This Week in the Mets Offseason: Christmas Edition

The MLB offseason will cool off from now until the New Year as free agents and team executives will spend this next week relaxing with their families. However, with Christmas time upon us, I can’t help myself from thinking about what players I think the Mets should acquire before the start of Spring Training.

As I have documented in past weeks, the Mets have been a very active team this offseason. They made the first blockbuster trade of the offseason, signed one of the biggest free agent catchers, and signed a top tier reliever all in about a month.

All of that work put the Mets in a slightly better position on paper, as of now, than they were going into Opening Day last season and we aren’t even in January yet. However, at the Wilson Ramos introductory press conference, General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen made it seem as if the Mets are done making big signings at this point and that adding depth pieces is the direction the team is going in moving forward.

To make the Mets true favorites of the NL East, like Brodie claimed the Mets are, he will have to read my Christmas wish list. I have multiple lists ranging from unrealistic, to what should happen, to what shouldn’t happen, but might.

Unrealistic

Sign Bryce Harper 10 years 330 million, trade Kevin Plawecki for a lefty reliever, sign Adam Warren 2 years 11 million, and sign Adeiny Hechavarria 1 year 5 million. Plus sign veteran pitchers to minor league deals like they have done with Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis. 2019 projected payroll: 194 million

This would fill out the major league roster with a pure all-around star in Bryce Harper, obtain a major league caliber left-handed reliever,  a reliever that can pitch multiple innings in the middle of a game or help at the back end of a game, and add a defensive-minded backup shortstop that can also handle second and third base.

The Mets have not been in on Harper, but they haven’t publicly closed the door on him either and when healthy he is arguably the second best player in the game. 10 years is a long time to lock a guy up for and 33 million per year is a large portion of a salary to put into one player.

The reason why it still makes sense is because he still is only 26, so for 6-7 years of that contract, he will be in his prime athletic years. He plays hard, draws headlines, and can carry an offense. He is built to play in New York and the Wilpons should realize that signing him doesn’t necessarily kill the Mets payroll in the long term. The Mets can get creative with Harper’s contract and do something like SNY.tv’s Matt Cerrone suggested. A lineup with Harper would look like this on Opening Day:

  1. CF Nimmo
  2. RF Harper
  3. 2B Cano
  4. C Ramos
  5. LF Conforto
  6. SS Rosario
  7. 3B Frazier
  8. 1B McNeil

Bench: Dom Smith, Juan Lagares, Adeiny Hechavarria, Travis d’Arnaud, and TJ Rivera (Peter Alonso will likely get called up in late April and take McNeil’s spot in the lineup.

The lineup above is powerful, but left-handed heavy. When you have strong hitters in your lineup then it doesn’t matter if it is balanced because Harper, Cano, and McNeil have proven they can handle lefties with ease.

Adding Warren and a lefty reliever with major league success will make the Mets bullpen a strength. This would give the Mets 6 proven relievers in Warren, the lefty, Familia, Diaz, Lugo, and Gsellman.

This version of the Mets would easily be the favorites in the NL East with a powerful lineup, a strong bullpen, great starting, and decent depth on the bench and in the minors. It is unlikely that the Mets will go in this direction, but maybe Brodie and the Wilpons will read this and change their minds.

What Should Happen V1

I have two versions of this with one difference.

Sign AJ Pollock 4 years 60 million with 5 million dollars of incentives, and a vesting option of 15 million for a 5th year, trade Plawecki for a lefty reliever, sign Adam Warren 2 years 11 million, and sign Asdrubal Cabrera 1 year 6 million. Plus sign veteran pitchers to minor league deals like they did with Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis. 2019 projected payroll: 179 million

This is what I think the Mets need to do in order to compete in 2019. These moves give the Mets a strong outfield offensively and defensively, the infield would be extremely versatile once Alonso arrives in the majors with Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeff McNeil more than capable to step up and start, should injuries occur.

A lineup with those signings would look something like this:

  1. RF Nimmo
  2. C Ramos
  3. 2B Cano
  4. CF Pollock
  5. LF Conforto
  6. SS Rosario
  7. 3B Frazier
  8. 1B McNeil

Bench: Dom Smith, Juan Lagares, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and TJ Rivera. (Peter Alonso will take over at first in late April).

The lineup above is long with strong batters throughout, all capable of hitting for power and/or have high on-base percentages. Furthermore, the lineup is balanced with 4 lefties and 4 righties, when Alonso comes up a righty bat will take over of a lefty bat, but it will still be balanced.

Pollock is not a perfect player because he is injury prone for the same reason as Juan Lagares, he plays hard. Pollock supposedly wants a contract similar to Lorenzo Cain’s 5 year 80 million dollar pact with the Brewers, something that he deserves when healthy, but he simply needs to prove to earn it.

It is for that reason that I have 5 million dollars of incentives built in his first 4 seasons. If he averages 125+ games throughout those four seasons then that fifth season worth 15 million dollars automatically kicks in.

The biggest problem, besides injury concerns, with signing Pollock is how playing time will shake out when Cespedes returns. The Mets have publicly said they hope Cespedes will return after the All-Star break and at that point, the Mets would have four outfielders that need regular playing time. For me, I just don’t see Cespedes coming back on time, and when he does he probably will only be able to play 4-5 games per week and his time in the outfield may be done.

When talking to Pollock about this I would simply guarantee him 5-6 games a week and say that regular rest will keep him fresh for a playoff push that the team will be making.

The reason I would sign Cabrera over Hechavarria in this situation is because with Harper the Mets would be better off with a defensive-minded backup in the infield with Nimmo stuck in center, but with Pollock and Lagares patrolling center for the season, an offensive-minded bench player to backup Rosario is easier to handle.

Adding Warren and a lefty reliever with major league success will make the Mets bullpen a strength. This would give the Mets 6 proven relievers in Warren, the lefty, Familia, Diaz, Lugo, and Gsellman.

These moves would lead to the Mets having an opportunity to win the division with a strong lineup, great outfield defense, solid pitching, and a bench filled with players that can step in and start

What Should Happen V2

Sign Marwin Gonzalez 3 years 42 million, trade Plawecki for a lefty reliever, sign Adam Warren 2 years 11 million, and sign Asdrubal Cabrera 1 year 6 million. Plus sign veteran pitchers to minor league deals like they did with Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis. 2019 Projected payroll: 176 million

The only difference here is Marwin Gonzalez. If the Mets don’t want to risk signing Pollock because of his injury history then Gonzalez is the way to go. The contract I laid out above is a slight overpay for Gonzalez as his offensive output is just about league average, but he can play everywhere besides centerfield and catcher, so his versatility is worth the price.

He also was a big part of the Houston Astros, so he will bring some playoff experience with him as well. Not to mention that he is a switch hitter which will help the Mets lineup as well.

A lineup with him would look like this:

  1. RF Nimmo
  2. 1B Gonzalez
  3. 2B Cano
  4. C Ramos
  5. LF Conforto
  6. SS Rosario
  7. 3B Frazier
  8. CF Lagares

Bench: Jeff McNeil, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis d’Arnaud, Rajai Davis, Dom Smith. (Peter Alonso will take over at first in late April, moving Gonzalez to LF, Nimmo to CF, Conforto to RF, and Lagares to the bench.

The reason why Gonzalez makes sense with his versatility is because he can handle first until Alonso is ready, if an outfielder or an infielder gets hurt, he can step in and handle their position defensively and offensively. He has proven durability throughout his career with 120+ games played for four consecutive seasons and he has 75+ games of experience at 5 different positions.

When Cespedes returns Gonzalez can move around the diamond, playing a few games a week in left and a few games a week in the infield, still starting 5-6 games a week

Does he add firepower to the lineup like Pollock? No, but he is just as useful, which is why virtually every team in baseball should be interested in him.

What Shouldn’t Happen, but Might

Sign Cameron Maybin 1 year 4 million, trade Kevin Plawecki for a lefty reliever, sign Brad Boxberger 2 years 8 million, sign Adeiny Hechavarria 1 year 5 million. Sign veteran pitchers to minor league deals like Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco. 2019 projected payroll: 164 million.

This would be a cheaper Christmas present that fills the holes the Mets have with solid players that are just depth. A lineup with these moves will look something like this:

  1. RF Nimmo
  2. SS Rosario
  3. 2B Cano
  4. C Ramos
  5. LF Conforto
  6. 3B Frazier
  7. 1B McNeil
  8. CF Lagares

Bench: Adeiny Hechavarria, Cameron Maybin, Travis d’Arnaud, TJ Rivera, and Dom Smith. (Peter Alonso will come up in late April to start at first base).

The Mets lineup is a solid lineup that is likely going to be more productive than last season especially with Amed Rosario primed for a breakout season after what he did in August and September last season.

Rosario performed very well as the leadoff hitter last season, hitting .268 with 5 home runs and 42 RBI’s. Although Nimmo needs to leadoff I think without a Pollock, Gonzalez, or a Harper; Rosario and Nimmo at the top of the lineup would bring excitement to start off a game and provide Cano and Ramos with plenty of RBI opportunities.

The reason why Maybin makes sense if the Mets want to avoid bigger signings is his ability to play all three outfield positions, and he plays center at a slightly above-average rate.

Last season with Miami he had 2 defensive runs saved in 30 games in center, with -2 runs saved in 20 games at center for the Tigers, good enough numbers for a guy that would be playing center about 30% of the time for the Mets with a healthy Lagares handling the majority of a platoon.

Maybin is not a big bat by any means, but he has been a solid hitter throughout his career. He doesn’t have much pop, but he hit .249 last season with a .326 OBP in 384 ABs with the Marlins and Mariners. Those are solid enough numbers, especially considering he would be the fourth outfielder. He is a cheap option that makes the team better.

Now, let’s talk about Brad Boxberger. Boxberger is a veteran right-hander who started his career in Tamba Bay and was the closer for the Diamondbacks last season, where he struggled. Boxberger pitched to a 4.39 ERA with 32 saves across 53 innings pitched, those numbers led to a non-tender from the Diamondbacks.

Although he struggled last season, Boxberger has plenty of experience in the back end of a bullpen and has actually been successful in past seasons with a career ERA of 3.42 he is no slouch. Boxberger is a nice cheap option to help consolidate the back end of the bullpen and is a legitimate candidate to have a bounce-back season.

Couple him with the lefty the Mets acquire for Plawecki and the Mets bullpen will be above-average going into the season

Finally, Adeiny Hechavarria. As I said earlier, in my unrealistic scenario, he can handle shortstop very well and can be the glove-first middle infield backup with a decent bat off the bench.

These moves are not exciting ones, but they make the Mets better than they are now with solid bench options that can step up and start if needed.

Time will tell what Santa Brodie brings to Mets fans everywhere this season, we all hope that he brings us a surprise or two that will make the Mets true contenders for the NL East.

December 24, 2018

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