J.T. RealmutoAlthough the Mets had a disappointing 2020 season and missed the playoffs, MattyMets here feels like a winner. At long last, we have the deep-pocketed ownership this New York team with the world’s most awesome fans deserves.

You have to take the 2020 season with a grain of salt, not only because of the shortened season with weird rules, but because this team suffered a number of unexpected strokes of bad luck from injuries to opt-outs and off-years. In our last full season of play, we were right on the cusp of the playoffs, boasting a lot of talent and our best lineup since 2006. Unfortunately, the front office chose to let Zack Wheeler walk away for nothing. This, plus the injury to Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman‘s opt-out left our pitching staff too thin to compete in 2020, despite a deep, powerful offense. However, this eternal Mets optimist still thinks the foundation is in place and the blue and orange are just one smart off-season away from returning to contention. Here’s the plan.

Step 1: Rebuild the front office.
Bringing back Sandy Alderson, a smart, respected, and seasoned baseball man to lead the charge as President of Baseball Operations will be a good start for new owner, Steve Cohen. Next up is to cut our losses with the agent-turned-GM experiment and buy out Brodie Van Wagenen. Most of his moves were short-sighted, he gave away too much of our future and rolled the dice on the wrong pitchers. The right man for the job is someone who is bold, smart, and understands the real value of players, how today’s game is won, and what this team is missing. There are no shortage of quality candidates out there – the Brewers’ David Stearns, the A’s Billy Owens, the Indians’ Mike Chernoff, the Diamondbacks’ Jared Porter, and a few familiar options like J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta, among others. After settling on a GM and a direction for this team, next up is to build up a robust analytics department to put this organization on the same playing field as the Braves, Dodgers and other teams who’ve found sustained success in this decade.

Step 2: Resolve in-house issues.
The front office needs to make some quick decisions regarding players up for free agency, facing options or getting too expensive in arbitration. The good news is that most of the core is under contract. Starting with the offense, it’s time to move on from Wilson Ramos.  A $1.5 million buyout seems like a steal compared to his $10 million option. He doesn’t hit home runs anymore and the lead-footed, weak-fielding catcher is not worth near that amount of money for whatever singles he hits, especially in a year with some good free agent catchers available. The Mets have a similar situation with the recently acquired Robinson Chirinos as he is due to make $6.5 million, unless they buy him out for $1 million. They should let him walk away too. Tomas Nido is a fine backup and the Mets can always bring back Rene Rivera or a reasonable facsimile to help fill in.

Todd Frazier will cost the Mets either a $5.75 million option or a $1.5 million buy out. I may be alone in this, but, depending on how the chips fall, I’d consider bringing him back. He’s a great clubhouse presence, and a good third baseman who still hits for power and he allows us to play Jeff McNeil primarily at second and minimize the number of innings J.D. Davis sees ta third. Jed Lowrie is a straight up free agent and as much as it stings to have gotten nothing out of that contract, at least there’s no buyout necessary. Jake Marisnick is also a free agent who did not give us any ROI in 2020 so, adios.

On the pitching front, Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha are all free agents. Wacha and Porcello were bad signings and should be allowed to walk. As for Stroman, more on that later. Among relievers, Justin Wilson is a free agent who should be resigned. Two years, $12 million should get it done. Dellin Betances has a $6 million player option or a $3 million buyout. This one is out of the Mets hands, but it’s safe to assume, after the lousy year he had, that he’ll opt in for the $6 million and try to prove he can still pitch. Righties Brad Brach and Jared Hughes are also free agents and, after mediocre years, they can take their business elsewhere. Brach has a modest player option, but will likely walk away from it. Robert Gsellman and Steven Matz are not free agents, but are both coming off disgusting seasons and are getting pricy in arbitration. Both could use a change of scenery.

At the same time, the Mets need to work on a long-term contract for Michael Conforto. Home grown stars should not walk away for nothing from New York teams. Conforto is coming off a great season and entering his walk yea.r The new, smarter ownership/leadership will make sure we don’t make that mistake again.

Step 3: Take an aggressive approach to free agency.
The Mets number one target should be catcher J.T. Realmuto. Upgrading from the plodding Ramos to an athletic catcher who can frame pitches, throw out runners, hit for power, run the bases, and provide leadership would be the most impactful move the Mets could make and it’s worth an overpay. Despite reports that Realmuto could command a $200 million contract, something on the order of 6-years/$150 million seems more realistic. Yes, he’s the consensus “best catcher in baseball.” but that’s by default. He doesn’t have an MVP trophy and three World Series rings like Buster Posey or an MVP and a batting title like Joe Mauer. A better comparison is Yadier Molina. He’s not Johnny Bench, but signing Realmuto would improve the Mets lineup, defense, and pitching. For this reason, the Mets need to treat signing him like the Yankees did Gerrit Cole last off-season and just jump right in with the big offer and not give anyone else a chance, even if it means eating the last year or two of his deal.

The Mets biggest area of need is clearly starting pitching. While many on this blog are pining for Trevor Bauer, MattyMets disagrees. He’s a pain in the ass. Read the book The MVP Machine (Thanks BK for lending it to me) and you’ll see that he does not play nice in the sandbox. His insistence on one-year contracts may have less to do with his arrogance and more to do with his wearing out his welcome. With an improved defense (more on that in a bit), to better handle all those groundballs he induces, bringing back Stroman makes sense. He can handle New York and he’s a gamer. He makes a solid number two behind Jacob deGrom and five years/$100 million should get it done.

With David Peterson slotted in the fifth starter spot and Noah Syndergaard due back by Memorial Day, the Mets still need at least one more starting pitcher. The good news is that free agency is teeming with mid to back rotation options. Some interesting options that won’t be too expensive include Kevin Gausman, Mike Minor, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Robbie Ray, Drew Smyley, Julio Teheran, and Tajuan Walker. The best play here might be to wait it out as it’s a buyers’ market and, given the economic circumstances, many teams will be pinching pennies this off-season. In the end, the Mets should try to grab two from this list with the plan to move one of them to the bullpen when Syndergaard comes back. Ray would be a great candidate for that as he’s a big strikeout guy who could benefit from short bursts out of the pen.  My guess is Ray could be had for three years, $45 million, and Gausman could be had for two years, $20 million.

With the rotation set, it’s time to look at the bullpen. With Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Betances, Wilson, Chasen Shreve, Miguel Castro, and Drew Smith in the fold, there aren’t a lot of vacancies. With Lugo back in the pen and Ray set to join him a little later in the season, the pen should be strong enough and an upgrade can always be added in July.

The Mets could really use a centerfielder, but with so much money going to Realmuto and Stroman, signing George Springer is not realistic. However, Joc Pederson is. The former Dodger hits home runs, can play centerfield and allows Brandon Nimmo to shift to left field.  It makes for an all-lefty outfield, but we could also sign someone like Kevin Pillar to fill in. He fits the bill as a cheap, right handed centerfielder and can be had on a one-year deal for $3 million. The righty J.D. Davis can also fill in at left field when needed.

Step 4: Let’s make a deal.
Signing Realmuto and Stroman is splashy, but the way the Mets can really win the back pages and the NL East, is through a trade. The stars are in alignment. The Mets have good players out of position and a few players who need a change of scenery. At the same time, payroll is not a major concern and several teams will be looking to cut payroll. Two superstar players could be available this off-season – shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Nolan Arenado. Either player would improve the Mets offense and defense. They both have Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and are in their prime. Could a package of Andres Gimenez, J.D. Davis, Matz, Gsellman and a minor leaguer or two get it done? It’s worth a shot.

More realistically, the Mets send Robinson Cano back to the Yankees to finish out his Hall of Fame career in pinstripes. We might have to include cash to offset his salary some (say, the $3.5 million owed to us by Seattle) and in return we’d get marginal prospects, but more importantly, we save money that can be better spent elsewhere and open up second base for Jeff McNeil, DH for Pete Alonso, and first base for Dominic Smith.  With Frazier at third, Gimenez at short, and Realmuto behind the plate, the Mets defense would be light years better. In another small but smart move, the Mets send Steven Matz and Robert Gsellman to the pitching starved Angels, Orioles, or Red Sox in exchange for pitching prospects so we can plant some seeds on that barren farm.

This off-season activity would lead the 2021 Mets roster to look like this:

lineup
Brandon Nimmo LF – league minimum
Jeff McNeil 2B – league minimum
JT Realmuto C – 25 million
Michael Conforto RF – 15 million
Pete Alonso DH –  league minimum
Dominic Smith 1B – 3 million
Joc Pederson CF – 10 million
Todd Frazier 3B – 5.75 million
Andres Gimenez SS – league minimum

Bench

J.D. Davis INF/OF – 2.5 million
Amed Rosario INF – 2 million
Luis Guillorme INF – league minimum
Kevin Pillar OF – 3 million
Tomas Nido C – league minimum

Rotation
Jacob deGrom – 35.5 million
Marcus Stroman – 20 million
Robbie Ray – 15 million
Kevin Gausman – 10 million
David Peterson – league minimum
Noah Syndergaard – 11 million (IR)

Bullpen
Edwin Diaz – 10 million
Seth Lugo – 4 million
Justin Wilson – 6 million
Jeurys Familia – 11.67 million
Dellin Betances – 6 million
Chasen Shreve – 2.5 million
Miguel Castro – 1.5 million

Miscellaneous
Buyouts –  Ramos and Chirinos – 2.5 million
3.5 million from the Mariners (sent to Yankees with Cano)

This off-season activity would put the Mets opening day payroll at $204 million, a notable increase, but still beneath the expected $210 million luxury tax threshold. This team would be much better defensively and a little better offensively with pitching good enough to keep them in games. This is a better than .500 team that could kick it into a higher gear and make a serious playoff run when Syndergaard rejoins the rotation and Ray shifts to the bullpen.

19 comments on “A blueprint for the perfect Mets offseason

  • Edwin e Pena

    You lost me at keeping Frazier…
    With dearth of starters, Lugo remains there not in the BP. Dodgers have more $ than anyone..why would they not keep Pederson ?
    I agree on getting Realmuto and Stroman, but would’t Springer and McAnn > than Realmuto ? Lindor would be great, but it will take much more. Maybe Nimmo, Rosario, JD Davis and Drew Smith. Indians will want a ton.

    • MattyMets

      Edwin – Thanks for reading and for the comment. I’m not in love with Frazier, I just don’t feel comfortable with JD Davis at third and, in my plan, there wouldn’t be the money or trade chips to get a better third baseman. Can’t have a star at every position. As for Lugo, he’s much more effective as a reliever. McCann is still an upgrade over Ramos, but he’s a far cry from Realmuto. As much as I’d love to see the Mets with a great centerfielder, I would shy away from Springer for the same reason I said we should from AJ Pollock, Lorenzo Cain, and Dexter Fowler. Centerfielders do not age well. Springer will command at least a five year deal. Centerfielders in there early 30s are constantly injured and if they can still hit in their mid 30s they get shifted to the corners. Alderson had the right intentions when he locked up Juan Lagares early. A homegrown centerfielder is what’s really needed. Shame he didn’t pan out as expected. I really want to know what a package of Rosario, Davis, Matz and Gsellman can get us. Probably not Arenado or Lindor, but that’s four young players under control to bring an influx of talent to a rebuilding team with a limited budget – Pittsburgh, Detroit, Baltimore, Kansas City, Texas, Seattle….

      • Rae

        Smith plays 1B 60% of the time while he plays LF 15% of the time, and DH’s 5% of the time. Alonso plays 1B 35% of the time, DH’s 20%, and plays 3B 15% of the time. Alonso played 3B in HS, and in the lower minors. Davis is a defensive liability no matter where you place him so he needs to share the DH spot with Cano but he can spend 25% of games at 3B, 15% of games in LF, 10% of games in RF, and maybe 5% of games at 2B, and 5% of games at 1B. He would DH 40% of the time. Cano sucks at playing 2B so I’d have hime play 2b only 30% of the time while McNeil schedules in for 55-to-65% at 2B. McNeil can spend time in either LF or RF or 3B as well as DH. This formula would change if the Mets sign DJ Le Mahuie who could play 2B or 3B. Then the Mets need to turn around, and sign righty catcher James McCann, and a cheaper CFer like Pillar or Bradley Jr. Unfortunately Bradley, Jr. is a lefty bat. So signing Pillar makes sense. If the Mets make these moves it leaves them money to sign starters like Odorizzi, Stroman, Paxton, or Kluber but the Mets would loose a draft pick if they signed him so I’d rather they sign Stroman, Paxton or Odorizzi who are all from NY.

        ,

        • Bob P

          You have 4 different players playing multiple positions and mostly out of position. This would make their poor defense worse.

    • MacLean Fitzgerald

      Edwin–
      Couple things.
      1. If Cohen becomes the Mets owner, there will not be another team in any sport with more money than the Mets.

      2. Lugo has now proven he cant be a starter. He is not nearly as productive. On top of maxing out at 5inn each start, he damages the bullpen by not being in it and taxing it. Double whammy.

      Matt-

      I like your outlook here, except the value you think Matz or Gsellman have around the league. There is not a team in the league that would trade for them or take them in a package.

      The Cano to Yanks, seems like wishful thinking no matter how much $$$ goes.

      Otherwise good stuff!

      -Mac

  • Michael Young

    Matt -I like your article. It all seems do-able and it seems to cover all the necessary bases. Of course if the Mets can land either Arenado or Lindor and I hope they can land one of these two, their pay roll would then presumably exceed the payroll tax level. That doesn’t bother me and I hope that if he has to do it it won’t bother Steve Cohen either. However, then what about Frazier and Rosario? Also, having Nido as our back up catcher doesn’t work for me either. I am hoping for a better option there to emerge as the off season progresses. Also, no one seems to be addressing what happens to Omar and Ricco (did I remember and spell Ricco’s name correctly?). They also must go as Steve Cohen assembles a front office that can consistently succeed like the Braves and Dodgers have and still are capable of doing. This shapes up as potentially being the best Mets off season in decades. I sincerely hope that I am right about this. Keep up the great work and of course Lets F Go Mets! Thanks again, Mike Young

    • MattyMets

      Thanks Mike. Frazier has a 1.5mm buyout option. If we can move Cano and shift McNeil to 2nd, I think we need a third baseman. I see JD Davis as our new Wilmer Flores – he can hit and brings versatility but he’s a liability in the field. To me, he’s either a valuable bench piece or trade chip. There are better options than Frazier but we have higher priorities and no team – even the Dodgers and Yankees – has a stud at every position.

      • Rae

        No one is going to trade for Cano who cannot run, is a mediocre fielder, and no longer throws the ball well.

  • MattyMets

    In support of my claim that the Mets defense stinks and needs upgrading, the list if gold glove nominees was just released and there is not one single Mets player under consideration.
    https://www.mlb.com/news/2020-gold-glove-finalists

  • Mike W

    I dont like Frazier at third. Would also have to give up way too much for Lindor for one year. Plus next year, Lindor will be a free agent plus Correa, Baez and Storey. Better to wait for a year if you want a shortstop.

    I really like your idea of Pederson for CF.

    I think we would choke on 15 million for Robby Ray.

    Our moves also depend on DH or no DH.

    I really like the idea of putting LeMahieu at third. That is a big splash to dting the Yankees and give us a huge bat and gold glove.

    It may also make sense to makes some trades for good pitching prospects.

    Love your article Matt. And thank you to all of the writers and Brian for this awesome blog. It is a bright spot in my life.

  • TJ

    Matty,
    Nice and comprehensive review. That said, there is not much I agree on lol. Where we agree – no thanks on Bauer, buyouts on Ramos and Chirinos. Frazier is a possibility but I think too costly at the re-up price. If needed for bench/insurance, he could be a late addition at a lower price.

    On the big FAs, Mets do need to be in on Realmuto and Stroman, but no way I give Realmuto as a 30-year old catcher $150 million or Stroman $100 million off a year he did not pitch. Springer’s RH bat would fit well but he will shortly be a corner outfielder, so his signing would need to be aligned with other moves. DH or no DH next year is critical in forming a plan. No DH would for me to move Dom or perhaps Conforto, neither of which I really want to do.

    No thanks on Arenado, too much risk with non-Coors performance and an opt out. Lindor would be great even with the SS depth Mets have, but they absolutely would need to sign him quickly, as the Dodgers did with Betts.

    There are no realistic trade options for Cano, who despite his decent season is clogging things up for the Mets in multiple ways. I hate the DH but boy could the Mets use it in 2021. Cano to Yankees actually makes sense, given his no trade ability it may be the only place he would agree to go, and the Yanks need LH offense and we know the AL will have the DH. I just doubt highly that the Mets and Yanks could make a deal on it, there isn’t a great track record there but you never know.

    I also think the Mets need to add a quality arm to the pen not named Lugo. Lugo may wind up back there, who knows, but I don’t think you can write him in as a elite back end arm, nor can we rely on him as anything more than a back end starter. If he outperforms, great, but they really need another 8th/9th inning guy to pair with Diaz, and then hope for the best with Lugo, and really hope on Betances and Familia.

  • Ruben DeJesus

    What about signing a player like Jackie Bradley Jr, who will be less money to sign, than George Springer? I also do not like Frazier as a starter at third, maybe as a bench option. We do need pitching and your insight on fixing it looks good, but I really wouldn’t count on Syndergaard on coming back next year as a viable rotation option.

  • Adam

    You hit the nail on the head with trading Cano. Though I think the Mets would have to pick up significantly more of his remaining salary (say, 50-65%) to make it happen. But is has to happen. Getting his bat in the lineup puts multiple guys out of place (assuming you want both McNeil and Alonso/Smith’s bats in the lineup) and weakens them significantly on defense. It’s be well worth the cost to eat $10mm per on his deal and get some young, controllable value back. Trading Cano alone pretty much unclogs the roster.

    Agree too on Bauer. No thanks. And why would a new owner, who himself has taken heat for being Me-Too adjacent at his firm, bring this guy into the media capital of the world as one of his first acts? So much could go wrong. I don’t see it.

    Stroman, yes. 100%.

    The (young and very good) core (Non-P) of this team is Alonso, Smith, Conforto, McNeil, Nimmo, and Gimenez. Put those guys in their correct positions (including DH) and build around that. (And for God’s sake don’t move any of them because you “need” to play Cano).

    2021 would be nice, but realistically, it may take two good off seasons to build for a real run with this group. Find a C (I really do like Nido as a backup), CF, 3B, (one of these two could be a player who’s still a prospect somewhere right now) and fix the rotation.

    Great piece.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • MattyMets

      Adam, you’re so right. Even if it means eating half his salary, Unloading Cano makes too much sense.

    • Adam

      Huh? What did I capitalize?

  • Metsense

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts but the foundation of your plan is based on Cano being traded to the Yankees and freely up $24M salary. This is highly unlikely. So McNeil would be at 3B because FA Pederson would be your CF moving Nimmo to LF. Pederson is a better fielder than Nimmo in CF and Nimmo is a better fielder than McNeil in LF. Therefor Frazier would not be needed. Pillar as the 4th OF and defensive replacement is a good thought. Realmuto would be the RH bat and significant upgrade at catcher. You suggest a deal for an offensive player when the Mets already have a Top 5 Offense. The deal should be for a #2 starter and trade some offensive for it. Stroman would make sense together with (Walker or Paxson) would be ideal. Tweaking your blueprint and patching the foundation realistically will result in a structurally sound team.

  • Remember1969

    I don’t get the extreme hate of Robinson Cano. While he did have a down season in 2019, he was extremely productive in 2020. The man is a professional hitter and continues to rake into his late 30’s. True, he does make a little more money, but 16 year players nearing 3000 hits and 10000 plate appearances will. There are not many players of his lifetime caliber around now who are still doing it as well as he does. How is he ‘clogging things up in multiple ways’ (from TJ’s comment above)? In 2020, he was tied for second on the team in BA, tied for second in HR, third in OPS, ninth in strikeouts (yes, eight Mets struck out more than he did) and top 5 in many other categories. While I have nothing against Jeff McNeil, he has not had the career of Cano and fell short of him in almost every category in 2020. If he were known to be the next coming of Joe Morgan (RIP), I would say, yes, he should be anointed 2nd base, but Cano did nothing in his great comeback year to deserve that. He still has a really sweet swing and can and most likely will continue to just flat out hit.

  • Remember1969

    I am on the side of Springer and McCann > Realmuto and Bradley (or Pederson). It is a generalization that centerfielders are constantly injured in their early 30’s. There are many good players that have played centerfield well into their late 30’s. Lorenzo Cain is a very good example of one. Jim Edmonds was probably a bit better, but is not a bad comparison – he played centerfield into his late 30’s. Mike Cameron was another – although not the hitter that Springer is. Springer also brings the post season excellence to the table.

    Bradley and Pederson, in addition to being left-handed, simply are not good hitters for this line-up. I like the .270+ guys. Pillar is fine as a Marisnick replacement, but not as a major player out there.

    If they can sign Springer to a 4 year deal and bring Crow-Armstrong (or even Greene) along by 2025, that works for me. Or, even if they need to do a six year contract with an opt-out option after 4, I’d be fine.

  • JOE C

    Mcneil had a down year last year because of aggressive play in the outfield banging into fences. Plant him at 3rd base and leave him alone. He plays a solid infield defense and will do fine at 3rd and cost next to nothing in salary. Gimenez at short, sorry rosey and cano we have to deal with at 2nd, last year he was fine. Instead of eating 10 million on cano to yanks use that money to sign mccann at catcher. I would go hard on bauer for 2 year $60 million. If he’s a headcase it will be short term and worth the tremendous upside. Taijuan walker is young with upside as well and can be had for 8-10mil . think defense and sign bradley for center field – we have enough offense. And please try and trade familia for someone elses bad contract !

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