This 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.
- Jose Reyes, 2B
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
- Freddie Freeman, 1B
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Michael Conforto, RF
- David Wright, 3B
- Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo, CF
- Yan Gomes, C
- Wilmer Flores IF
- TJ Rivera IF
- Brandon Nimmo OF
- Justin Ruggiano OF
- Rene Rivera C
|Jon Niese (buyout)||500,000|
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