The Plan for 2005
The Mets can be good next year with only a few personnel moves. But more importantly and more obviously, health is the key factor for 2005 and more important than whom they get this off season. Don’t get me wrong, they do have huge needs, but the paramount thing is keeping their key players on the field. The next thing they need to get a big bat to plant in the #3 spot in the order to generate some offense. Next in the order of importance is getting younger in the rotation so they have some guys that can eat innings. By carrying seven relievers because you have an old rotation that does not give the gift of innings, you severely set your team back and you are thinner than you need to be on the bench. Finally, they need a coaching staff that will fit this team much better than staff of 2004. The health is a big if, but the last three things are completely attainable. As bad as this team looked in the second half, they are not that far away for being a competitive ball club.
If you read my site a lot, you’ve heard this a 1000 times. If you don’t feel like reading a whole lot of words since they are pretty boring, just skip to the bottom where I outline the entire roster.
The only thing that I know for sure, is that Mike Cameron will be manning centerfield and he is due to make around $6 million. With the emergence of Victor Diaz compounded with the teams apparent loss of patience with Cliff Floyd, Diaz should get a look for one of the COF spots. He has done nothing but hit at every level and finally showed some power in 2004 in his first year in AAA. He has held his own in his September stint and would fit just fine as the #7 or #8 hitter in the order. I’m a big fan of baptism by fire with Victor and batting in the #8 position is going to be tough on a kid that strikes out so much, but he’ll have to learn to make adjustments. The best thing of all about Diaz is that he will be making the Major League minimum of $300,000 in 2005. Having a low salary will definitely open up some options for the Mets in other areas. As for Cliff Floyd and Richard Hidalgo, they should not be in the outfield next season. Hidalgo has been too inconsistent on team that needs consistency way too much. He was serviceable for the Mets needs in 2004, but in no way should figure into the Mets 2005 plans. In his last 178 at bats he has eight homeruns and a .180 average. He hit .114 for September in 78 at-bats and I do realize he has been hurting a little bit. However, groin injury be damned, he needs to go. Cliffy needs to go partly for the reasons he cannot stay on the field and partly for his negative comments (although I do not have a big issue with him telling it like it really is). Cliffy also may still has trade value being that he is due only $6.5 million over the next two years while still having some homeruns left in him. For an American League team splitting time at DH and LF, he could be an affordable asset.
The final spot of the outfield is the Mets best chance at luring a big name free agent to this team. The outfield clearly has the deepest talent pool for gifted players. The top three out there are Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez, and JD Drew. The Mets absolutely have to come away with one of those guys when it is all said and done and is the top priority this off season. If they have to gamble with Drew and Magglio, so be it, there is no way around it. They have to do the due diligence and get a real doctor (as opposed to their team doctors) to look at Magglio’s knee and assess the risk. He had a major procedure done and of course it could be a problem down the line, but he could also be healed.
Aside from the above three, the big names out there are Juan Gonzalez, Jermaine Dye, Danny Bautista, Moises Alou, Steve Finley, and Jeromy Burnitz. None of them is anyone I particularly would care to see on the Mets. After the 2005 season, the big names are Jose Guillen, Johnny Damon, Carlos Lee, Sammy Sosa, Preston Wilson, Juan Pierre, Shawn Green, Larry Walker, and Brian Giles. The only guy in this group that interests me at this point is Carlos Lee, whom the White Sox are most assuredly going to try and make every attempt to lock up. All the rest are stars that are too much past their prime or guys that you do not wait for and set your sights on like Johnny Damon. The Mets chance to pick up a big time outfielder is this off season. There is no one on the farm and no one that the Mets can realistically target in the near future that even comes close to these guys.
The bottom line for the Mets this year is that they need to land either Beltran, Ordonez, or Drew. Anything else is a disappointment. The three top guys this year are better than anyone that the Mets can realistically land in the next two or three free agent crops. A stop gap guy makes not sense since there is nothing you are bridging too. I’m not sure the Mets could land Beltran being that Boras and the Mets do not exactly have a good working relationship, but as with any Boras client money talks. The Mets do have money, and they could come in and trump everyone with a seven or eight year, $15 million per year contract and blow everyone out of the water, but I’m not sure Steinbrenner would let that happen and I just cannot see Wilpon doing that. Also with Beltran, I think the Astros are going to make every effort to retain him and Beltran likes the team that is surrounding him and may want to come back. Basically, I just do not see Beltran in the Mets future. If Ordonez’s knee is healthy and a GOOD doctor confirms that he should have no further ill affects and Beltran is unattainable like I think he will be, put the man in blue and orange. As for Drew, he is the contingency plan due to his injured plagued past. Besides that, I think the Braves are going to try and bring him back.
The outfield in 2005 should be Cameron, Diaz, and Ordonez. That would set the Mets back about $21,500,000. Ordonez is a guy that slides right into the Mets plan and does not cause a position conflict with the Mets. Also, it is easy to forget that this guy is the epitome of consistency. From 1999 to 2002, he hit no less than 30 homeruns, 113 RBIs and .301 each year. In 2003, he hit 29 homeruns, 99 RBIs, while batting .317. With the exception of last year, he played over 153 games in every season since 1999 and played 145 games in 1998, which was his first full season. He has a career .307 average is the #3 hitter the Mets are looking for. He plays in a hitter’s park, but still hits very well on the road with a .308 average during the span of 2001-2003. He’s also not too shabby in the field. His zone rating is decent, but what he gets too, he does not miss. He has not made over five errors in any of his years with the White Sox, he has only made seven errors in the last three seasons, and he made only two in 2003. This is the guy the Mets should be targeting when you take into account the likelihood of bringing either Boras client in Drew and Beltran.
We all know that Wright will be at the hot corner, Reyes will be at SS, and Matsui will be at 2B. There are questions as to whether the Mets should keep Piazza at catcher, put him at first, or trade him. Now, I’m for the Mets keeping Piazza and having him bridge to Ramon Hernandez who will be available in after the 2005 season. Reasonable options outside of Piazza are thin and the guy I like the best is defensive wizard Damian Miller. However, he will be 35 years old next year and just does not help this team get younger and is not all that different from Vance Wilson. Miller is definitely better than Wilson defensively, but not enough to make me think Miller is a reason to move Piazza. Basically it boils down to the question if not Mike Piazza, who will it be then? The answer is no one good. At least Piazza can bridge the gap to Ramon Hernandez like I said above, who I like a lot. Mike Jacobs should also read ready after Piazza’s contract is up and if all else fails the Mets will still have Vance Wilson and Jason Phillips to rely on, which is not the worst thing in the world. Piazza is still the best and only catching option currently.
As for first base, I would try and land Adrian Gonzalez in a deal that involves Cliff Floyd. He was rumored to have almost been sent there last season at the deadline, but the supposed deal fell through at the last second. The Rangers have been running out the field David Delluci, Brian Jordan, Eric Young, or Gary Matthews Jr. and had either Brad Fullmer or Brian Jordan at DH. He’s a gamble because of his health, but you would include some pitching in the form of Aaron Heilman or Jae Seo. Texas is always looking for pitching and would require some cheap arms in return for adding on salary (Mets could pick up some too). There will need to be something thrown in with Gonzalez, it cannot be him alone. Now I know a lot of people are not high on him, but I think he’ll be a solid player that will give .300 at the plate, 15 homeruns, and be a great glove. Why would Texas give up young, cheap talent? Easy, they have Mark Texiera at first currently and Jason Botts, who Baseball America had said may pass Gonzalez on the depth charts in 2005. Adding a young pitcher the package to Texas would certainly be tempting for a team that is desperate for it and has none on the horizon. If the Mets cannot flip Cliffy into Adrian because the Rangers do not want him, they need to explore a reasonable package that will get him here.
However, since my trade for Adrian Gonzalez is never going to happen, it behooves me to step to provide an alternative. I’m just not a fan of bringing in Carlos Delgado at all. He’ll be looking for too much money for too long. Sexson is someone of interest, but the D-Backs need to bring him back bad. I just do not see him being available. The first base situation could be solved in house by using Cliff Floyd, Jason Phillips, Craig Brazell, or Eric Valent at first. I just do not think Brazell is ready and may be better suited to take another year in the minors and learn the corner outfield spots so he can be a Ryan Klesko type guy off the bench. Despite me being in the minority, I’m not against using Cliffy here. Why not? If he does not fetch much via trade, he’s still a left handed bat with some pop. He’s played there before and I just cannot watch him run around the outfield anymore. Most importantly, his contract is not that bad and if he goes down again, there are plenty of people that can step in for a period of time like Brazell, Phillips, or Valent. Having Cliffy and Phillips split time at first is a way to buy time till next year’s free agent class which includes Sean Casey and Paul Konerko.
Seeing the realistic alternatives this year Cliffy seems like the guy to go with. Even if the experiment falters, you can move him back to left and use Valent/Brazell/Phillips in pinch and they would be batting 8th in the order. After the 2005 I am for sending him off and having the Mets take their chances on landing Casey or Konerko. Even if they cannot land either of those two in 2005, the Mets can even take Mientkiewicz as a bridge to Bladergoen or whomever.
The total cost of the infield would be about $23,000,000 with Adrian Gonzalez (or Valent/Brazell/Phillips) at first base or about $29,500,000 with Cliff Floyd at first base.
Things to Keep and eye on:
The availability of JT Snow is something the Mets should key in on. His option may not be picked up, but that is unlikely. He is only due to make $2 million off that option and the Giants just cannot pass that up unless they intend to land Delgado or some other first baseman.
The Starting Rotation
In 2005 the Mets are due to return with Steven Traschel, Tom Glavine, Victor Zambrano, and presumably Kris Benson. That leaves one lonely spot open for the Mets to fill. I am not a fan of bringing back Al Leiter. If the Mets are going to make a commitment to winning, they need to make that statement by not bringing back Al Leiter. They need to make a statement by getting younger. This free agent class is just too good pass up without bringing anyone back. The Mets have the money to spend and they should use it on someone not named Al Leiter. Predictably, I think the Yankees are going to make a huge push for Carl Pavano since he might very well be the most desirable name. Steinbrenner gave Vazquez $11,000,000 per year, he’ll offer something similar to Carl. Aside from Pavano, I think Matt Clement some nasty stuff too and should be a main target for Minaya. I think the Mets should try and move Trachsel’s palatable $5 million dollar salary if they can then try and bring in Carl Pavano/Matt Clement and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Daisuke will only be 24 years old on opening day and helps the Mets get younger as does Clement or Pavano. Also, Daisuke is being asked to be a 4th or 5th starter and will not have a tremendous amount of pressure (although pitching in NY could be pressure enough). I do realize that having all of these guys may block Humber or Soler, but the reality is that they have not even thrown a pitch in the minor leagues. When they are ready, you can cross that bridge when you get to it. If there are young and affordable options out there right now, you have to pounce on them.
Though my wish is for the Mets to part with Trachsel, they love the way he ‘knows how to pitch in NY’. It is not realistic that they would move him simply because he is cheap and proven in NY. Clement is a guy that I think the Cubs are not going to offer arbitration too since they have more pressing needs in replacing Moises Alou’s production and finding a short stop. Clement will be due a raise and the Cubs are going to have to think about Wood down the line and Zambrano’s arbitration year coming up after next season. They just cannot be looking to bring Clement back with the bevy of minor league starting talent they have and their other needs.
The total cost of the starting rotation with Glavine, Trachsel, Zambrano, Benson, and Clement will roughly cost $35 million.
Things to keep an eye on:
If the Mets keep both Glavine and Trachsel, either one could be used as trade bait if the Mets are not in the race next season. Yusmeiro Petit could be ready by late 2005 and may be able to step into the rotation.
The Mets have a plethora of in house choices to fill up this bullpen as well as Stanton who is just looking like an albatross at this time. Stanton costs about $4 million dollars and is going no where despite the fact he is completely ineffective. The Mets really need a solid set up man that is reliable in the mold that Mota is for the Marlins. The bad thing? No one is available. The Mets could make a huge splash by bringing in a devastating closer like Billy Wagner and move Looper to set up man, but that is as likely as Howe getting re-hired as manager. The best options on the free agent market this year are of the closer variety and nothing really good in terms of set up men. Trevor Miller, who finished the year with a 3.12 ERA is a really intriguing player as he is a leftie, but he’s old and has not been what I would call consistent. The best set up man available is BJ Ryan the Orioles are not going to let him go. Williamson was a top choice, but his arm is shot and he is going to require surgery. There are guys like Kent Merker who are certainly effective, but he’s going to be 37 and is he really an upgrade over what the Mets can do in house? What it really boils down too is that there is not a lot of top flight relievers available this off season, so the Mets are most likely going to have a similar bullpen as they had this year.
Since there is just is not anyone out there that the Mets would be able to attain that would make a big impact, I think the bullpen should be solved in house. You know Looper and Stanton will be there, that is obvious. Resign Scott Strickland and Mike DeJean and let Bartolome Furtunado, Tyler Yates, Orber Moreno, Heath Bell, Matt Ginter, Grant Roberts (is he still alive?) and Jose Parra battle it out for the last two spots. I’m not overly concerned with just having Stanton as the only lefty as I’m not too big on lefty/lefty matchups and I think having a lefty specialist is a waste of a bullpen spot. If you cannot pitch to both righties and lefties, you have no place in the bullpen. The pen for the Mets has not been horrible with the exception of Stanton and Franco early in the year. They can be effective and might be able to surprise people with the young hard throwers. Also, let us not forget that Scott Strickland could be a very, very good set up man if he can come back healthy. He used to be able to bring it in the mid 90’s and has over a 9 K/9 ratio for his career.
The total cost of the bullpen will be roughly $11,000,000.
Thinks to keep an eye on:
Octavio Dotel is arbitration eligible this season. He made $2,800,000 last arbitration hearing, and that was before he was a closer. Figure him on making close to five million if he goes to arbitration with the A’s. The A’s have limited resources and need to try and keep Jermaine Dye and figure out how to pay Durazo’s arbitration figure as he is eligible too. Hudson is going to be a free agent after 2005 and A’s need all the cash they can get. Do not rule out Dotel being dangled in a trade or just non-tendered. The Mets need to keep an eye on Octavio. My buddy thinks he’ll be Benitez part II since the perception is that he is overly sensitive, but I do not think so.
Also keep and eye on Alay Soler. According to Rick Peterson, he should move up through the system quickly. Who’s to say he will not be a late season call up for the bullpen if needed?
The Bench is in worse shape than I thought. I have no idea if the Mets are going to carry seven pitchers or six pitchers next year. If they go with seven, they will have to keep Joe McEwing since they have two backup catchers on the roster. The reason McEwing is needed because if you carry seven pitchers, you only have five spots for the bench and four of them are going to be spoken for with Valent, McEwing, Phillips, and Wilson. Who is going to play the 2B, SS, and 3B besides McEwing? He cannot take all the spots by himself, so they will need to bring in a guy like Rich Aurilla that can go at any infield spot. The bench is weak. They need to add a fifth outfielder with some pop off the bench or a backup corner infielder with some pop. If the Mets can get a young pitcher to replace Leiter, then I would much rather have a guy like David Delluci off the bench for a back up outfield with some pop and cut McEwing. Then you will have Delluci (OF) Garcia or Keppinger (INF - train them to play all the infield positions in spring training), an Aurilla type to play all the infield positions as well, Wilson (C), Phillips(1B/C), and Valent (OF) rounding out the bench. I think they will get the job done.
The Bench would cost approximately $5 million.
As for the coaching staff, I’m still all for them using Ken Oberkfell at the helm (though he is not even a candidate). If they can bring in Rudy Jaramillo to assist him as his hitting coach and bring in an experienced bench coach like Carlos Tosca, I see no reason why they will not be able to do a great job. They will be a staff that would be able to grow with this team and they are used to working with kids, which the Mets are going to have a good amount of in the upcoming years.
Your 2005 Mets:
Jose Reyes (SS)
Kazuo Matsui (2B)
Magglio Ordonez (RF)
Mike Piazza (C)
Cliff Floyd (1B)
David Wright (3B)
Mike Cameron (CF)
Victor Diaz (LF)
Two of the following: Yates/Fortunado/Moreno/Bell
Jason Phillips (1B/C)
Vance Wilson (C)
David Delluci (OF)
Rich Aurilla (INF)
Danny Garcia (INF)
Eric Valent (OF/1B)
Not only do I think that team would be competitive, that is something that is completely attainable. They will have every opportunity to bring those guys in and I think they could be able to do it if they actually pursue the above players. The payroll would be at just about $100,000,000 with about $20,000,000+ being dropped off the payroll at years end. The Mets would have a completely manageable and flexible payroll for next season and beyond as well as fielding teams that will be competitive in the NL East.
"If they were smart, they'd make sure as hell to bring him back," Tommy Lasorda said as the Dodgers took batting practice yesterday at Busch Stadium. "That team needs somebody like him. I think they realize they made a mistake in firing him. It was the GM [Phillips] who wanted him gone."
Top 10 Prospects, 2005 Draft
1. Justin Upton/ss/Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
2. Cameron Maybin/of/T.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
3. Alex Gordon/3b/Nebraska
4. Jeff Clement/c/Southern California
5. Tyler Greene/ss/Georgia Tech
6. Wade Townsend/rhp/Rice
7. Luke Hochevar/rhp/Tennessee
8. Mike Pelfrey/rhp/Wichita State
9. Stephen Head/1b/lhp/Mississippi
10. Troy Tulowitzki/ss/Long Beach State
Being the Mets draft ninth, I guess we should get familiar with some names. Maybe a Townsend/Humber reunion? I’m all for drafting some more pitching, but Clement is a catcher with some big power and if he can make it to the majors fast would be a perfect fit.