Friday, October 31, 2003
Let me take you back in time. It was October, 2000. The Subway World Series was underway, much to the chagrin of everyone but Mets and Yankees fans. The boyfriend of one of my girlfriend's housemates, a devoted Yankee blowhard, had nothing nice to say about the Mets. That is, except for this:
"A-Rod will look good in a Mets uniform next season."
The Mets were busy losing Game 2, but my heart was aflutter with thoughts of Alex Rodriguez playing gold-glove defense at short and launching bombs into the Pepsi Picnic Area. As we all know, the Mets went on to lose that series 4-1, but at least I could take solace in the fact that the best player in baseball was a good bet to be joining an already-playoff-caliber team.
And then, a bombshell. The Mets were out of the hunt, citing A-Rod's alleged demands for private jets, offices at Shea, etc. Whether these "asks" were legit, who's to say? All I knew was that our consolation prize for losing the World Series was not in the cards (that prize turned out to be Kevin Appier). Even up until the day that A-Rod signed that massive $252 million deal with Texas, I still held out hope that the Mets might change their tune and sign him up. However, it wasn't meant to be.
Back to modern day. The Mets have done seemingly-nothing right since (and including) that offseason, while A-Rod has toiled away in Texas, putting up MVP-season-after-MVP-season-after-MVP-season for a last place club. For the first time in a while, the Mets have a surplus of cash (their 2004 payroll currently stands on the order of $60 million, with designs on keeping it under $100 million), and it seems more likely than ever, in the face of baseball's ever-changing economic landscape, that Texas would like to unload that $25 mill-per contract and A-Rod would like to get out of dodge. This is where the Mets come in.
If the Mets would be willing to assume most of A-Rod's contract, they could probably hang on to most or all of their highly touted prospects. For argument's sake, let's say that Texas is willing to pick up $7 million per for each of the seven years left on the deal. That puts his annual salary in the $18 million ballpark. Now, I originally thought it would be necessary to trade Jose Reyes, but with the Mets picking up most of A-Rod's hefty salary, they could probably get by without sending him. With the money saved, the Rangers could sign Miguel Tejada at $11 million per and still have enough money to throw at a couple other positions. The Mets would definitely need to send Aaron Heilman, and probably three or four of the following:
Danny Garcia (2B)
Royce Ring (RP)
Victor Diaz (2B)
Tyler Yates (RP)
Lenny Dinardo (SP)
Matt Peterson (SP)
This, I would be okay with. While I like most of the above players a great deal, I don't feel that any of them will be worldbeaters, and would gladly part with most of them for A-Rod. Even with losing a handful of those prospects, the gems of the Mets system will be left intact (including the aforementioned Jose Reyes):
David Wright (3B)
Scott Kazmir (SP)
Justin Huber (C)
Granted, these three are at least a year or two away, but they all project to be very good major league players at key defensive positions.
So, we now have A-Rod in the fold and our payroll is around $78 million. Now, despite his offensive-shortcomings, we sign Mike Cameron (assuming he won't cost us draft picks), to shore up our outfield defense. I would go two years at $5 mill per, and might be willing to go three years at $14 mill total.
Next, we get Richard Hidalgo ($12 mill) and Billy Wagner ($8 mill) for either:
a) a couple mid-level prospects, with Houston picking up half of their combined salaries
b) Roger Cedeno ($9 mill over two years)
Let's take option (a), just for simplicity's sake. We would then have Hidalgo and Wagner under contract for 2004 at a total of $10 mill.
We now have a closer, right-fielder, shortstop, center-fielder, and second-baseman (Reyes moving over from SS). We can then pick up one or two low-cost free agent/non-tenders to round out the pitching staff. The following are available:
Dustin Hermanson - Sure, he's a dried-up husk right now. He was once a first round pick of the Padres in 1994, and still has mid-90's heat. He's probably worth taking a flyer on, because if anyone can turn his career around, it's Rick Peterson.
Corey Lidle - This could be another reclamation project for Peterson. Lidle has great control (had a very good 2.89 K/BB with Oakland in 2002), and would definitely benefit from the Mets newfound up-the-middle-defense strength.
Rick Reed - This guy was a horse for the Mets, and he still has great control (29BB in 135 IP in 2003)
None of these three would likely command a salary in excess of $2 mill. Now, with these acquisition, the 2004 Mets look like:
2B - Jose Reyes (<$1)
LF - Cliff Floyd ($6.5)
1B - Mike Piazza ($15)
SS - Alex Rodriguez ($18)
RF - Richard Hidalgo ($6)
CF - Mike Cameron ($5)
C - Jason Phillips (<$1)
3B - Ty Wiggingon (<$1)
Total salary: $45 million
Al Leiter ($8)
Tom Glavine ($10.5)
Steve Trachsel ($5)
and two of...
Corey Lidle ($2)
Rick Reed ($2)
Dustin Hermanson ($2)
Jae Seo (<$1)
Total salary: $27 million
David Weathers ($3.6)
Mike Stanton ($3)
Jason Anderson (<$1)
Dan Wheeler (<$1)
Scott Strickland ($1)
Pedro Feliciano (<$1)
Billy Wagner ($4)
Total salary: $12.6 million
Bench: Tony Clark, Matt Stairs, Tony Batista, Ellis Burks, Brian Jordan, whoever, etc... ($5 million)
Grand Total: $89.6 million
Even if they had to pick up all of Hidalgo and Wagner's salaries, this would still come in a shade under $100 million. Is this a likely scenario? No, probably not. Is it feasible? Maybe. It would make for a very interesting and very entertaining ballclub, with a great mix of talent, some speed, great character guys, no real clubhouse problems, and a Mets team I would be proud to call my own.
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
First off, I just want to say that SaberMets is proud to sponsor Billy Beane's page at baseball-reference.com. Without his (as well as others') insight and forward-thinking, I wouldn't be nearly as interested (read: obsessed) with baseball and baseball statistics.
Now, in response to my flogging of Mike Cameron yesterday, I received the following e-mail:
John: Below is a great Cameron Article from Aaron's Baseball Blog. The Safeco thing is real, and he could have an MVP type year with the Mets. He'll hit better than Duncan!If you haven't done so already, check out Aaron's Baseball Blog. For the article in question, check this out.
Thanks for the article, John, it's very interesting. Aaron brings up an intriguing point about Cameron, as his home/road splits are very pronounced. There are two problems, though. The first problem is, through no fault of Aaron's, the article only encompassed the first three months of the season. Cameron's final 2003 home/road splits look like this:
Home: 235/329/429 with 32bb/68k and 24xbh (11hr) in 247ab
Road: 268/357/432 with 38bb/69k and 30xbh (7hr) in 287ab
While he's certainly better on the road, it's nowhere near the extent of the prior three seasons (or even the first three months of 2003). The OPS difference is 31 points, which is not insignificant, but is also not enough to put a seemingly-mediocre hitter like Cameron into Todd Helton's company. Granted, one season of similar splits doesn't completely skew three years of pronounced splits. Here are his OPS splits in each of the past four seasons:
2000 2001 2002 2003
Home   .677 .669 .704 .758
Road   .916 .983 .854 .789
Delta .239 .314 .150 .031
His split was ridiculous in 2001, but that certainly appears to be the exception to the trend, where he had a career year on the road. Aside from that season, his home OPS has actually increased each year while his road OPS has decreased. As a result, his delta-OPS (OPS change) has decreased each year accordingly.
Even if we can ignore these facts, it would be borderline-criminal to suggest that Cameron would put up an "MVP type" year with the Mets in 2004.
Here are the BPF (Batter Park Factors) for Safeco and Shea Stadium for the 2000-2002 seasons, courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Park factors attempt to illustrate a stadium's effect on hitting or pitching relative to the rest of the league. A number above 100 is a good park for hitters and a number below 100 is a good park for pitchers.
2000 2001 2002
Safeco    91    93    92
Shea      93    94    94
So Shea's a slightly better park for hitters, but the difference is hardly cavernous. Add to that the league change (which may or may not be a red herring), and Cameron would probably project an OPS of 750-800 with the Mets. Is that terrible? Definitely not. Cameron is an excellent center-fielder, probably on-par with Torii Hunter but not as good as Andruw Jones. His offense and defense would be reasonable-if-not-significant upgrades over what the Mets penciled in last season. The cost of acquiring a player like Mike Cameron is what gives me pause. He will be looking for a 3+ year deal in the $5-$7 million range, which is far too much money over far too many years. Inking him to a multi-year deal would immediately exclude the Mets from the Carlos Beltran Sweepstakes. Further, I don't know whether Seattle will offer Cameron arbitration and, if they do, what type (A, B, or C) free agent he will be. The Mets have the 3rd pick in the amateur draft this year, which is theirs to keep. However, they have the 3rd pick in every round of the draft, and they could conceivably lose their second-round pick if Cameron is either a Type A (top 30% of all players at his position) or Type B (top 50% of all players at his position).
Basically, you are right that Mike Cameron would hit better than Jeff Duncan (536 OPS), but the potential cost (years/money/picks/Beltran) would outweigh any contribution he could make to the non-contending 2004 Mets.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
The Good: The Mets will announce today that they have removed the interim title from Jim Duquette, naming him as their tenth General Manager. It was only a matter of time before this was made official, as The Duke proved his worth by ably ridding the Mets of albatrosses like Jeromy Burnitz, Roberto Alomar, and Armando Benitez. Not only did he manage to bring the Mets under the $117 million luxury tax threshold, but he acquired some live arms and decent prospects in the process.
The Bad: The New York Post reports today that the Mets would "definitely" be interested in pursuing Mike "All-Glove" Cameron. Post columnist Michael Morrissey goes so far as to say that, in light of the Mariners' current front office disarray, the Mets would have the unique opportunity to "pounce on Cameron, a 30-year-old fan favorite and Gold Glove winner who has made Mariners fans forget the Ken Griffey Jr. era." The Mets "pouncing" on Cameron would be much the way a soldier would "pounce" on a live grenade to save his platoon. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Cameron's agent/spin doctor says that his client's non-prowess with the stick is not a result of the spaciousness of Safeco Field, but rather the stadium's "glare", the cause of which is not specified. "They had trouble with it for years and brought NASA in there to find a solution." I see.
The Ugly: Okay, here's where it gets dicey. As Michael of Michael's Mets Ramblings also points out, the Mets, according to an article in today's Star Ledger, will make Kaz Matsui one of their primary off-season targets. That's fine. His stats project reasonably well and, in the right deal, wouldn't be a bad acquisition, considering that the Mets wouldn't have to forfeit any of their draft picks (they pick 3rd overall in each round) to sign him. He's a shortstop, but that's okay because the Mets will try to move him to 2B. Right? RIGHT?!?! According to the article, Matsui is not very open to changing positions, so the Mets think tank is apparently considering moving The Golden Child to 2B, citing that he is "athletic enough to make the switch". I agree with Michael that the only player you even think about relocating Jose Reyes for is All-Star/Raker/Baseball God Alex Rodriguez. I probably wouldn't even move him for Nomah.
The Bad and Ugly is speculative at this point, relying on "sources" and such, but they don't give me warm fuzzies about the impending off-season shuffle. In addition to the Good, the other ray of light is that Luis Castillo's miserable-save-for-one-at-bat World Series performance has apparently soured many Mets execs on the light-hitting second-baseman. For me, his inability to get the ball out of the infield and inept base-stealing did the trick.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
This would have been the headline Sunday night if my recurring nightmares during the World Series had come true. Thanks to hope, faith, and Beckett, that is not the case. I can certainly sympathize with the Yankee players and fans (see: 2000 World Series; Super Bowl XXXV; 2000-2001 Stanley Cup Finals).
Sorrow, however, I do not feel. Despite Yankee fans' feeling that this one "slipped away", and that three years with two World Series appearances and no rings is a "drought", they can go sell downtrodden somewhere else. Their $180 million soapbox derby racer came up short, looking much like last year's model: wheels falling off, paint chipping on the exterier, engine idling in neutral. Meanwhile, the "next big thing", the Florida Marlins, end a five-year drought of their own by soaring past last year's model, leaving the Evil Empire in their proverbial dust. The baseball season is finally over, but you can still hear the sounds. The sound of Don Zimmer crying himself to sleep. The smoldering sound of large piles of money set on fire. The whisper-soft sound of "Mystique and Aura" quietly leaving the building, through the back door, with their tails between their legs.
Don't be sad, Yankee fans. You'll be back next year. Same time, same place. Different right-fielder? Probably. Different GM? Could be. Different manager? You never know. Now that the games are over, it's time to go to work.
I'll leave you with the answering machine message my friend left waiting for me when I got in last night: "This is the best I've felt since two years ago at this time when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees." Sad, But True. This is all we've got.
Don't forget to buy your very own Florida Marlins official World Series Champion gear. (I don't get a cut, trust me).
I would expect (read: plead) that the Rick Peterson negotiations are wrapped up and announced sometime soon, so he can get to work picking up the pieces of Tom Glavine's career and Aaron Heilman's potential. Good luck to him, he has his work cut out for him.