All things considered, this 2017 New York Mets season is a Noah Syndergaard Tommy John surgery away from hitting rock bottom. As a fan base, we’ve been put through the ringer all season long. A good representation of this Mets season as a whole would be their performance during the first month of the season. It started off promising with a 7-3 start, including a 5-game winning streak. Just as fans got sucked in and braced for another season of good baseball leading to a playoff push, the Mets lost 10 of their next 11. The month was capped off with Syndergaard now infamously refusing to get an MRI for his bicep tendinitis in a true show of grit. In typical Mets fashion, Syndergaard was allowed to strong arm the team into letting him start the final game of April against the Nats, and naturally he tore his lat trying to pitch through the pain. The Mets lost that game 23-5.
Similar to how the Yoenis Cespedes trade was the turning point of the 2015 season, the Syndergaard injury was a sign of things to come. From that point on, the team legitimately fell apart. We are now at the end of the All Star Break and Jacob deGrom is the only starter who has remained healthy all season. The bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster, and that’s putting it lightly. The few bright spots out of the pen this season have been Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and to a lesser extent Paul Sewald, but all three have had their ups and downs. The lineup has been somewhat of a train wreck, with Jay Bruce being the only Mets player that has been able to stay on the field. We have now reached the point of the season where it is pretty safe to say the Mets are dead in the water. Sure, there’s still the very, very slim chance they get a few of their guys healthy again and flip a couple pieces for guys that can help the team win now. There’s also a chance Amed Rosario comes up and does his best Carlos Correa impression to invigorate new life into this franchise. However, history suggests the Mets will tread water and make the worst decisions possible. So, for argument’s sake, let’s engage in some wishful thinking.
Step 1: Sell the Vets
After his first half-season in Queens, most fans wanted absolutely nothing to do with Jay Bruce moving forward, but his $13 million option was too good of a deal for the team to not take a chance on. Bringing him back turned out to be the right decision, and he has been raking consistently for the entire first half. With the Jose Quintana domino falling earlier today, now is the time for the Mets to control the market and sell high on Bruce. He is a classic rental player in the midst of a career year and should warrant a decent haul for the Mets, so now is the time to strike. The next player that should be shipped out is Lucas Duda, before he has a chance to hurt himself once again. The Yankees are the absolute perfect match for Duda in what would very likely be a mutually beneficial deal for both Duda and the Yankees, but the stigma of trading within cities stands in the way. If there is one sign of hope, it is the Quintana deal which was just mentioned before, a deal in which both Chicago teams were able to set aside their differences and work out a return that benefitted both sides. The Yankees are going for it this year and the Mets are very clearly not, so the ideal return would be a young pitcher that projects to be solid late inning reliever. Two players that fit the mold are Domingo Acevedo and former #4 pick Dillon Tate, not exactly players the Yankees plan on using this season for a title run but would prove extremely valuable in a Mets bullpen desperate for help. Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Curtis Granderson all need to be moved next and could bring back some lesser prospects or fringe MLB players. They may not seem like much to Mets fans who have had to endure their lackluster play this season, but playoff teams get desperate at the trade deadline. A solid infield bat like Cabrera’s would be coveted by an AL team looking for some help off the bench, Reyes is basically cheap speed that can add a jolt to any squad that needs a shake up, and Granderson would provide the veteran leadership every young playoff team sorely needs. The Mets don’t have to necessarily view this as a rebuild, but rather a re-tool. The foundation of a playoff team is already present, the difference is in a few minor moves and in some cases addition by subtraction. Other pieces that should be moved are Addison Reed, and Jerry Blevins. For as good as those two have been, the Mets need new faces in the pen and the main goal of these deadline deals should be to re-tool with electric, young arms.
The team moving forward should be completely centered around Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes’ bats, and the deep, young pitching staff. Neil Walker can stick around for now, but should be considered as an option to move at the waiver deadline simply because he’s not healthy right now and would not command his full value. Other than that though, the other younger bench options and Paul Sewald can remain on the team while everyone else is used to acquire new talent, but guys like Nimmo and Cecchini should be considered in any package in order to bring back better players to help compete next year.
Step 2: Call up the Prospects
Obviously, the two main guys the Mets need to call up (and should have already called up) are Amed Rosario and Dom Smith. Both guys are highly projectable, but already profile as solid .300 hitters with potential Gold Glove defense. They could most likely step in right now to replace the current starters at 1B and SS and would probably improve the team drastically. The Mets shouldn’t stop there though. Wilmer Flores and TJ Rivera should be starting every day at 3B and 2B respectively for now, and Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds need to spend the rest of the season getting acclimated to MLB hitting while rounding out the bench. The rest of this season should be spent giving young players a chance to show what they can do, and can also be used as a make or break season for players like Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. In all honesty, the Mets should bring Plawecki back to the MLB and give both men consistent at bats. If neither grasps hold of the starting job, the best thing to do may be to trade away both in the offseason while they’re still young. Tomas Nido would then be brought up to either be groomed as the new starting catcher or to serve as the backup to an outside alternative. The pitching staff right now is about as good as it will ever be, and the Mets best course of action may be to just ride their current guys as long as they possibly can. There are no real talented young relievers in the system to bring up, and there are a couple of stud starting pitchers who are still a few years away (Dunn, Szapucki, Peterson). Once this season ends, the Mets need to decide who to keep and who to trade before gearing up for a big offseason and a run at a title next season.
Step 3: Be Aggressive in Free Agency
The Mets can go two different routes this upcoming offseason; either spend money on one major acquisition and fill out the roster with minor leaguers or smaller pieces, or spread that money among a few good free agents. Whichever path they choose, the important thing is that they spend the money that they have coming off the books. Yes, they will one day have to pay at least three of the starting pitchers plus Michael Conforto, but they have a good 3 years to figure that out and should capitalize on free agency now while the young core is still under control for cheap.
If the Mets decide to spend big, there are two or three impact players they could potentially target, but will likely only be able to sign one of them. The first player is a guy they have actually been linked to heavily in the past: Jonathan Lucroy. Not since Paul Lo Duca have the Mets had stability behind the plate, and not since Mike Piazza have they had a true impact player at the catcher position. Lucroy just turned 31 in June, so fans shouldn’t expect the same numbers they became accustomed to during his prime years in Milwaukee. However, Lucroy brings a presence to the lineup that the Mets have not had in a very long time, plus he is pretty durable and rarely misses time. His biggest knock is his defensive ability, which is an area which Mets catchers have been critiqued in ad nauseam over the past few years. The difference with Lucroy is that he can actually let his bat do the speaking consistently and, despite having a somewhat down year so far, he still remains a top 5-7 offensive catcher in the game. If he can be had for 3-5 years at an average of about $16-18 million per year, I think it would be worth it for the Mets to pull the trigger.
Option two is current Royals 3B Mike Moustakas. The average Mets fan most likely knows Mike Moustakas as the pest from the 2015 World Series that seemed to be doing more talking than actual playing, but he actually seems to have put it all together consistently and may not be a fluke after all. The Royals are currently in a position where they’re primed to lose just about everyone in free agency and will need to rebuild, so I fully expect Moose to end this season with a different club. With David Wright’s constant uncertainty, some fans are already chattering about the Mets possibly targeting Moustaka this offseason, and their concerns are not without merit. Wright could very well never play again, at least not effectively at the major league level, and Moustakas is the definition of a spark plug in the lineup. It will be a tough pill to swallow, but moving on from David Wright is necessary for this team to make another run at a title. Moustakas will only be 29 in September, so his contract will be pretty hefty, but it will be a worthwhile chance for a team that could really use a jolt of energy in the clubhouse. Solid defense, 30 HRs, and a strong personality at the hot corner could go a long way to turning the franchise around. Expect 4-6 years, $18-20 million per year.
The third option, and highest upside player of the three, is RF JD Martinez. He turns 30 this August, and will almost surely be traded before the deadline, but JD Martinez will likely hit free agency after this season and should be coveted by almost every team in the league. Due to the demand, the Mets would have to pay a pretty penny to lure him to New York, but he is an underrated great talent with perennial All Star potential. He is a .300 hitter with 25-35 HR potential in the middle of the lineup, but his defense at times has been suspect. The cost would probably be north of $100 million spread over 5 or 6 years, but the Mets need to seriously consider the fact that no one in their farm system looks to be talented enough to match Martinez’ average totals within the next 5 years while the championship window is still open. The goal is to win a championship and if it takes overpaying an All Star RF entering his prime to do it, I say make it happen.
If the Mets fail to sign one of those 3 players, their next move needs to be signing 3 or 4 lesser talents to fill holes. Ideally, they address their bullpen first by signing a couple of good relievers. My suggestion is to try to resign Addison Reed as a free agent after trading him for young assets, and also target current Twins closer Brandon Kintzler. A three-headed monster of Familia-Reed-Kintzler makes the Mets bullpen a pretty formidable one. Other potential relief targets include Brandon Morrow, Jake McGee, Juan Nicasio, Drew Storen, Bryan Shaw and former Met Joe Smith. Any two of the aforementioned group would be a successful haul for New York.
After solidifying the bullpen the Mets can plug the rest of their holes with some cheap options. At catcher, they can move forward with TdA and sign someone like Kurt Suzuki to back him up and possibly even start. Eric Sogard has had a resurgent year and would be a cheap, quality utility man to add to the bench, or Jed Lowrie could be signed as the starting 2B with TJ Rivera moving into the utility role once again. After making all of these moves, the Mets should still have enough cash left over to sign the centerpiece of their bargain offseason: Lorenzo Cain. The Mets could probably land Cain for about $15 million per year for 3 years, and the former MVP candidate is a true CF. This would allow the Mets to trot out Cespedes in LF, Cain in CF, and Conforto in RF. Not bad at all, and I’d consider that offseason a success.
Step 4: Find a Manager
In all honesty, this should be the easiest step of the entire process for the Mets. Finding their successor to Terry Collins will be easy because the next manager is already under contract through 2020. David Wright is no doubt desperate to get back on the field and compete in hopes of getting his title as a Met, but at this point in his career he’d do more harm than good on the field. However, Wright’s real career may just be beginning. In the 50+ year history of the New York Mets, there has never been a more popular, well-liked player. For kids growing up during the mid-2000s in New York, you either emulated Derek Jeter or David Wright on the little league field. The handsome third baseman set multiple records for the franchise and was the heart and soul of a legendary 2006 NLCS squad that will go down as one of the greatest teams in Mets history.
Accolades aside, Wright is still the current captain of this team and imparts his wisdom on the younger players day in and day out. A move to manager would be a smooth and natural transition for the clubhouse leader, as he is already tremendously respected by his fellow teammates and players throughout the league. Couple that with the fact there is a growing trend within the MLB of former players being given chances to manage at the MLB level with little to no experience and you have the perfect storm. The Mets have a young, modern roster in place to contend, so it’s about time their management team gets their heads out of the stone age.