How Alderson and Callaway might shuffle the deck

Following a brutal season of injuries and disappointments, as well as a yard sale of veterans on expiring contracts, the Mets have a lot of holes to fill this off-season. As has been reported to death however, GM Sandy Alderson won’t have more than about $30 million in payroll flexibility with which to work.

At first blush it might seem that the Mets have six or seven obvious holes to fill and $30 million will only cover maybe three or four good free agent additions. Trades won’t be easy as the farm system isn’t exactly stocked with blue chip prospects at the upper levels. Where Alderson and new skipper Mickey Callaway will need to really get creative is with maximizing the talent they have on hand, even if that means changing a few roles.

Exhibit A: Bats and Gloves

As successful teams like the Cubs, Cardinals and Red Sox have demonstrated over the past few years, having flexible players who can play more than one position can help you field the best team. While the three free agents from Kansas City all look like good fits for the Mets, they are all one position players. Bringing back Jay Bruce would give us a strong middle of the order, a really good outfield rotation, and an additional backup first baseman. All the talk of Michael Conforto not being a natural center fielder is overblown. While he’s no Gold Glover, he’s capable. More importantly, together with Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares this foursome could form a strong rotation. Between days off, injuries, DH games, pinch hitting and late-inning defensive replacements, all four will get a full season of at bats and Lagares would wind up with as many if not more innings in center as Conforto. And we’d still have Brandon Nimmo in reserve.

Bringing back Asdrubal Cabrera on a one-year deal was shrewd. He gives the Mets the flexibility to go after either a second or third baseman, as there’s clearly not enough cash in the budget to fill both holes through free agency. If the Mets can swing a deal for Dee Gordon, we’d plug two holes in one – a speedy leadoff hitter and a strong-fielding second baseman. If they can’t swing that, they can look at third base and add power, a good glove, a great clubhouse guy, and a local boy in Todd Frazier. Then Cabrera becomes the second baseman. In either scenario, Wilmer Flores can back up the right side of the infield and if Jose Reyes is willing to come back on a reasonable deal, he can back up the left side. When T.J. Rivera comes back from elbow surgery, we’ll have even more depth.  Alderson has said he’s comfortable sticking with the current catching platoon, which seemed to work out at the end of last season and can be revisited at mid-season if it doesn’t pan out.

Exhibit B: The Arms

The one-two punch in the rotation appears set with Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom and the back end of the bullpen is in good if not great hands with Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos and Jerry Blevins. On the 40-man roster right now are more than enough arms to fill out the other three spots in the rotation and four or five spots in the bullpen. A wise use of free agent dollars would be to add a sturdy veteran pitcher to slot in the middle of the rotation. Someone who won’t require a long term deal, or big contract who can handle New York and be a good presence in the clubhouse. Someone like R.A. Dickey or C.C. Sabathia. Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Robert Gsellman can battle it out for the last two spots and as we well know, at least one will be injured at any given time. We still have Seth Lugo and the resurgent Rafael Montero to act as swing men.

Notice what starting pitcher hasn’t been mentioned – Zack Wheeler. Like Brandon Morrow, Mike Minor and the great John Smoltz years back, Wheeler has terrific stuff that could translate well to a bullpen role. Even when healthy he struggles with pitch counts, but if his fastball, curveball combo could make him a great set up man. Paul Sewald, Chasen Bradford, Jamie Callahan, Jacob Rhame, et al can all compete like hell for the remaining spots and move up and down from triple A as needed. What is still needed though is another strong lefty to upgrade from the likes of the two Joshes Edgin and Smoker. Blevins is terrific and both a clubhouse and fan favorite, but he’s headed the way of Pedro Feliciano if we don’t get him some help. Tony Watson is available and would be a great fit.

There are many ways to solidify this roster for next season, but the key is to not pigeonhole yourself with too many one-dimensional players. Injuries and slumps are unavoidable, but with a more progressive mind in the dugout, it should not  have to spell disaster again.

12 comments for “How Alderson and Callaway might shuffle the deck

  1. November 10, 2017 at 10:32 am

    I just got done replying to Gus that the Mets had flexibility on their roster and then I see you make a similar point in this piece.

    Anyway, I’m not overly concerned about their new acquisitions(s) bringing flexibility. My major issue is that whoever comes in has to be productive. They can’t, for instance, sign Frazier and then have him be a bust.

    Because of that need, I’d rather shop in the high end of the FA market and bring in someone with a multi-year track record of being productive, even if that means only one addition. So, sorry Moose Tacos, I wouldn’t look in your direction.

  2. MattyMets
    November 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Brian, I agree with you about Moose Tacos. I suspect someone is going to regret signing him to a long-term contract. I really hope it is not the team we root for…

  3. Steevy
    November 10, 2017 at 11:12 am

    I also have no interest in that Moose guy and I hope the Mets can find someone to take Lagares off their hands…

  4. Metsense
    November 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

    $30 MM to sign free agents is not enough to fill the apparent needs of the team. It will take some trades and so by trading Harvey, Lagares and Flores the Mets could free up $15 MM, somewhat replenish the farm system and utilize the $45 mm to make improvements through free agency. A #3 or better starting pitcher, an impact OF, a solid infielder and another reliever are needed. It will take work, vision and a through shuffling of the deck to get that done.

  5. Alex O'Malley
    November 10, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    I’d love to see Lagares gone and get Nimmoi some more playing time. Dee Gordon at second base, in my opinion would excellent! As stated above, a speedy lead off man with excellent defense is something the mets have lacked for a looooonnnnngggg time. I think he’s a safe bet for +/- .300 batting average and 40+ steals. Gordon and Rosario up the middle seems like a flashback to the Ordonez/Alfonzo days (hopefully Rosario hits a little more than Ordinez ;)).

    Bringing Bruce back on a 1-3 deal would be great.

    I think the mets ought to give Flores a shot at third to start the year. Moustakis is a fine player, but I don’t know if his inconsistent track record is with the deal he’ll probably get elsewhere. Frazier is too risky. Do we really want to sign a guy who hits .230?

  6. Chris F
    November 10, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    On every Mets360 Podcast, Brian asks that guest to make a crazy prediction. After listening to he and Charlie last night, here’s mine:

    The Mets will finish in last place in the NL East.

    The holes are far too many, the pipeline far too thin, the creativity far too small, and the $ far too little. The idea of a little patchwork here and there wont even get this talent-starved team near .500. The only pitching that can be counted on is deGrom. There not a single infielder near the top of their respective positions, and none are coming. The Catchers are below grade. The only hope is that Ces and Conforto return from serious injuries, and of not…welcome to the cellar.

    • Jimmy P
      November 10, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      It sure looks like they are not going to do nearly enough. Not financially, not creatively.

      On the plus side: The game is now rigged to favor mediocrity. 82 wins got the Twins to the WC game. 85 wins gets everybody meaningful games in September. You don’t have to be very good to delude the fans into thinking you’ve got a real shot — because, well, it’s true.

      Can the Mets be 4 games over .500 next season? Yes, they can!

      • Chris F
        November 10, 2017 at 11:06 pm

        I’m with you on the mediocrity perspective. I just have an empty feeling that the gaps are much bigger than we all think. I don’t see an infield of Smith, Flores/TJ, Rosario, Cabrera as being anything but terrible. My fear is.500 will be a dream.

        • MattyMets
          November 11, 2017 at 9:31 am

          adding Gordon or Frazier makes a big difference offensively and defensively. Bringing back Reyes on the cheap provides depth and Flores platooning with Smith improves first base. Not exactly the 1999-2000 SI cover Mets, but solid.

          • Chris F
            November 11, 2017 at 1:29 pm

            The Mets are not picking up 37M$ on Gordon, and on top of that, the Marlins are going to require return as well. Don’t bank on Frazier either, that’s the 8.5M$ on Cabrera.

    • Eraff
      November 10, 2017 at 11:13 pm

      Correct…100%

  7. November 10, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Color me jaded, but I’m not sold on a back end of Ramos and Familia. Blevins is a nice piece, but I want a shutdown arm i can always count on.

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