valent could do in a full season's work, he looked real good off the bench for us. If you want my opinion on a lineup...here it is. Oh ya, I agree with your rotation, but for the RHP out of the pen, I'd choose Fortunato over Bell, I feel that Fortunato has better stuff, and he throws heat. He looked good, he doesn't look like a throw-in like he was. My lineup is...

1. Jose Reyes - SS
2. Kaz Matsui - 2B
3. David Wright - 3B
4. Magglio Ordonez/JD Drew/Jermaine Dye - RF
5. Mike Piazza - C
6. Mike Cameron - CF
7. Victor Diaz - LF
8. Mientkiewicz/Snow/Valent/Brazell - 1B

 
At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the line up a lot. SInce I have been thinking along those lines. I would like to gauage interest among other clubs in trades for Jason Phillips, Jae seo, and Brazell in other to bring a sub par back up infielder/catcher whom has played at least 2 years in the major. So we can have a bench of

McEwing, Valent,Wilson,Eric Munson (Detroit Tigers)

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger Jay da Met Fan said...

How about adding an innings eater like a Pavano or a Clament? This will lessen the strain on the pen and give youngsters like Musser and Petit time to develop. Once Glavine is gone (or traded), they can be given a shot...

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger mr. met said...

What's up Jason.

DeJean and Bottalico are not on contract next year, they are free agents so you won't have to worry about the Mets needing to cut them loose. They are as loose as Paris Hilton.

But for you pen, I have a BIG problem. You say you pick Darensbourg as the other lefty? Problem I have is he cannot get anyone out much less a lefty. Over the past three years, he has a .333 BAA vs. Righties and a .322 BAA against lefties. He is getting older so he will most likely not get better. I'm for bringing back DeJean. He throws hard and has actually had some success in his career where Darensbourg has never had any seasons that could classify as good for a reliever. His rookie year was his best and that was maringal. Bottalico actually does a much better job against lefties than Darensbourg. I just hate to waste spots on situational lefties that cannot pitch.

Also, I think Strickland is at least an option. He should be healthy for the Spring.

I'm with you on Floyd though, I think he can be moved. He's still a lefty power bat that will not cost much. He only costs 6.5 mill and the Mets would flip a mill or two and sweeten up the deal. Take a look at what's out on the market for outfielders who hit for power from the left side of the plate. Someone will take a chance.

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Wow...I just glanced at the hit counter -- apparently there have been a few visitors today. :)

Some quick thoughts before I have to get back to work:

Regarding Cameron/Beltran in CF: If moving Cameron to right is what it takes to get Beltran, then Mets management should approach him, explain the situation, and let it be known that he's going to have to move. Any competent organization can do this sensitively and still make it known that he has no choice. The real question is can the Mets do this? I'm hoping under Minaya they can.

BTW, I'm too busy to look it up right now but how do Beltran and Cameron compare defensively? I know Cameron was subpar this year by his standards but I'm willing to bet he's still in the top three in the NL. The question is if Beltran is ahead of him or not.

On the pen, admittedly I really wasn't happy with the way it ended up in my post and looking back you're 100% right on Darensbourg. I neglected Strickland too. Honestly I'd love Royce Ring to get it together and make the team -- maybe if he has a great AFL things will pan out.

I'll post some thoughts in more detail later -- I've had a crazy day punctuated by, and this is no joke, the death of a lab mate over the weekend. I'm going to post a bit on that later today too. *sigh*

 
At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great comments, except the Mets released Keisler in early September...

 
At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget about Grant Roberts for the pen, or possibly the rotation. Presumably he'll be healthy enough to be a factor next season. The main obstacle with him might be the hard feelings from the way his situation was handled earlier this year, The Mets may look to trade him.

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Did the Mets really release Keisler?

*runs to check*

Aw jeez, I totally missed that. And it looks like it was because they didn't have room on the 40 man roster. Couldn't we have released Ice Williams instead?

 
At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to build an organization for long term success you need a solid foundation. The Met's have demoralized their fans with terrible moves for several years.

They need to build a core of good young players that can grow together. I can't think of a better player to build around than Beltran. He can take the pressure off of some of the other younger guys like Reyes and Wright. How would you like to have those 3 guys in your line-up for the next 5-10 years.

Mix them with quality veterans with good baseball skills, but even better work ethic, and baseball knowledge. Guys who play the game the right way. Good things will happen. Unfortunately we(Mets) never have the patience.

Lastly, look for and develop great young pitching. Again be patient. To win the world series you need a true ACE. Who is the last true ACE that we have had? Hint when did we win our last World Series? (G. Gooden)

Let's go Mets!! Mr Wilpon do the right thing. Don't make excuses get Beltran. Your new network will do much better!!!!!!!

Mike C.

 
At 12:06 PM, Blogger Dan said...

I'd like to stay positive in my comments, but your predictions for next year are so way off base that it sounds like you don't even follow this team.

First off, the whole reason for getting Benson and Zambrano was to have a strong starting 5 and to put an end to starting guys like Ginter and Seo and Heilman. So, I think that they will do what they have to do to bring back Leiter, and if they can't, they'll invest in a free agent pitcher. It's shocking that you would suggest relying on the "farm" for the fifth starter when the Mets just traded their two top pitchers from the farm. Didn't they just make the case that they don't want to wait for someone to develop, that they wanted guys who are ready now? Get it together!

Second, it's easy to say sign Beltran, but if you were serious about putting together a plan that's "possible to accomplish" then you would have started with the assumption that the miserable Mets wouldn't be able to sign the top free agent. Why would he come to the Mets? Give me one reason for picking the Mets over the Astros, who he is carrying in the playoffs, or the Yankees or Sox? This "plan" is a crock and I'm surprised that you would post something like this and try to pass it off as something that took you so long that you had to break it up into two parts.

The more realistic scenario is that Hidalgo is the one outfielder who is relatively healthy and feeling good about the Mets and fits in right field. It's first base that the Mets can get the most bang for their buck, and either Delgado or Richie Sexton would be a great addition.

Your "plan" leaves us with Beltran, whom we'll never ever get, Tino friggin' Martinez (?!?!?!), and Heilman. I hope you don't get paid for this stuff...

 
At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason,
Any thoughts are Kendry Morales as a potential long term solution at 1b?
-Sam

 
At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if you are gonna go after Beltran you have to trade Mike Cameron first. Cameron loses all his value at a corner outfield spot. His best trait is his defense. If you want a corner outfielder with a sub.250 average with some pop, put Hidalgo out there, at least he has a cannon for an arm. And personally just from watching games throughout their careers(the little I have viewed of each away from NY games) Cameron is probably a better CF IMO. Although I think Beltran is better in every other category and isn't really far behind Cameron defensively to begin with. But in the end I think the odds of Beltran coming here to begin with are remote and having to move someone just to make room makes it that much harder.

- Hojo4Life

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the defensive statistics you posted for First Basemen are actually pretty irrelevant. Zone Rating is the only one of any value, and even that's pretty slight.

Range Factor doesn't work for first basemen since it includes putouts. That means anytime another infielder makes a play and throws the runner out at first, the first baseman gets credit. But this depends entirely too much on the other infielders.

Fielding percentage also fails for 1B. For one thing, they are almost always ridiculously high, as the vast proportion of plays made by first basemen will be pretty easy. The other problem is that this only includes errors blamed on the first baseman. But more often, a first baseman's value is in catching tough throws and saving errors that would be made by other infielders. FP doesn't count this.

Zone Rating at least isolates the first baseman's ability to field his position. So, in that regard it does actually tell something about the player's ability. But it does still leave out the most important thing, which is, as I mentioned, the ability to turn errant throws into outs.

Suffice to say that all players mentioned are strong defensively, but most of them are pretty poor with the bat these days. While I do agree that a good defensive first baseman is more valuable than, say, Mo Vaughn, a first baseman without anything in his stick is pretty useless, too. If Sexson can recover, he's actually an excellent guy on both sides of the ball. And much better at this point than Tino Martinez (Tino Martinez?!?!).

 
At 1:52 PM, Blogger bill metsiac said...

Why have you left Fortunato out of the pen mix?? He looked VERY good in his short stay up here after the trade??

 

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