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):
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!