When Marc Carig wrote the piece in late summer about how all was not rosy with Terry Collins’ stewardship, some fans felt it was nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by the owners. Well, now Carig is taking aim at the owners. So, apparently one of three things is true.
A) Carig was not operating under the guidelines of anyone but his own sense of the story
B) Carig was operating previously under orders but didn’t like how that went so now he’s gone rogue
C) The Wilpons are playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers and they’ve orchestrated this to throw everyone off the scent
The answer to that isn’t as interesting to me as the overall theme of the piece – that the Wilpons would be better off if they were more transparent about the team’s payroll. Among other things, Carig indicates that the front office itself isn’t as sure about the payroll as one would think. For those who’ve been following this story for awhile, you’ll recognize that refrain as Howard Megdal made the same claim before the team made the World Series. The more things change…
But I think it’s naïve to believe that the fans would be happy with transparency.
From my observations the only thing that’s going to placate the fans is if the Mets return to have a top five payroll. If given the choice between transparency and a $140 million payroll or a never-ending string of lies along with a payroll closer to the Red Sox than the Rays, most would opt for the latter.
So, let’s play make believe and placate the fans (ha!) and assume that the Wilpons read the Carig piece and make the decision to be both transparent and aggressive. In this unreal reality, Sandy Alderson announces to the world that the Mets will run a $190 million payroll for 2018. That’s significantly higher than what we’ve ever witnessed, while still keeping the owners from having to pay any luxury tax. Let’s also assume that this makes the fans happy.
Here on December 17, how would the Mets allocate these new-found funds?
To me, the answer is still the same as it was on the day that the 2017 season ended. And that’s how much faith do you/should you have in a return for health for the starting pitchers? Last year, despite all the injuries to the hitters, the Mets’ offense was not the problem once Michael Conforto was moved into the leadoff spot. At least not until they sold off their players. Instead, the problem was starting pitching that both stunk in its own right and also contributed to blowing out the relievers.
So, how do you proceed? Did you consider only Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard as viable, sign two starters and then let half a dozen guys battle it out for the fifth starter’s job? That doesn’t seem like an awful plan. But it creates issues, too. It still leaves uncertainty as to who will claim that SP5 job, there’s only so much room in the bullpen for guys who lose out on it and are you really going to send a heallthy, say, Steven Matz to the minors, assuming he has an option left?
And who do you spend the money on? Do you pay top dollar for Yu Darvish and hope that his last few starts of the playoffs mean nothing? Do you opt for Jake Arrieta and hope that the first three months of 2017 is not a harbinger of things to come? Do you spend on Lance Lynn and hope that his run of pitching in the middle of 2017 is what he’ll give going forward?
Then how do you treat the infield? Does finding a guy to start at 1B instead of Dominic Smith become a top priority, instead of a nice thing if it can happen? Do you go the trade or free agency route to fill 2B/3B or do you upgrade both and make Asdrubal Cabrera a well-paid reserve? And in the outfield do you become a player for J.D. Martinez, the best bat (and likely the worst glove) available? Or do you look at a CF option and permanently give up the ghost on Juan Lagares?
If given this financial freedom, my approach would be to attack the infield first and let those decisions help make others on the team. And I’d look first at the trade market, determining what the cost would be to acquire both Manny Machado and Brian Dozier. It’s likely those trades would thin out the starting pitcher ranks and likely relieve the team of Dominic Smtih, too.
Machado and Dozier would add approximately $26 million to the payroll, depending upon the former’s arbitration award. My guesstimate has the new payroll proclamation from the owners allowing $73 million to spend. So, we would have around $47 million left to address 1B, the OF and pitching.
First base would be the last position to address, with the belief that the same market forces that undervalued power last offseason will do likewise with at least one or two guys this go-round, too. And that someone, whether that’s Lucas Duda or Logan Morrison or whoever, will be willing to sign a cheap deal once reality sets in that not many teams are giving out Carlos Santana packages and that supply outstrips demand.
So, do you go pitching or outfield?
It seems to me that pitching has to be next, partly because our two trades probably cost the team at least three guys who were previously in the starting pitching mix. My preference is Arrieta but the question is if one pitcher is enough. And how much do you have to allocate for two starters? Is $40 million enough to land both Arrieta and Lynn? Let’s say that it is. And that the shopping spree finishes with $7 million for Morrison to man first base. Would you be happy with this team?
C – TDA
1B – Morrison
2B – Dozier
3B – Machado
SS – Rosario
LF – Cespedes
CF – Lagares/Nimmo
RF – Conforto
SP – deGrom
SP – Syndergaard
SP – Arrieta
SP – Lynn
SP – Harvey
RP – Familia, Ramos, Swarzak, Blevins, Robles, Lugo, Montero
Of course, there’s a bunch of different ways that $73 million could be spent. The above version has the issue of three infielders on the last year of their contract, no true center fielder if Lagares doesn’t improve offensively, a bullpen that didn’t get allocated any new funds, no upgrade at catcher and a rotation that still has injury concerns.
It’s miles better than what the team has now or what it’s likely to start 2018 with, too. But it’s still not without issues, most notably depending on healthy seasons from Cespedes, Conforto and Syndergaard – guys who each had problems staying on the field a season ago.