The Mets Makeover

Earlier this week, Mets owner Jeff Wilpon suggested that the Mets’ roster would undergo a makeover:

“I think we’re gonna be active in trying to remake our roster. I think I said at a time that I wanna be uh, some addition by subtraction, and I think that will happen. Whether that happens by free agency or more to the fact from some trades.”

Before you hope “addition by subtraction” means dumping Aaron Heilman, Luis Castillo, and most of the bullpen, understand that the Mets do not have a very good history of dumping salaries — further, their history is littered with trading players when their value is lowest. The organization as it is currently constructed cannot move forward by continuing this ugly tradition — there are too few trading chips available to make deals simply to rid the roster of underperforming veterans. With so little help coming from the farm system, every deal made has to have a positive impact on the 25-man roster.

Simple economics — buy low, sell high — is similar if not identical to baseball operations. And the Mets have a lot of “lows” right now, which suggests the best plan is to hold onto those lows and hope they gain value again. The time to trade guys is not after they’ve stunk up the joint, but before.

In order to dump Castillo, the Mets are likely going to have to eat some of his salary, include someone valuable in the deal, and/or take on a similarly awful contract. I can’t wait to see the creativity Omar Minaya shows in pulling this off without further hamstringing the roster — though most fans are confident he can do it. But guess what? No one wants Castillo — not even for free. The Mets will have to take on someone else’s garbage — think: Juan Pierre and his FOUR-year contract. Not to mention that the Mets will then have a huge hole at second base, where Dan Murphy doesn’t fit and Argenis Reyes doesn’t project as an everyday player. If the Mets are able to bring in Orlando Hudson for something other than an astronomical contract, great, but if they don’t, who are the alternatives? Mark Grudzielanek? Ray Durham? Felipe Lopez? Nick Punto? Suddenly, holding on to Castillo doesn’t seem so bad.

Similarly, trading Aaron Heilman makes little sense, as he is still affordable and under control, young enough to make a comeback, but won’t return nearly his value in a trade. Remember Heath Bell? Matt Lindstrom? Dan Wheeler? Paul Wilson? Jason Isringhausen? Paul Byrd? All were pitchers with talent, coming off an underperforming season, but still very cheap and young enough to turn things around. But the Mets gave each of them away for garbage, only to see them prosper elsewhere.

So who do the Mets trade? Looking up and down the roster, there isn’t much of value to other teams. And that’s a major problem — nearly every player in the organization has more value to the Mets than to any other team. For example, even though Mets fans think Dan Murphy is the second coming of Wade Boggs, the fact is, other teams are not sold on Murphy’s first 130 at-bats as an indication of his future. Likewise, you won’t find anyone not affiliated with the Mets who thinks Jon Niese is the next Sandy Koufax, or that Bobby Parnell is a can’t-miss. These are the Mets’ three best young trade chips, but it would take all three of them in one deal to land a decent Major League veteran. Not an All-Star. Which is why I think it’s hilarious that a poll on MetsBlog asked “would you trade Niese or Parnell and Murphy for Jake Peavy”? Are you kidding? In a second! Yet astoundingly, 41% of respondents said “no”. The joke, of course, is that all three of those young men would be a START in trading negotiations. It would likely take someone along the lines of John Maine or Ryan Church to be included with them for the Padres to answer the phone.

So again, who are the trading chips? (Funny, we were asking the same question this time last year!) Will the Mets pick up Carlos Delgado’s option and then trade him? Probably not, as a replacement would be very expensive (Mark Teixeira) or underwhelming (Nick Evans, Kevin Millar). Wright, Reyes, and Santana are going nowhere. If John Maine was available, he also would be undervalued due to his shoulder injury. I already proposed Beltran in a deal and was nearly lynched for it. Ryan Church has some value, but again, his health is a question mark — dealing him for equal value would be more difficult than when the Mets had Mike Cameron on the block. Same with Ramon Castro, who has battled injuries as a second-stringer for three years. Brian Schneider won’t bring back much, and the Mets don’t have anyone to replace him.

It seems the only place the Mets might be able to subtract from is the bullpen. Again, though, they’d be selling low. Maybe Pedro Feliciano and Scott Schoeneweis have some value as lefthanded specialists, but are they really that much better than any LOOGYs that are available via free agency? Joe Smith is the best chip the Mets have, but it wouldn’t make sense to deal away arguably their best reliever — especially when he’s only 24 and under control for several more years. You want to dump Duaner Sanchez? Great, but there we are again with the health issues — a team would expect to get him for a bargain.

You can argue that putting together a package of these underperformers can bring back something of value. Maybe, but it’s doubtful. If you were an opposing GM, what would you offer in return for Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilman, and Duaner Sanchez? A borderline second base prospect toiling in AA?

Still, Jeff Wilpon is right — there WILL be a remake of the roster. But that’s because half the team will be leaving via free agency. Here’s the list of potential free agents:

Luis Ayala
Tony Armas
Nelson Figueroa
Orlando Hernandez
Pedro Martinez
Brandon Knight
Oliver Perez
Ricardo Rincon
Matt Wise
Moises Alou
Damion Easley
Jose Valentin
Endy Chavez
Fernando Tatis
Trot Nixon
Brady Clark

I left Delgado off the list because it’s all but a certainty he returns. I’m not sure about Brian Stokes, Robinson Cancel, Gus Molina, Angel Pagan and some others who may be eligible for arbitration. You can laugh about most of the men on this list, but there’s 16 players there who were on the 25-man roster at some point. Subtract Ambiorix Burgos from the organization, for obvious reasons. Again, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Burgos was a young relief pitcher with MLB closing experience and a 97+MPH fastball — something the Mets would seem to covet right now. With Burgos in jail, the Mets need to find a young fireballer to take his place. Can they get one in return for Scott Schoeneweis? Doubtful.

How many of those free agents (and arbitration-eligible players) the Mets keep will be interesting to follow. Does “subtraction” mean Ollie Perez walks? Pedro wanders away? Damion Easley takes a hike? Would those subtractions equal addition?

It’s going to be a long, fascinating winter. We’ll watch and discuss every move here.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude October 24, 2008 at 5:52 am
    Good piece, Joe. Before I comment, let me just correct one thing. Endy Chavez is not a free agent. He signed a 2-yr extension in January and will make a little over $2-mil to be the #1 OF defensive replacement in 2009.

    Anyway, this article refers to the notion a lot of Met fans get caught up in every offseason, and that is to trade all our junk for every other team’s treasure. Metsblog likes to conduct fantasy land polls, suggesting a Schoeneweis/Sanchez/Mike Carp package could net Joakim Soria, or a Neise/Murphy combo could fetch Jake Peavy. And many fans think it’s so easy to accomplish a trade for a high profile player for mediocre prospects or major leaguers coming off down seasons. That’s half the reason why I’m not buying into your “we could have had Manny Ramirez or Jason Bay but balked on the trade” conspiracy, Joe, because in real life, what package were the Mets sending the Red Sox or Pirates that would have gotten us one of those studs? Murphy and Neise? That’s a joke. But let me try to get back on subject.

    No doubt the Mets have quite a bit to do this offseason. And trading Luis Castillo, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, etc seems like an uphill battle that may only be won if we take on somebody else’s headache. But I think right there is a reason the trades can happen. You argue that the right time for a team to acquire a player is when their value is low, at which time you don’t have to give up a lot in return to potentially get a very good player. Wouldn’t that behoove a team like Arizona, who is losing Orlando Hudson and has no heirs to his 2B occupation in-house, to trade low for a guy like Castillo? They would be adopting the same philosophy you are urging the Mets to take. Probably coughing up Byrnes might be a bit extreme, but if I’m Omar I at least start the negotiations there. Again, Byrnes may be a guy viewed as a bust in Arizona making too much money to keep, and would be the ultimate buy-low candidate for the Mets. If the Mets are desperate, you can throw in a propect or two with Castillo to try and sweeten the deal, or you can ask for something less than Byrnes that might still be useful for 2009. I truly believe the right deals are out there – but, again, that’s if the Mets want to rid themselves of Castillo, and the other lowlifes of this past season. Because if we get to March and these same bums are still on the 25-man roster, will you buy into the “there wasn’t the right match out there” excuse – the same one you rejected after this year’s trade deadline?

    So mark me down as an optimist, as long as Omar is willing to be a busy bee this winter. I do think Castillo can be dealt for a solution in LF, even if the Mets need to include a prospect or two to sweeten the deal. I’m not talking Neise or FMart, but almost anybody else from AAA down to St Lucie can be had. I think signing Hudson is the academic choice at second. I think trading Murphy, even if other teams don’t think he’s Wade Boggs, can still net something of value, if packaged in the right deal. The Mets are desperate for a closer, and I find it hard to believe the Phillies can deal Bourn, Geary, and Costanzo for Brad Lidge AND Eric Bruntlett, but the Mets can’t deal Murphy, Heilman, and one of their minor league nobodies for a decent closer. It takes hard work and good negotiation skills, but isn’t this why we awarded Omar with a 3-yr extension? Well, let’s see if he can earn those big bucks this winter. Because if he shows me no creativity in re-arranging this roster over the next couple months, count me out of the Omar Minaya bandwagon.

  2. Schmidtxc October 24, 2008 at 9:23 am
    I have a feeling that we will see castillo on the roster come spring training next year. I don’t want to see him, as I’m sure most fans don’t, but I think he will probably still be there. Nobody in their right minds would take him off the mets hands at this point, after the season he had and knowing the pressure from the fans to see him gone. If omar can get something decent by eating his salary, then he probably has to consider it. But I don’t think he’ll get much of an offer. I just have a feeling that we’ll have a 6 million dollar lump on the bench this offseason. At least manuel has shown a willingness not to play him based on his salary. That said, I can’t think of anything I want more than to read about anyone taking him off our hands.

    Isu, I’m in 100% agreement with you on this year’s trade deadline. Nady cost tabata plus decent pitching, Bay and Manny cost some really good young prospects. I just don’t see those packages matching up well with the mets. I disagree with many assesments that the mets farm system is weak or doesn’t have top flight guys. The problem with the mets top guys is that they are all very young. Most teams are looking for guys that are ready for the majors, I think omar made the right move this season by sitting quietly at the deadline. Guys like evans, kunz, parnell, niese, murphy, carp, sean bowman, and maybe fmart should be in AAA next season. When is the last time we had decent (not great, but guys with a ligit shot at being major leaguers) prospects in AAA. The mets have historically promoted guys from binghampton, and thrown them into the fire early. I think a strong showing early on in Buffalo makes these guys into decent trade prospects come july or even august.

    I really think that the cost for the mets will be cheaper for a guy like putz or street at the deadline. Any prospects they have to trade will be well served by more time to develop, and another good half season from these guys will have some people considering them as major league ready prospects. I’m all for dumping castillo, but I hardly think that is the most pressing issue facing omar. I hope he goes after Juan Cruz, maybe even to let him close. I’d rather not dump a ton of money at the closer spot unless it’s for krod. I’d rather stay away from upside guys coming off of injuries, such as chad cordero. I hope omar doesn’t just throw away all of the upper level guys in the system for quick fixes. A trade for a guy like peavy or holliday would be fine, but there are enough xavier nady’s out there that you can’t give away everyone for one of them.

  3. joe October 24, 2008 at 10:17 am
    Isuzudude, thanks for the correction on Chavez.

    Re: Manny/Bay, I’m not a journalist, so I don’t usually look for “scoops” or inside info. At the same time, I have enough contacts inside MLB to once in awhile get solid info falling into my lap. Trust me when I say the Mets had expendable players that the Pirates would have taken in return for Bay, and not one of them was named Martinez (funny, though, Schmidt mentioned one of them). And if the Mets could have had Bay, then they could have had Manny. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s fact.

    ‘dude, you’re right, other teams will look to buy low on the Mets’ “junk”. That’s my whole point — the Mets will get fleeced in any deal they make. My next post will point out some of the fleecings of the recent past.

    Schmidt — I will agree with you re: the Mets and their AAA teams lately. And I’ll agree further with you in June, when those players are all in AAA and performing well. Unfortunately other teams aren’t that impressed with the AA talent you mention — yet. Maybe it’s because of “prospects” of the past who didn’t pan out, such as Matt Peterson, Craig Brazell, Jeff Duncan, Justin Huber, Victor Diaz, Royce Ring, Wayne Lydon, Prentice Redman, et al.

    And I do agree with you in that there may be a deal to send Castillo away for a LF. I gave you that LF in the article: Juan Pierre. Aren’t we trying to get rid of three more years of a slap hitter whose only tool is speed, and that speed is all but gone due to injuries? Personally I’m a huge fan of Pierre but not for 3 years/ $28M, and not when the Mets will likely get similar performance putting Endy Chavez in left. Look around MLB and tell me where there is a left fielder better than what the Mets currently have, with a bad contract, on a team that needs a second baseman. (Actually, maybe we’ll make that the subject of a post as well, so help me out and do some research.)

    I do hope your optimism is rewarded. If Omar can pull off what you’re suggesting, and change the team for the better rather than for the sake of change, he will be GM of the year.

  4. Micalpalyn October 25, 2008 at 1:12 pm
    Quite a brilliant piece of work. Good writing.

    I cant do justice to your post. BUT it did harken me to that 2002 period when SP was basically doing anything to save his job.

    Alf was fine and an all-star at 2nd. Ventura had issues agreed. But they just needed insurance behind them.

    needless to say I doubt Omar is in the same boat.