mets logoThis is a project where 30 people got together to act as the GMs of the 30 MLB teams with the idea of conducting the offseason in one week. This is what happened in this simulation, not a prediction of what will happen in real life.

Following the Mets’ 2015 NL pennant win and World Series appearance, expectations for 2016 were high. Their awesome, young pitching staff, now playoff tested, was the envy of 29 rival general managers and fan bases. With Yoenis Cespedes back in the fold for a full season and an upgraded middle infield, the Mets were a popular pre-season pick to go all the way. But the promising season got blindsided by injuries to four of their big five pitchers and half their opening day lineup, as well as disappointing seasons from up-and-coming players like Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud.

Through a combination of shrewd in-season moves, a favorable end-of-season schedule, surprise contributions, and sheer will, the Mets managed to win 87 games and earn a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Of course, the undermanned team ran into the playoff juggernaut known as Madison Bumgarner to end their roller coaster season, but we all got a sense that there’s a lot more to this team than just talent. This bunch has heart and guts. With a healthy pitching staff and a few roster tweaks, there’s no reason the Mets can’t be right back in contention in 2017.

As the mock GM of the team for this year’s Mets360 project, that’s exactly what I kept in mind as I made a few bold moves to build upon this team’s strengths and prepare to win the World Series in 2017. Since this project is all about 2017, I took an aggressive and short-sighted approach to my shortened off-season – 2017 or bust.

The easy part is that the core four pitchers and the back end of the Mets bullpen are all under contract and expected to be healthy for spring training. Questions abound on the offensive side of the ball though as the only sure thing is Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. With all the replacement players who finished out the season, plus all the guys coming back from injuries, the roster is crowded and expensive with redundancies – too many left handed hitters, too many second baseman and right fielders. With free agents, options and a lot of arbitration increases, I had my work cut out for me.

Last year’s team had a $135 million payroll and I was given a $5 million increase to work with. The arbitration increases alone would put me over budget, and that’s if I let Cespedes get away, which I was not about to let happen. My first order of business was to clear payroll and offer Cespedes the moon to stay in Queens. I made a flurry of trades, signings, and tough decisions and wound up with a payroll of 139.7 million. I like this team’s chances .Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Tendering Contracts

To free up payroll and roster space I let the following players leave via free agency (2016 salary): Neil Walker (10.55MM), Bartolo Colon (7.25MM), Alejandro de Aza (5.75MM), Jerry Blevins (4.2MM), Fernando Salas (2.4MM), Kelly Johnson (2MM), Jim Henderson (1.4MM), and James Loney (510,000). I was outbid on Kelly Johnson and lost out on both Blevins and Salas due to a technicality, but that proved to be a blessing. I picked up Jay Bruce’s $13 million contract, knowing I was going to trade him.

My easiest decision was to buyout Jon Niese’s contract for $500,000. I DFA’d the following players who were all earning the league minimum: Josh Edgin (due for arbitration), Logan Verrett, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goedell, and Rafael Montero. Wilmer Flores, Rene Rivera, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Addison Reed were all signed to arbitration increases.

Step 2: Free Agency

Yoenis Cespedes – OF ($32 million) I told you I wasn’t about to let him get away and I told you I was all in on 2017. He’s the key cog in this lineup and my starting left fielder.

Justin Ruggiano – OF ($1.5 million) I liked what I saw of him in limited duty last season. He makes for a nice fifth outfielder, which I suddenly had an opening for, as you’ll see below.

Step 3: Trades

Here’s where I got bold. First I unloaded Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud for salary relief. I sent the pair to the Angels in return for some c-level prospects. I needed the money to sign Cespedes, but more to facilitate a blockbuster deal that would solidify the lineup. The Braves GM contacted me about Zack Wheeler. Given his injury history and bad mechanics, plus the emergence of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, I felt okay about parting with Wheeler. The Braves GM wanted to clear payroll and we started talking about franchise player and perennial Mets killer Freddie Freeman. After a lot of back and forth, we agreed on Wheeler, Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce, and first baseman of the future, Dominic Smith. I’d make that trade in real life. Freeman and Cespedes would give us the best 3-4 in the lineup since Olerud-Piazza.

I gave up a lot of outfielders, but felt comfortable with Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo in a centerfield platoon and Michael Conforto in right field with Ruggiano backing up. I still needed a catcher and after losing out on Blevins and Salas on a technicality, I suddenly had a big hole to fill in the bullpen. I knew the Indians GM was desperate to cut payroll and I had room in my budget. I emptied out the farm for Andrew Miller and Yan Gomes. I’d never make this move in real life, but for one all-in season and a pretend project, I sent Ahmed Rosario, Desmond Lindsey, Justin Dunn and Tom Szapucki to Cleveland.

The Results:

The Lineup:

  1. Jose Reyes, 2B
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  5. Michael Conforto, RF
  6. David Wright, 3B
  7. Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo, CF
  8. Yan Gomes, C
  9. Pitcher

The Bench:

  • Wilmer Flores IF
  • TJ Rivera IF
  • Brandon Nimmo OF
  • Justin Ruggiano OF
  • Rene Rivera C

The Rotation:

  1. Matt Harvey
  2. Jacob deGrom
  3. Noah Syndergaard
  4. Steven Matz
  5. Robert Gsellman

The Bullpen:

Payroll:

Jose Reyes 510,000
Asdrubal Cabrera 8,250,000
Yoenis Cespedes 32,000,000
Freddie Freeman 20,500,000
David Wright 20,000,000
Michael Conforto 525,000
Juan Lagares 4,500,000
Yan Gomes 4,580,000
Wilmer Flores 1,900,000
Justin Ruggiano 1,500,000
TJ Rivera 510,000
Brandon Nimmo 510,000
Rene Rivera 2,200,000
Matt Harvey 5,200,000
Jacob deGrom 4,500,000
Noah Syndergaard 600,000
Steven Matz 525,000
Robert Gsellman 510,000
Jeurys Familia 8,700,000
Addison Reed 10,600,000
Andrew Miller 9,000,000
Hansel Robles 550,000
Seth Lugo 510,000
Josh Smoker 510,000
Gabriel Ynoa 510,000
Jon Niese (buyout) 500,000
139,700,000

Thoughts:

This team is admittedly thin and the farm has been gutted. However, a healthy rotation of fire ballers, backed by a serious lineup and a lights out bullpen will put the Mets in the thick of contention. Lugo could step in for an injured pitcher and the bullpen features three closers. When Wright inevitably goes on the DL, Flores or Rivera can step up and there are still guys like Matt Reynolds, Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, Gavin Cecchini, and Kevin Plawecki in Las Vegas. As the GM of the fake Mets, I’m biased, but I think this team would win the 2017 World Series. Who’s with me?

See how all 30 teams came together in the Mets360 GM project

20 comments on “MLB GM Project: New York Mets 2016-17

  • Rocky Thompson

    By only taking 2017 into account and making trades like “I sent Ahmed Rosario, Desmond Lindsey, Justin Dunn and Tom Szapucki to Cleveland” this exercise loses a lot of its value. On the other hand the Freeman trade, which has some reality to it, is quite interesting to consider.

    • Brian Joura

      It’s erroneous to say we’re only taking 2017 into account. If that was the case, no one would make a trade where they took on a minor leaguer.

      • Matt Netter

        Brian, they would if they have no chance to contend in 2017 like the Angels. That team is an interesting case study. They have arguably the best player in baseball locked up and just entering his prime, but they don’t have the farm system, trade chips, or payroll flexibility to make the moves necessary to build a contending team around him. I’m sure Angels fans would bristle at the mere notion of trading Trout, but that team might be best served by making a Herschel Walker blockbuster to rebuild the team.

        This exercise really convinced me that Alderson and company have their work cut out for them this winter. This Mets team has some holes and question marks, but a good foundation and a lot of interesting trade chips. It’s going to be a very interesting offseason.

        • Brian Joura

          But then you would be looking at something besides 2017.

          Edit: And as the Angels guy in this project, I can say not one person contacted me about Trout.

    • Matt Netter

      The prospects to Cleveland move was admittedly a bit far flung, but it was also done out of desperation when I realized at the 11th hour that I lose Blevins and Salas on a technicality. I suddenly had a huge hole in the pen and money to spend. That’s not a move I’d have made if we had more than a single week to conduct an offseason.

      As for the Freddie Freeman deal, aside from how great he’d look hitting in front of Yo, I just love the idea of never having to pitch to him again.

  • Drew Drasser

    lets thank god your not the gm 🙂

  • Scott Ferguson

    The Freeman deal is awesome, but the Indians trade is terrible. I get it was the end of the project, but that was rough. You could have back filled the bullpen from the minors. The bigger issue was your catching situation and I think you could have gotten Gomes for less. I know you said it was a deal you wouldn’t do in real life, but it was still rough.

  • Pete

    Would it be possible for you to post the salaries with which you came up with for your 140 million dollar payroll? It’s not a bad scenario Matt. I’d take it. My only thought was a package deal for Arenado instead of Cespedes and move Wright to first base.

    • Matt Netter

      Pete – payroll details added.

  • Mike Walczak

    My last article had the Mets going after Freeman. Now that is two of us with the same thought. It must be a good idea ! Freeman is the perfect player that the Mets need just like in 84 they sent Brooks, Fitzgerald, Youmans and Winnimgham to the Expos for Carter.

    • Matt Netter

      Mike W – I remember thinking we gave up so much for Carter at the time, but A, Carter put us over the top and got us a ring, and B, 3 out of 4 of those guys didn’t amount to much. Brooks was a fan favorite and a darn good player, but I don’t think anyone second guesses that deal now. I’m not a proponent of trading away top prospects and young players, but this team has a two-year window with this golden pitching staff. If Alderson sees a Carter-like opportunity, he’s got to pounce.

  • David Groveman

    The last-minute trade was so bad it basically killed your entire off season.

    Counting on Wright at 3rd was also a questionable move.

    Catchers were not only cheap, but plentiful. Not sure how you wound up forced to swallow that terrible trade with Cleveland.

    • Matt Netter

      Dave, rather than focus on what I gave up, look at the final roster. That’s a top-notch rotation, a shutdown pen, and a monster middle of the lineup. I assume Wright will get injured, which is why I kept Flores, Rivera and Reyes. In terms of catchers, Ramos (24MM) and Weiters (14MM) were not cheap. I tried to trade for Derrick Norris but the asking price was too high.

      • David Groveman

        No Matt,

        You cannot tell the minor league guy to ignore that you sold your future for a single year. Your payroll is such that you will lose, at least, Harvey or deGrom and the lineup is only marginally better than it was in 2016.

        I got Nick Hundley for $1 Mil
        I offered Tyler Flowers to everyone for basically nothing

        That move turned an okay offseason into a disastrously bad offseason.

  • Brian Joura

    I liked the Freeman deal a lot.

    The less said about the Miller deal, the better.

  • Eraff

    You might get Freddie for Smith, Rosario and a couple Arms…..adding the 22 Million of Junk? The Braves GM was immediately fired.

    How were the budgets determined?

    • Brian Joura

      I looked at last year’s and a weighted (5-3-1) of the past three years and assigned each team. The overwhelming majority of teams had payrolls within $10 million of one of those marks.

      It’s an impossible task and you never know which team will get a wild hair and up their payroll $30 million…

    • David Groveman

      Keep your demeaning of me to my own team’s post.

      1) Jay Bruce + Lucas Duda = $19.5 Mil of “junk” who can come off the roster after 2017 but who are both remarkably better than you seem to think they are.

      2) Wheeler was ultimately more valuable than Rosario to the Braves who have shortstops and few quality pitching prospects near the majors.

      3) We do what we can with the cards we have dealt. I was given a $93 Mil payroll for a team that could have a net payroll of around $110-$120 Mil. Not sure why you are so upset about this deal but I think it’s time you got over it.

      • Eraff

        C’mon Dave…that trade is so bad, they’re discussing it on other blogs !!! 😉

  • TexasGusCC

    Matt, what were the final numbers on Cespedes, years and numbers?

    I understand your rationale for the Miller trade, but, only you will know what Dave Stewart and Alex Anthopoulos felt.

    The rest was incredible.

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