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The Daily Stache

#MetsTwitter Lunatic Fringe Guide To The Offseason

Lunatic Fringe

The Mets Twitter “Lunatic Fringe” is a complicated group. There is no stereotypical member of the Lunatic Fringe, so if you were hanging out on the Shea Bridge or even in your local grocery store, you probably wouldn’t be able to spot them. However, on the Twitter machine, they stand out like a sore thumb.

For the sake of not having to type out “Lunatic Fringe” 100 times, I will just type “LF”. So, I’m sure you are wondering, Who exactly is this Lunatic Fringe? I’m glad you asked. There are many criteria that one can fall under to be considered a member of the “LF”.

1. The “Love Jose Reyes/Hate David Wright” Crowd – These are the members that just can’t get over what happened in the 2011 offseason. Every single day there has to be a comment made about how the Mets need a shortstop and they once had one. These fans also fall into the “Hate David Wright at all costs” crowd.  It has been a never-ending saga since the day Wright signed his contract extension the year after Reyes was not retained.  For some reason, they couldn’t understand that the Madoff case was pending and were more than likely going to have to dole out at least $80 million.  These people also fall into the “The Mets are racists” crowd.

2. I Hate Economics 101 - These are the people who refuse to, or can’t comprehend how a balance sheet or profit and loss works.  When someone owns a professional sports team, they don’t own it just because they are sports fans.  They are business men.  They are in it to make money.  And when you have to take out nearly $1,000,000,000 in loans (That’s not a typo, that’s ONE BILLION DOLLARS) to pay for their new stadium then get caught being involved in the biggest ponzi scheme in history, you probably don’t have that kind of cash to pay back those loans in the next 18 months.  I seriously encourage the “LF” to follow @HowardMegdal on twitter and read his columns on the Mets financial disaster that is coming in the next 18 months.

3. Omar God - Omar Minaya is worshiped in the land of the “LF”.  He brought the Mets their only division title since 1988, and did it by spending a fortune and neglecting the farm system.  A fortune that the Wilpons clearly have (insert sarcasm here), and that Sandy Alderson CLEARLY doesn’t want to spend.  Hired guns such as Carlos Delgado, Paul LoDuca, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Tom Glavine, and Billy Wagner all played key parts in winning that division title.  These players were bought/traded for solely due to money.  Did it work? Yes, for one season.  And that’s all that matters.  Omar did what Sandy hasn’t been able to do.  Which is win.  And don’t forget, Omar also drafted Matt Harvey.  Just don’t bring this up to them.

4. #FireSandyAlderson - This became a popular hashtag over the past few seasons for Alderson’s ineptitude to lure high-priced and/or elite talent according to the “LF”.

Some Moves the “LF” were up in arms about heading into the 2013 season:

-Sandy not wanting to give up the #11 overall draft pick in this past draft in order to sign CF Michael Bourn to a 4 year/$48 million deal, but then calling Juan Lagares the “best defensive CF in the game”.

-Why couldn’t Alderson sign BJ Upton to a 5 year $75mil contract?  The guy is a stud.  (Upton hit .184 in 450 PA this year)

-Why couldn’t Alderson trade Jon Niese + prospects to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton?

-LOL Marlon Byrd!  Dude is a scrub!

-Colin Cowgil starting in CF….can’t win em’ all

5. #TeamJV1 – “The Mets and their fans don’t like him because he’s exciting like Reyes and is Latino”.  That was their mission statement through June.  He is/was the poster child for the “LF”.  They would rally around him every time he came up to the plate.  The New York Mets organization hasn’t had more selfish player than him since Lastings Milledge.  But that’s ok with the “LF”.  The individual is WAY more important than the team.  Always has and always will be.  There’s no group of fans anywhere in the MLB kingdom that would love a player like this more than the Mets “LF”.  Only the “LF” would defend/praise a kid who screams at  his manager and calls him a  “cocksucker” after he’s been demoted.  Oh, don’t forget that minor thing about BioGenesis…

There are other factions in the “LF.”  “Fire Terry Collins”, “Duda Sucks”, “#SandysMess, and “Wheeler Is Soft” are other popular ones, but not as prevalent as the top five above.

Now that the “LF” has been defined, let’s see if we can help guide them through this winter/free agency.

Heading into the 2014 season, the Mets have about $35 million committed to the roster before qualifying offers. This includes buyouts to Johan Santana, Jason Bay, raises in salary to David Wright and Jon Niese.  If you are ever wondering about contracts and such, you have to bookmark Cot’s Baseball Contracts.  It’s a fantastic site that is pretty darn accurate.  If you go to the page now, it is in the process of being updated as players are being offered qualifying offers, options are being exercised/declined, and players are hitting free agency.  Rumor has it that the Mets have anywhere between $30 and $40 million to spend this offseason.  I’ll believe it when I see it.

A few days ago, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon decided to open his mouth for some reason and declare “only a handful of players are on solid footing ahead of a potential offseason overhaul: starting pitchers Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, and third baseman David Wright”.  He also said , “MORE PAYROLL FLEXIBILITY THAN IN THE PAST!!!!”.  We’ve heard that one before Jeff.   So naturally the “LF” took to twitter to harass Michael Barron of Metsblog.com with their standard “Duda, Tejada and Gee for Tulowitzki.  Who says no?” tweets.  Then came the “So if we sign Cano, Granderson and Choo we are set”, tweets.

WELCOME TO THE 2013/14 OFFSEASON!!! 

My mission is to help those members of the “LF” to understand there is more to putting together a baseball team than just writing a check.  Hopefully this guide will help them along the path back towards the middle of the road.  No one likes to see their fellow fans go down the path to insanity.

First thing is first.  The Mets have a ton of holes to fill as free agency starts in the coming days.  With players receiving and declining qualifying offers as this is being written, please check this list compiled by MLBTR to see who has and hasn’t received such offers.  This year, the qualifying offer to players for a team to receive a 1st round draft pick as compensation is $14.1 million.  Any team who finished with one of the top 10 worst records in the league, would not have to forfeit their 1st round pick, but would have to surrender their next highest pick.  If they are to sign any other players who have been offered qualifying offers, they would then lose their next highest draft pick and so on.  The only pick protected is the 1st round.  Both Newsday and the New York Post are reporting that Alderson is OK with losing that 2nd round pick to sign one of the 13 players who have been given qualifying offers.  So pipe down “LF”.  Those 13 players have one week from the tender date to make their decision on whether or not to accept.

Players who are high on Mets fans wish lists such as Shin Soo-Choo, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mike Napoli,  have all been offered qualifying offers.  Keep in mind that last winter the Mets went through the nonsense with Michael Bourn and the 1st round pick.  Eventually it was settled that the Mets would have had to give up their pick to sign Bourn.  With Alderson going so far as to almost challenging MLB about getting their pick protected, you would have to think he would have no problem going after any of these superior players.

As far as the opening day roster goes, there are only a few players who seem to be “locks”.  Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, David Wright, and maybe Dillon Gee.  I don’t see any way Travis D’Arnaud would be traded, but you never know.  Unless the Mets go crazy in free agency, which is about as probable as the Jets being 5-4, Juan Lagares will be the starting center fielder.  So now we need a real first baseman, a real shortstop, a real left fielder, a real right fielder, and two MLB caliber veteran starting pitchers.  I’m not wasting my time on the bullpen because that’s so year to year and is made up of 4 guys making the league minimum, 3 who are overpaid, and duct tape.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has a great, real-time updating list, of the top 200 free agents on the market.  So grab your shopping cart and blank checks “LF”, here’s where the Mets “LF” will think Alderson should actually be shopping…

“Free Agency has already started, why isn’t Sandy doing anything?  Do your job!“.  Yes, those tweets are already starting.

Robinson Cano will cost you about 7 years and roughly $180-$200 million to lazily patrol the second base area.  He is one on the most frustrating players in the game to watch because he has so much talent, yet so many times he seems either disinterested or flat-out doesn’t care.  That being said, I’d kill for a perennial .305 30 HR 105 RBI at second base, but the Mets simply can’t afford that type of player.

Jacoby Ellsbury is a player with great potential, but is extremely injury prone and has actually only had one above average season.  Someone is going to make the massive mistake and let Scott Boras muscle them into a Carl Crawford type deal for a player who hit 32 homers in 660 at bats back in 2011, but in his other 2,252 at-bats,  he has hit 33 homers.  A team like the Cardinals seems like a good fit with Carlos Beltran’s contract likely coming off the books.  Ellsbury is a great glove and would be a tremendous upgrade over John Jay in CF.

Shin Soo-Choo quickly became a Mets fan’s obsession this season while playing in the ban box in Cincinnati. Choo posted a gaudy .423 OBP at the top of that Reds lineup. While that OBP is 40 points higher than his career average, .385 is still very impressive. Choo isn’t exactly a defensive wizard out in the field, but is more than capable if he plays RF. The Reds had him playing CF this season and lets just say he was BAD. Choo is the exact player the Mets need, but after seeing Hunter Pence get 5 years and $90 million from the Giants, I would imagine Choo can expect something around 6 years $100-$110 million. But is that the kind of money the Mets should pay to a complimentary player? I don’t think so, but I would be on board if, and ONLY if, a blockbuster trade is made for a big bat. You don’t pay leadoff hitters on the wrong side of 30 that kind of money.

Nelson Cruz would have been a decent fit for the Mets but that BioGenesis thing will probably ruin his chances. Yes, players can come back from PED suspensions and have fantastic years. Hi Marlon Byrd. But the other risk with Cruz is that he’s never healthy. Cruz has missed 34 or more games in four of the past 5 seasons. Yes he mashes homers, but on the flip side he can’t catch it very well.
cruzzzz
Cruz is a DH at this point in his career and the Mets don’t need another injury prone player. Cruz will probably get a 2 year $25-$30 million deal, but from an AL team where he’s best suited.

Mike Napoli is currently the flavor of the month after his two homers in the ALCS, and winning a World Series with the Red Sox.  After a hip issue cancelled a multi-year deal with the Red Sox last offseason, Napoli moved to first base and played very well. “Release Ike and Duda, SIGN NAPOLI!!!!” Were the cries on MetsTwitter during the month of October. At first I was all for it, but the more and more I think about it, I don’t see how Napoli leaves a world series team in Boston, to go to a rebuilding team in New York. Sorry “LF”, this is a no go as well.

In a perfect world, the “LF” would have an outfield of Choo, Ellsbury, and Cruz to go along with an infield of Napoli, Wright, Cano and who cares at SS. But this is reality, and the Mets don’t have a blank check. Signing those 5 players would cost about $90 million per year.  Add that on top of the money already on the books for 2014 and we are in the $125-$130 million area.  There’s no way in hell that is happening.  But what did strike me as interesting is the MLBTR prediction page.

Curtis Granderson is quite an intriguing player.  Once he came to the Yankees, I thought he only hit home runs at Yankee Stadium. Then after looking at his career home/road splits, Granderson has actually hit 111 HR on the road as opposed to 106 at home. His overall numbers are nearly identical as well. This indicates a real good fit at spacious Citi Field. But my main concern is his alarming strikeout rate. The Mets already were tied for 3rd in all of MLB with 1384 punchouts. I can see why Granderson’s K rate dramatically climbed from 134 per season, up to 182 his last two full seasons in the Bronx. If I was left-handed and had the Yankee Stadium short porch in right field, I’d be swinging from my heels every at bat as well. Bring em’ aboard and pencil him in as the cleanup hitter. I believe 3 years and $45 million would be a fair price.

Stephen Drew is another member of the Boston Red Sox who gained a lot of notoriety during their World Series run. While a line of .253/13/67 doesn’t exactly jump off the page at you, this was Drew’s first “full season” since 2010. Drew not only provides plus power at the shortstop position, his glove is fantastic as well. Both things the Mets desperately need. Let’s be honest here. The Mets shortstop position was an automatic out last yea,r and Drew’s .777 OPS was actually 7th in MLB for shortstops. Drew seems like a great fit for the Mets, but the price will be steep for an injury prone player. Normally I would stay away from this type of player, but he was healthy last year. MLBTR sees a three-year deal in the $36-42MM range. Seems real rich, but again, he’s a Boras client and is at a premium position. I’m on the fence, but wouldn’t need much convincing.

Bronson Arroyo was one of the first names I looked at when Matt Harvey went down with the torn UCL.  He’s not spectacular by any means, but is never hurt and eats innings for breakfast.  From MLBTR –  “Arroyo is the only pitcher in baseball to make at least 32 starts per year from 2005-13.  Arroyo, 37 in February, is the game’s most consistent innings-eater.  It appears he’ll move on from the Reds after eight seasons, and he didn’t receive a potentially budget-busting qualifying offer.”  Over the past 10 years Arroyo’s average season is 13-11 4.10 ERA 207 IP.  Those numbers include pitching half of his games in Boston and Cincinnati.  Please Sandy, if there is one guy you NEED to sign this offseason, it’s Arroyo.  With a projected opening day starting rotation of Niese, Wheeler, Gee, ? and ?, Arroyo must be made a priority.  I’ve read 2 years and $24 million is what Arroyo should get.  That sounds perfect.  Get er done!

Roy Halladay’s name has popped up on MLBTR’s list, but I just don’t see it with the Mets.  Yes he’ll be a low risk, high reward type signing, but we don’t need to be dolling out $4 million lottery tickets.  He’s probably going to get a Sean Marcum type deal, but when a team is pinching pennies, I’d stay away.

With Drew, Granderson and Arroyo in the fold, Alderson will have given out between $35 and $40 million in new contracts for 2014, while raising payroll up to around $75 million.  I honestly believe that $70-$75 million is the absolute top on the Mets spending this season.  What the “LF” needs to realize, is that if the Wilpons can’t get the $320 million loan that is due in the summer refinanced, the Mets simply can not add payroll.   This isn’t a payment that can be made with another line of credit.  This is physical money that they have to pay back.

When the winter meetings start in a few weeks, big names will start signing quickly, and you will hear trade rumors involving Rafael Montero, Wilmer Flores and anyone else in the minors as the Mets try to acquire a big bat. This may actually be the only way for the Mets to acquire that big bat that they desperately covet.  Then the “LF” will start in with the  “Wheeler for Trout, who says no?” tweets again.  And if you are on Twitter enough, you know exactly who will be asking and or retweeting that one.  There will be many trades to be made, but it’s the right one that needs to be made.

Now, instead of blaming Sandy for what has gone on the last 3 seasons, lets relax and just wait and see.  This is literally the first season in which Sandy is all alone.  There’s a healthy farm system now, no albatross contracts, and players that can be used to acquire a big bat.  I praise Sandy’s efforts to rebuild an absolutely barren farm system.  He’s traded older soon-to-be free agents, into solid MLB prospects and a few potential stars.  Notice how I didn’t say “stars”?  I said “potential stars”.  All minor leaguers are.  Will they turn into stars?  Who knows?  But regardless of the outcomes, they were the right moves at the time.

2014 has been talked about ever since Alderson took over this franchise.  I have been a big Alderson supporter, but it’s time to put up or shut up now.  We’ve fixed the farm system and now it’s about wins for the big league club.  Mets fans demand wins now.  No more excuses.  Is it playoffs or bust for me?  No, but it’s meaningful games in September or around 85 wins or bust.  2015 is probably where we should “expect” the playoffs, especially with Matt Harvey returning from Tommy John Surgery.

Hopefully this guide has helped some of you in the “LF” to take a step back and realize that there isn’t some endless pit of money that Alderson just doesn’t want to spend.  There are actual “thaaangs” and “stuuuf” as Rick Grimes would say, that goes into running a franchise.

Regardless of what happens this offseason, we will all still be glued to the TV on March 31, 2014.  LGM!

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