By Steven Inman

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Photo by Newsday

A Mets season that was filled with many ups and downs ended on its lowest note as Madison Bumgarner shut down the Mets in the NL Wild Card game at Citi Field. On paper, when healthy, the Mets still have a very good team entering 2017 but if they want to win their first World Series since 1986, or even take the National League East back from Washington, they’re going to have to make some quality decisions. The Mets payroll entered 2016 at around $135 million, its highest since 2011. After acquiring Jay Bruce at the trade deadline, the Mets payroll is in the $140M range now. It’s highly unlikely the club will be able to go much higher than that. Having said that, $140M is a far cry from what the payroll was a few short seasons ago under $85M. The Mets payroll should be in the 6-10 range in baseball which should be enough to support what the Mets are trying to do. With huge raises in arbitration coming for some key Mets, plus Neil Walker accepting the qualifying offer at $17.2M the Mets aren’t going to be able to add much new money so they’re going to have to get creative.

Here are the annual MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections for the Mets.

Rene Rivera is likely a non-tender guy (who could be brought back at a smaller salary) but the rest of these players will be here, barring a trade. The Mets need to improve their offense and maybe address the bullpen as Jeurys Familia is probably looking at a lengthy suspension for an alleged domestic violence incident. Sandy Alderson and his front office have their work cut out for them but the correct moves can bring Queens a title. Here is what they should do.

 

  1. Re-sign Yoenis Cespedes to play left field

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    Yoenis Cespedes must be the Mets #1 priority this winter

Yoenis Cespedes has been a very polarizing figure since arriving in New York at the 2015 trade deadline but make no mistake about it, the Mets are a completely different team when the Cuban slugger is healthy. When Cespedes did not play in 2016, the Mets had a 13-17 record. He’s a complete game changer, especially as a left fielder. He really struggled range-wise in center field and the amount of running required for that position was taxing on his legs. Keeping him in left field will make the Mets defense better and give Cespedes a better chance of staying healthy. I think at the end of the day Cespedes would return to the Mets on a 4 year deal worth a little over $100M with another opt-out involved in the contract. The Mets are a little concerned not over dollars with Cespedes but the length of any deal. It’s fair to wonder if Cespedes would give an all-out effort if he was not playing for a huge payday but #52 is definitely worth taking that risk.

  1. Sign Dexter Fowler

It’s hard to imagine the Mets finding the funds to sign Cespedes and CF Dexter Fowler but the speedy outfielder is the perfect fit. Fowler would give the Mets an actual center fielder at spacious Citi Field instead of letting a corner guy like Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson or Yoenis Cespedes patrol out there. Fowler is an on-base machine at the top of a lineup and really improved his defensive metrics this season thanks to playing deeper in the outfield. He is probably looking at a 4-year deal at around $15M a season but at just 30 years old he should be able to hold up health wise. Fowler just helped the starving Cubs fan base end a 108 year title drought so I don’t think the bright lights of New York City would be too much for him. With that said, if the Mets sign Fowler they would have to forfeit a draft pick.

So how can the Mets afford Fowler and Cespedes you may be wondering?

  1. Trade Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson

Both Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson are in the final years of their contracts and in my opinion the Mets would be better off letting the two conclude their deals elsewhere. Both are lefty swinging corner outfielders who really don’t fit on the same team. It didn’t make much sense to bring Jay Bruce to Queens in the first place. Bruce not hitting for an entire summer in New York should have convinced everyone in the Met front office that they should move on from him, especially with better options available at similar salaries. The Blue Jays thought they had a deal for Bruce done last spring; perhaps they have interest in him again. Granderson’s strong finish to the year will probably be able to entice some team to take on the final year of his deal.While the Grandyman has been a good citizen and was huge in the Mets 2015 postseason run, he will be 36 before Opening Day and is a below average defender due to his declining range and poor arm. Clearing Bruce’s $13M and Granderson’s $15M would give the Mets enough money to sign both Cespedes and Fowler and perhaps pave the way to consistent playing time for Michael Conforto. Conforto could become one of the Mets best hitters if they just gave him the playing time he needs. Both Granderson and Bruce are older guys coming off mediocre years so it’s hard to imagine the Mets getting anything of value for either player but getting their contracts off the books would be huge for the Mets offseason. Getting these two out of the Mets lineup would allow the team’s outfield defense to improve tremendously along with preventing the club from being overly left-handed like they were in 2016.

  1. Re-sign Jerry Blevins

Often the most overlooked pitcher in the Mets brilliant 2016 bullpen, Jerry Blevins was terrific in his second season for the Mets and retaining him should be a priority for the Mets. With Familia facing a potential suspension the Mets need to find as many reliable arms as they can get their hands on and Blevins has proven in New York that he can get big outs. Terry Collins was able to push a mostly injured Met group to the playoffs but one of his huge weaknesses as a manager is overusing his best bullpen arms. If the Mets do not find more bullpen help Collins will overuse Addison Reed without a doubt. With big left-handed bats like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy with the Washington Nationals, the Mets could probably use a second Jerry Blevins, much less lose the one they already have.

The offseason is a tricky time for baseball front offices. All teams enter the winter with holes they would like to address but budgets can cause teams to be unable to fill all of their concerns. The Mets would love to upgrade at catcher and possibly add some rotation insurance after they lost 4 of their 5 young stud starters to season-ending injuries but that is unlikely to happen. If the Mets are able to re-sign Cespedes and Blevins along with adding another key bat (preferably a center fielder) the Mets could be parading down the canyon of heroes next November.

How should the Mets upgrade their team this winter?

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Comments
  1. Mike Young says:

    Steve – I like all of your suggestions especially the signing of Cespedes and Fowler. Yes, two situational lefties also makes sense. I remember reading elsewhere that Blevins was already gone. Obviously, that is not so or you would not have written that he is still available. TDA concerns me. He has proven to be injury prone and not the hitter we thought he was destined to become. Perhaps the injuries have hurt his swing and bat speed as well as his ability to throw out runners. So far, he is not a championship caliber catcher. Would the Mets do better getting prospects, regulars or bench payers or relievers for Granderson and Bruce? There is so much yet to be done before opening day. Hopefully, it all gets done and the Mets can at least contend for and win the NL east division in 2017. Thanks, Mike

    • Steven Inman says:

      Hey Mike, first off I get no sense that Blevins is close to signing anywhere although he is likely to get multiple years as a free agent somewhere. Do the Mets want to give him that level of commitment? That’s unclear but they certainly should.

      As for d’Arnaud it would be hard to imagine any Mets fan not being concerned with his 2016 season. We’re past the questions of IF he’s injury prone as he clearly is and he didn’t hit at all in 2016. I’m curious to see if he can bounce back in April (hopefully at full health) I don’t think we really know what he is yet, 2017 season is critical for him. The Mets would have considered moving on from TDA if there was a catcher on the market that really appealed to them.

      As for Bruce and Granderson, I think it depends on the team but I think its very unlikely the Mets would get anything more than salary relief for either player and I think they should be ok with that. I’m thinking of it like trading Granderson and Bruce for the option to re-sign Cespedes and bring in Fowler. The Mets must find a way to pave playing time for Michael Conforto. With that said I think the Mets trading Bruce AND Granderson is unlikely.

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