Only the Wilpons know exactly how much money they can and will use on the 2014 payroll. And although at some point I wouldn’t mind having a theoretical discussion about what a smart offseason would look like without arbitrary financial handcuffs, all signs indicate that day is not here. So while we have Hot Stove discussions, for the sake of clarity, I’m going to use a financial assumption: that the Mets can add $30 Million to payroll in new talent. Any number anyone uses is a finger in the air, so I’m picking one. Otherwise I have to answer every question about every acquisition with the same words and no other words.
“I don’t know if we can pay him.”
That would be a very long and boring offseason. We know because that was pretty much the 2013 offseason.
Last winter, we dreamed of upgrading on Nickeas, and got Recker. Those were heady times! But, sure, $30 million sounds realistic to me, if somewhat disheartening.
And so, given I have $30 million to spend, I’m blowing $16 million right off the bat and targeting Troy Tulowitzki. I get it, the team has a lot of holes that need to be filled. The biggest one, the crater, is star power. Tulowitizki, playing next to David Wright, is a bold, exciting move. It’s a move that changes this team dramatically and instantly. Both on the field, where we go from the worst shortstop in the NL to the best, to the stands where Tulo shirts will pop up instantly. There are a limited amount of great players, and you need them to win. Of all the names I have heard available as a free agent, or via trade, I haven’t heard of another player as good as Tulo. This is a “Mike Piazza moment.” Don’t worry about how the guy will fit, thank your lucky stars if you can get him and do it. After that you can figure out where you go from there.
Amen, brother. Perhaps because he plays in Colorado — some desolate elsewhere west of the Hudson River — I think East Coast folks might not fully appreciate him as a player. And, yes, there’s the inflated numbers problem that comes with any player from those high altitudes. But consider this: The OPS for the Mets shortstop position in 2013 was the lowest in baseball at .561. Tulowitzki put up an OPS of .931. Fine, do your park effect calculations, whatever they mean. Let’s make it .850. The impact of that difference would ripple through the lineup. It really is the outhouse to the penthouse. Your shortstop is batting cleanup.
As much as they need star power, the Mets need an impact bat. When Troy went down in 2011, Cargo struggled and noted that they were pitching to him differently. You add an impact bat, and you also get more out of David Wright, who was a big investment. And you can live with platoon solutions at other positions.
Adding an impact bat changes everything. We have seen it before.
Let’s look at the contract for a moment, because it’s not nothing.
- 2014: $16M
- 2015: $20M
- 2016: $20M
- 2017: $20M
- 2018: $20M
- 2019: $20M
- 2020: $15M
- 2021: $15M Team Option, $4M Buyout
I don’t know, he’s 35 in 2020. These numbers seem like a bargain. Hunter Pence just signed for $18 million through the next 5 years . . . and he’s Hunter Pence! Wait until Robbie Cano signs a new deal. The Yankees are offering him “significant” money, plus the Yankee legacy. I believe his agent, Jay-Z, will be looking for “significant” money, plus more money. And he’ll get it from somebody. Cano is a middle infielder who mashes.
If you take the most negative view, that he needs to be bought out in 2020, it is $19 million per year for seven years. His contract lines up very favorably with our other star, David Wright, who is also signed through 2020 at an $18 million per year rate. The issue with the contract is the length, not the rate. But Pence just got five years, Choo will get at least five. The Mets can hold their breath and pout all they want, if you want to compete you need players, and the market is the market. I don’t see a big hitting star awaiting us on the Las Vegas roster.
What do you think it would take to get him? Or let me rephrase that, what kind of offer would you be willing to make for a player of Tulowitzki’s caliber? My sense is that the Rockies always need pitching — it’s a chuck-and-duck staff out there — and they are in a semi-rebuilding mode.
Here’s my conclusion: the shape and scope of the entire off-season depends upon Noah Syndergaard, currently ranked 3rd best pitching prospect in baseball by John Sickels, behind only Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley. Without him on the table, I don’t know if the Mets can trade for the big boys.
Look, when it comes to this stuff the answer is Alderson should do it for as little as possible, of course. And, by the way, if any one of us were sitting in the room with Colorado we would not start out with our highest offer. But I’m not passing on Troy Tulowitzki over Noah Syndergaard. We have Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, and Gee, and all have shown plenty at the highest level, the major leagues. Montero has shot through the system and is also a high-rated prospect. Plus, we get told all the time how pitching-rich our system is. You have to give up to get, I would do it. This is not trading Wheeler in a Justin Upton trade. This is not a very good player. It is a great player. Tulo can really field too, let’s not forget that.
Would you rather trade Wheeler? I wonder if he has more or less value than Noah Syndergaard. These highly-ranked prospects strike me as the most coveted pieces out there.
No, I much rather trade Syndergaard. I put a lot of value in Wheeler’s major league success and ability to help this team in 2014.
So, let’s pretend the Mets pull this off. That only leaves the team with $15 million more to spend, assuming we don’t trade Daniel Murphy. How do the Mets fill the rest of the holes?
If you keep Murphy, you can now go Young, Murphy, Wright, Tulo. That is formidable. With Tulowitzki batting cleanup, the idea of a Duda/Satin platoon at first becomes more viable. Those guys at six would not kill you. And go defense with Lagares in center, and bat him eighth. We still have d’Arnaud. When you add a great player, your other players start to look a little different, as you are not asking them to do what they cannot.
Is Young the perfect leadoff hitter? No way. But this is where the trade-offs come in, the Duda/Satin platoon too. I rather have those two guys, with a proven big bat, than take my chances on three good, not great, players.
There would still be money to get a professional hitter who plays right. Hell, maybe the return of Byrd, if he would take a one-year deal. It wouldn’t have to be a dumpster-dive guy this time. And he could bat fifth.
Or you sign Abreu and go cheap in right field. That could still fit for 2014 commitments, but you would be adding a risky long-term commitment with Jose too. Me, I love that, you bat him fifth and go get it, that is what I would do.
It’s what Omar would do, too.
I would be shocked if that happened though, Tulo and Abreu, but since you asked, that would excite me. I believe Abreu is going to hit. Why I’m so sure of that, I don’t know, I guess it’s crazy.
Also, if you go Jose you can non-tender Ike and that adds a few more bucks to the $30 million.
I’m not holding my breath on his being a Met though, Tulo or no Tulo.
A guy might say, hey, the Rockies had Cargo and Tulowitzki and it got them nowhere. Why would a two-star approach work for the Mets?
As for wins and losses, I still don’t see a playoff team unless a lot of things go right. The biggest would be getting that right field spot to work out well. But with only $30 million to spend things can only move so far without some good fortune, no matter the path taken.
For 2014 this approach won’t guarantee much of anything, except one more guy who is worth buying a ticket to see. That alone is not a small thing. Any dollars generated are needed right now, the revenue line is dormant.
Longer term we would have two big stars anchoring our infield in the biggest baseball market in the world. A capable GM should easily be able to build around that. Going the other way, adding a bunch of guys in an attempt to sneak into the playoffs once, is the opposite of building for sustained success. We need a core of great players to get to my goal, a World Championship. If one is sitting there to be had, in his prime, we need to pounce.