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Joel Sherman’s plan for the Mets & my thoughts on it

For the past two seasons, if the New York Mets organization has had a plan, it’s been to run out the clock on bad contracts signed under Omar Minaya‘s regime.

We’ve gotten to watch a pair of teams that started off well, and dropped off the proverbial cliff at midseason.

New York Post columnist Joel Sherman believes the Mets should trade David Wright for prospects this off-season.

New York Post columnist Joel Sherman says it’s time for a bold new direction and suggests that the team should trade David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese “to add eight-to-10 prospects and truly begin to address what has long been the Mets’ downfall: Lack of depth up and down the organization.”

Sherman points to a free agent market where Josh Hamilton and Zack Grienke are the best of a weak class, and correctly points out that the Mets could not spend themselves into contention even with unlimited resources.  He suggests that the Mets should follow the example of the Oakland Athletics:

I would point out Oakland dealt three in-their-prime players last offseason: Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Yes, they did that because of problematic finances. But the A’s also did it because they recognized they did not have enough organizational depth to win long term even keeping that trio. They packaged each with a smaller piece and received 10 prospects back that include players such as Jarrod Parker, Josh Reddick, Ryan Cook, Tommy Milone and Derek Norris that have them ahead of the Angels and in contention now.

The one problem with following that exact model is the difference in markets. If Sandy Alderson trades Wright, who becomes the face of the Mets that has to deal with the attention of the New York media? An aging, injury-plagued Johan Santana? Ike Davis, who’s trying to prove that he’s not the Dave Kingman of a new generation? Some one of the newly-acquired prospects?

If I’m going to play armchair GM, I’d look to trade Dickey this off-season. His value has never been higher, and I’m not at all convinced that it would be smart to sign him to a long-term deal that he’d be starting at age 39. I would shop Niese and Daniel Murphy while they’re still (sort of) young and cheap, but I would only move them if they brought back multiple prospects. Lucas Duda could go to any team who thought he was a good fit for them… Josh Thole and Andres Torres could just go.

And I’d try to convince Wright that he really does have the chance to win a World Series with the Mets and get him signed to a contract extension this winter. Only if that doesn’t work out would I look to trade the Mets’ only star.

The one thing that worries me is that the Mets will keep Wright and let him play out his option, essentially repeating what happened last year with Jose Reyes. That would make it all too likely that Wright would depart and leave the Mets with nothing but memories.

So I ask you: What would you do to improve the New York Mets for 2013 and beyond?

12 thoughts on “Joel Sherman’s plan for the Mets & my thoughts on it

  1. Unfortunately, you’d never get anything of value for Dickey and/or Niese. Everyone’s first mistake seems to be in thinking that either could command legitimate prospects. RA Dickey is 37 years old. It doesn’t matter in the least that he’s a Cy Young contender this year. He’s 37 years old. Niese doesn’t have enough of a history as a front line starter to command legitimate prospects. David Wright is what they’ve got. Period. And even he is someone that everybody who follows or watches the Mets over values. I thought they should have traded Wright two years ago. Now it’s practically too late. Murphy and Duda have NO value; you wouldn’t get anything for them. Harvey and Wheeler have good value on the market, but why would you trade prospects who are nearly ready for prospects who likely aren’t.

    There are really only a couple of ways the Mets get better. Through the draft or through free agency. Contrary to popular opinion (and Jason Bay aside), Omar Minaya was actually pretty good at stocking the major league team. But we had a stretch of our worst drafts ever under him. Alderson has done much better at the draft. It’s a long wait–3 or 4 years at least–but you can build through the draft. Add a few key, and yet inexpensive, pieces and you’re golden.

    ORRRR you spend a ton of money bringing in quality free agents. That presupposes that the Mets have any money and the willingness to spend it.

    You could trade some of the newer, younger prospects for established players–Oakland in reverse, if you will (near as I can tell Oakland’s deal with the Nationals was at least as big a help to Washington as to Oakland).

    No matter which route you take, you won’t be contending for the next two years at minimum. There are no instant fixes.

    Probably the one thing the Mets could do that would accelerate their recovery more than anything else is to bring in new owners. And that ain’t happenin’.

    By the way, I think you sell Davis short. You’re evaluating him as a Dave Kingman wannabe based on one bad half season. That would be like me saying Wright is the same as Jason Bay based on last year (there is no question Wright was a better player in 2007 and 2008 than he’s been since). The overwhelming body of evidence is that Davis is a pretty decent hitter overall–not AGone by any stretch but certainly much better that James Looney, Carlos Pena or (at least so far) Brandon Belt. He’d probably bring you back more in trade than RA Dickey, believe it or not. Did I mention Dickey is a 37 year old knuckleballer? Nobody is trading for that. Nobody.

    I’m for building through the draft, personally. Let’s run some of these guys through here and see what sticks. Den Dekker, Flores, Havens, Nimmo, Vaughn, Urbina, etc. Let’s have a look.

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  2. Ithink Sherman was off base (no pun intended). Here’s what I wrote to him on the Post’s website:

    Come on, Joel. In your scenario, the Mets will always be looking for the next prospect, and the next prospect, and the next prospect.

    As of right now, the Mets could actually be pitching-rich in 2013. Wheeler, Harvey, Hefner, Familia plus Dickey, Niese and Gee. And that old geezer Dickey who, with that knuckleball, can still have a half dozen good years ahead. The odds are that one or more of the minor leaguers won’t pan out at the major league level. The fun part is to guess who, though I’d tend to bet it isn’t the youngsters who aren’t power pitchers, like Mejia and Hefner. But their stock is up. Pelfrey’s up for arbitration and all three will have decent value for someone.

    Why go after more prospects? With at least some teams salivating over the Mets pitching prospects (and, no, they have no bats in waiting as anyone is probably at least two-three years out), pick up a couple established players. They need help in the outfield as there’s nothing long term out there (heck, Duda is better-suited to a beer softball league) nor behind the plate.

    The infield is in decent shape as Davis has bounced back somewhat, so why break it up? And Wright, and now Dickey, are the faces of the franchise. You can’t unload them–not now, anyway.

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    1. Mark, I think you make a better armchair GM than me. I could definitely support trading some of the starting pitching depth to bring back some hitters.

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  3. The whole “faces of the franchise” thing is so overrated. If the Mets are winning, the fans will come out; if they are losing games, fans will stay home. No one player is bigger than the overall needs of the team.
    I would trade Wright because I do think he’d bring some very decent prospects, and because we already know that we can lose lots of games with him. I would attempt to re-sign Dickey, but to a 2-3 year contract. That would provide the up-coming kids with a stabilizing presence in the rotation, and there’s no reason to think that he’ll suddenly implode next season. Also, I don’t think he would have the kind of trade value that would net a blue-chip prospect. Niese would have limited value, so there’s not a lot of point in trading him. Thole has to be replaced. I think Ike Davis will grow into a very decent player. Certainly not another Dave Kingman.
    In general, the Mets need to be looking at a three-year time-table to contend once again. If you sign Wright (with whose money, by the way?) to a huge, expensive, long-term contract, you’re just potentially tying your hands down the road, when the Mets might truly be one free-agent signing away from contending.

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    1. William,

      I’d respectfully disagree with you as I think the fans need a recognizable face–a few recognizable faces–that’ll be with the club long term. Otherwise, you get a bunch of relatively nameless, faceless people with ties only to their contracts and where they can get the best deals and not necessarily identify with any team. Yes, the Yankees would still be winners. But where would they be without Jeter? Wright can be the same thing to the Mets. I know that idea takes on a different look (as in unnecessary) when a team isn’t winning. But it’ll be important to the club when they finally do.

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      1. Mark, Let me start off by saying that, unlike many people on the internet today, you are clearly an individual with class. Few people bother to begin with “I respectfully disagree…” anymore. Thanks for that.
        I do get your point regarding Jeter, and the idea of the face of the franchise. My feeling is, however, that leaders naturally emerge when their is a vacuum. If Wright is traded, I don’t doubt that another player (it’s impossible to guess whom at this point) would rise up and carry that mantle. Once Jeter retires, some other Yankee will soon emerge as the new face of franchise. It might take a year or two, but it’ll happen. I expect that one of the young Mets would grow into that role. Look how fast Tom Seaver became the face of the franchise when the Mets won it all in ’69. He was just 24-years old.
        Wright is a very good player, and I do like him. He is a class act who has never created any problems for anyone in his time with the Mets. But I just don’t believe in getting too sentimentally attached to any one player.
        Plenty of face of the franchise guys never won anything: Banks, Yastrzemski, Killebrew, Gwynn, Griffey, Jr., etc., and they were probably all better than Wright anyway.
        If the Mets can re-sign Wright to a reasonable, club-friendly deal, then they should at least consider it. But they should not break the bank for a player who has been wildly inconsistent over the past four years.
        Thanks for the conversation.
        Bill

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    2. William, the Mets will have the money to re-sign David Wright and R.A. Dickey if they want to. The current payroll obligations pretty much all disappear in 2014 – Jonathon Niese is the only player under contract past next year.

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      1. Bill,

        First, many thanks for the compliment. It’s a pleasure to have a civil Internet conversation with someone.

        As far as Wright, calling him “wildly inconsistent” over the past four years is doing him an injustice. He had trouble adjusting to Citi Field in ’09, with his power way down. But he still hit .307. He bounced back in ’10 and was hurt in ’11. And this year looks a lot like the sum total of his career.

        The Mets already have their leader. As an aside, I thought Reyes might have been one too. But he turned out to be a “me first” guy, especially after that Snagglepuss thing he pulled in last year’s final home game (“Exit, stage left”–credit Keith Hernandez for that one). They also have a manager with his head in the right place. And Alderson is a fine GM but is handcuffed by the ownership. So, though there will be young guys coming up, mostly pitchers, it seems, it might be best to stick with the leadership in place and let someone from the prospects crew learn at the feet of the master, so to speak, and grow into the job. And Wright, should he stay healthy, still has 8-10 solid years ahead.

        Like you said, I don’t know who that new leader might be, just as I don’t know who will carry the torch when Jeter hangs it up. But I wouldn’t trade the current one away just yet.

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      2. Hi Mark, You’re welcome.
        Here’s Wright’s production, measured by WAR, over the past few years (beginning with 2007): 8.1, 6.7, 2.9, 2.5, and 1.9. Overall, Wright’s been in decline for five years. This year, his WAR so far is 5.9, which means this will be his best season since he was 25-years old back in ’08. The question is, do you believe this season is the beginning of a new upward trend, or merely an aberration on the way down? I’d be willing to pay him whatever the going rate is for a 4.0 WAR player, not a 6.0 WAR player (and certainly not an 8.0 WAR player.)
        I’m glad you brought up Jose Reyes. Mid-season last year, a guy on Facebook got on me ’cause I said the Mets should trade him at the All-Star break when his value was super-high. My friend said I was crazy, that Reyes was way to valuable, exciting, indispensable, etc. In hindsight, the Mets should have given more serious consideration to trading him. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked out, but I like that their trade of Beltran netted them Wheeler.
        I don’t want to come across as the guy who is anti-Wright. Great guy, very good player, (though not a hands-down superstar.) And I don’t think the Mets should simply dump him for whatever they could get. But if another team made an overwhelming offer of young talent for him, it would definitely be worth seriously considering.
        Again, I have much respect for your obvious knowledge and passion for the game. It’s not a bad thing for us to disagree here.
        Respectfully Yours,
        Bill

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  4. Bill,

    Hate to tell you that I’m not much for WAR, OPS, WHIP, etc., as they’re just reconstituted stats. Wright is just a very good player and I dare anyone to say otherwise. HOFer? Marginal, assuming ’09 and, to an extent, ’10 were aberrations and he has maybe another eight solid years. Gold Glove? No, though I’m curious as to how he won two. Tells you what Gold Gloves are worth. But even stats like WAR don’t tell the whole story. As far as the Mets are concerned, the man is a leader and, right now, they need him because I don’t think there’s anyone there who can be a clubhouse leader. Dickey maybe, but that’s about it.

    Is Wright in decline? Well, you can stack five numbers together and it’ll certainly give that impression. But there’s an explanation for all of it and I mentioned it previously. He’s 29, and healthy again. And his numbers in what is still a pitcher’s park are mighty impressive.

    Reyes? 20/20 hindsight says he should have been traded. Certainly, he should have been unloaded if the Mets decided they weren’t going to make any attempt to re-sign him. And, sorry to say, but I thought his exit last year was classless. I thought Reyes and Wright might have been like Trammell and Whitaker. Reyes made stuff happen on the field. I remember watching him in Norfolk when he spent a half season at AAA and got a chance to watch him play two games. And I was mighty impressed. He got on, ran, made the plays and generally disrupted the pitchers’ routines.

    And, hey, if you want to get into WAR, Reyes looks like a guy in serious decline too, putting a decent season together last year only when he was up for a new contract. And, though the stolen bases have dropped off, he’s right around his career numbers too.

    Bottom line, Wright does stuff that doesn’t show up in the stats–and plenty that does. And, with half a career still ahead of him, I think it would be foolhardy to unload him for more prospects. You need a foundation first. Get rid of Wright at this time and the Mets will be losing their foundation. Besides, they have plenty of prospects, mostly pitching, that they can unload themselves while their value is up. Hefner has shown he can pitch and let’s see if Mejia has bounced back from Tommy John and can show he has some stuff in September. Because those are the first two I’d unload.

    Best regards,

    Mark

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  5. Hi Mark, I promise I’ll shut up after this response.
    I agree that Mejia and Hefner might make good trade bait. I also think that often prospects can he highly overrated, and sometimes, they don’t pan out. Yet, at the same time, Oakland and the Rays, for example, have both been pretty successful so far this year after stockpiling many young prospects. Some work out, some don’t. Oakland is currently 18 games over .500, but I don’t think I can name three of their players. I’d rather have a team of no-names that wins games than a mediocre team with one or two stars that I can root for.
    Personally, I always thought the whole “intangible” thing is largely a mirage. The reason the Mets had a nice first half is ’cause their players produced (reflected in their stats) on the field. In the second half, many of them, including Wright, just haven’t produced. Regardless of what goes on in the clubhouse, it’s the on-field production that matters, by far, the most.

    Incidentally, speaking of first – second half splits, here are Wright’s this season:
    First half: .351 batting ave, .441 on-base, .563 slugging
    Second half: .246 batting ave., .336 on-base, .399 slugging.

    It may be that Wright is not so much back to his old, highly productive self as he simply turned in a very nice three months that may, or may not, be replicated in the coming years. That .399 slugging percentage is especially disturbing.

    The truth is, if I was a G.M. on a team competing with the Mets, I wouldn’t trade a first-round, blue chip prospect to obtain him. But I’ll bet there is a real G.M. out there that just might. It would be worth a try.

    Now, as I promised, I’ll shut up about this whole thing.
    Thanks very much, Mark
    Bill

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    1. No need to shut up, Bill, as I think we’re having a very pleasant and enlightening conversation. There are a ton of people that I wish would shut up. But, you are, far and away, not one of them.

      Oakland has been running on the Moneyball philosophy for years. Yes, they draft guys that other teams would like to draft, but they also specialize in guys who “don’t look like ballplayers,” but still have the numbers (because numbers don’t lie), guys many scouts shy away from. Throw in castoffs who can role play and that’s how they built/build their team. And, for the most part, when these guys are up for fat contracts, off they go, replaced by other prospects, draftees and castoffs.

      Oakland plays Moneyball because they have no money. The Mets just might, so they can afford a few top drawer players to supplement a guy like Wright. Unfortunately, they put their money in Santana (who was good for a while) and in Bay, who the Mets never should have signed because there was no way he was going to hit what he did at Boston, or even Pittsburgh, at a place like Citi Field. Not that it’s ‘I told you so,’ but I said that the day the Mets made the announcement. They need doubles and triples guys–guys with speed. Bay just sort of plods along. He’s a hell of a worker and I know he’s busting it out there, along with many other Mets fans, which is why he isn’t being booed the way a .160 hitter should.

      Now, if the Mets want to retrench and run a Moneyball-type franchise, then maybe dumping Wright and Dickey for top youngsters would make sense. And trading a couple pitching prospects for hitting prospects and castoffs who can play a role would also make sense. Wright’s stock is way up and Dickey’s is way up. I’m generally not fond of trading a known quantity for the next prospect and the next prospect and so on, but if the change of philosophy is what the Mets want, then go for it. Just don’t do it half-assed, which is kind of what the Mets have been for the past few years.

      However, if the rebuilding includes a couple established players to help the young ‘uns along, then keep Wright and Dickey and prepare to pony up.

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