These are the slowest news days of the year for Mets fans — no games for the team, no trades rumors flying, no free agents to sign. There’s nothing to talk about but economics and ticket prices. The really boring stuff, in other words. This month is great as a baseball fan: The days when we get four division series games in a row are baseball’s version of March Madness, and the intensity just ramps up as we go through October. But for fans of a particular team, it’s either a feast or a famine depending on if your team is in the playoffs. The Mets, as you might have noticed, are not in the playoffs. It’s famine for us.
So let’s make some news up. I’ve gazed into my crystal ball – though it seems to be more of a baseless-speculation ball – and seen how the winter of 2011 and the 2012 season play out. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, and some of it’s just weird. I can’t guarantee that every prediction will come true, but I can guarantee they’re all predictions. If you’re starving for Mets news, jump into the DeLorean and check out the future:
November 15: Chris Capuano re-signs. Two years, $13 million. He buys himself a new Segwey.
November 16-December 10: JOSE REYES JOSE REYES JOSE REYES ALL THE TIME JOSE REYES
December 11: Jose Reyes signs a $132 million dollar, six-year deal with the Miami Marlins. My heart wants to say he comes back, but it’s hard to come up with concrete reasons that will be true. I see the Mets making him a fair offer, but someone just blows them out of the water. My guess is the Marlins. Sleeper, but they have a new ballpark opening, a new crazy manager, want to make a splash, have the money (even if they don’t usually spend it), and are secretly in win-now mode because the farm system is thin. Plus, it would be a kick in the groin to a division rival. Hanley Ramirez moves to third base to make room for his buddy Reyes; the parallels between this and the 2010-11 Miami Heat are lost on absolutely no one.
December 11: A collective “oh” can be heard over the New York metro area as the Mets’ decision to push season ticket holders to renew before November 7 suddenly makes sense to everyone.
December 28: The Mets sign . . . wait for it . . . Cody Ross to a one-year, $5.5 million dollar deal with a vesting option for 2013. Once you’ve regained control of your gag reflex, hear me out. I swear this makes perfect sense. Almost.
Right now, the Mets have these players in the outfield mix for next year: Jason Bay, Jason Pridie, Angel Pagan, Lucas Duda, Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Fernando Martinez. Pridie, Duda, Baxter, Nieuwenhuis and Martinez are all lefthanded hitters. Pagan is a switch-hitter with better numbers lefthanded. That leaves Jason Bay as the sole weapon against lefthanded pitching in the outfield, with Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole other lefthanded bats in the lineup. So the Mets could use a righthanded bat, particularly one who can play the outfield. Which brings us to . . .
Cody Ross: .282/.349/.563, 46 home runs in 684 at-bats against lefties for his career. He’s practically Jose Bautista! If Jose Bautista never walked, could only hit lefties, and looked like a baby with stubble.
Then consider that Pagan, Pridie, and Nieuwenhuis are the only three who can handle both center and right. And of those three, Pridie doesn’t offer much at the plate, Nieuwenhuis hasn’t played a full season at Triple-A, and Pagan is a potential non-tender after his down year. The Mets could use another vaguely competent defender in the outfield, particularly if they cut ties with Pagan. Double particularly if they cut ties with Pagan and plan on using Bay and Duda in both corners. This again brings us to . . .
Cody Ross: Nine defensive runs saved in center field for his career, -1 UZR in center. Not spectacular, but an average center fielder and a tick above average as an outfielder overall. But nevermind that — It’s ugly baby Jose Bautista against lefties! Playing center field! For the Mets!
Or Sandy Alderson could re-sign Scott Hairston, who does the exactly same things, only a little bit worse for less money. Either way, the Mets don’t have a lot of depth in right and center, and whoever fills the third/fourth outfielder void is probably going to see serious playing time.
January 3: The Mets sign second baseman Kelly Johnson to a two-year, $15 million deal with an $8 million dollar team option for a third year. Johnson is an above-average hitter, above-average defensive second baseman for his career, and he’s averaged about three wins above replacement per season for his career. He is prone to going into season-long slumps, however, which keeps his price down in the Mets’ range.
January 4: Daniel Murphy digs through his closet for his outfielder’s glove.
January 15: The Mets sign reliever Brad Lidge to a one-year, $1.3 million dollars contract (plus performance incentives and a team option for 2013). Twitter immediately crashes for four hours. Lidge saves 27 games and posts a 3.13 ERA in 2012, but makes everyone nervous every time he pitches and no one likes him.
By the way, I think one year of Capuano+Ross+Johnson+Lidge, if they all have okay seasons, is about equal in value to a season of Jose Reyes. They would cost about the same, and those four come without the multiple years of commitment. Just saying.
February 26: Position players report to camp.
February 27: Fernando Martinez tears an ACL, breaks every bone in his body, and gets a really deep, painful splinter. He’s listed as day-to-day. Later, the Mets will trade him for a reliever in December. Martinez goes on to have a career that is better than Lastings Milledge’s, but worse than Jay Payton’s.
February 29: Leap year!
March 3: Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia pitch in spring training games. On the MLB Network, Jerry Manuel advocates using both of them as middle relievers in the big league bullpen.
March 15: The Mets give Chris Young, still rehabbing from Johan Santana surgery – can we just go ahead and coin that surgery as Johan Santana surgery? — a minor-league contract for 2012. He works out in Port St. Lucie all spring, but the Mets forget that he’s down there. They eventually find him in mid-August, emaciated and unshaved, locked in the medicine ball closet.
March 28: Every Mets blog writes at least 2,000 words on the Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee competition for the fifth starter spot. There are a lot of debates about the merits of xFIP.
April 5: Opening Day at Citi Field against the Braves. The lineup:
CF – Angel Pagan
2B – Kelly Johnson
1B – Ike Davis
3B – David Wright
RF – Lucas Duda
LF – Jason Bay
C – Josh Thole
SS – Ruben Tejada
P – R.A. Dickey
Santana needs a bit more time to get ready, and begins the season on the DL.
April 22: Santana makes his first start. He throws 83 pitches over five innings, allows two runs with three strikeouts and two walks.
April 24: The Mets meet the Miami Marlins for the first time. Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Jose Reyes, Mike Stanton and Ozzie Guillen are all in the same dugout wearing hideous rainbow uniforms. It’s weird.
May 1: The Mets go 12-11 in April. David Wright and Ike Davis get off to hot starts; Jason Bay and Ruben Tejada struggle. The calls for the Mets to cut Bay grow louder by the day.
May 26: The Braves are five games under .500 and in last place. Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are both on the DL, as is Chipper Jones. The Braves fire manager Fredi Gonzalez and hitting coach Terry Pendleton. The Nationals, Mets and Marlins are neck and neck for second place, with the Phillies on top again.
June 1: The third-place Mets are 26-24 after two months. Ruben Tejada has no home runs, but a .350 on-base percentage. Kelly Johnson has 10 home runs; Jason Bay has six.
June 20: Johan Santana goes on the DL with shoulder fatigue, spending six weeks on the DL. He makes more than 20 starts in 2012, but fewer than 30. He finishes 7-6, strikes out 6.2 batters per nine innings pitched, and his ERA is exactly 3.71. Exactly 3.71. Write it down.
1. Pagan might be not be tendered a contract in the winter. His offense declined this season (though almost entirely from a dip in BABIP), his range declined, and his throws from the outfield would have been bullets to the plate, if bullets bounced and home plate was located 25 feet up the third base line. He’ll probably make $5 million through arbitration — and would be worth it – but not offering him a contract (or dealing him) is the easiest way for the Mets to free up a chunk of money. If Reyes signs, Pagan might be an additional cost.
2. Should he return, Pagan is unlikely to attain Type-A status as a free agent. He is iffy for Type-B status; it really depends on his production in 2012. If the Mets fall out of the race and decide they’re not going to re-sign him, it seems likely that they’d trade him to recoup something.
June 22: Jason Bay plays 130 games in 2012, hits 22 home runs and posts a .360 on-base percentage. Just kidding. Terry Collins declares that “Jason Bay is our right fielder” in every single press conference for the first 10 weeks of the season, but Bay is riding the bench by mid-June and operation “pretend we think Lucas Duda can play right field until Jason Bay finally kicks it” comes to its inevitable conclusion. Duda moves to left and the Mets call up Kirk Niewenhuis.
July 1: The Mets play well in July and are 42-39 at the halfway point. Mike Pelfrey’s ERA is lower than Jon Niese’s ERA, although Niese’s peripheral stats are much better. Dillon Gee, back from the minors, has replaced Johan Santana in the rotation and remains there the rest of the year.
July 16: David Wright is the Mets’ sole All Star. Pagan, Pelfrey and every relief pitcher on the team are rumored to be on the trading block.
Here’s how this works: The Mets will bring back Pelfrey for 2012. They have to. Santana-Dickey-Niese-Gee-Schwinden-absolutely-no-one-else isn’t going to get it done. They need his 200 innings, and it’s only going to cost them $6 million dollars.
But 2013 is a different story. The 2013 Mets already have about $90.5 million dollars on the books. (Deep breath: Guaranteed deals to Johan Santana and Jason Bay; team options for David Wright and R.A. Dickey; arbitration for Josh Thole, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, and Pelfrey; and minimum deals for 15 more players to fill out the roster.) If you throw in $20 million for Jose Reyes, they’re at $110 million right now. Today. With *crosses fingers* a couple of pitching prospects knocking on the door by the middle of the summer, Pelfrey has to be the odd man out in that scenario.
So the Mets know Pelfrey probably isn’t needed for 2013. But he has some value, because he does make all his starts. So say there’s a certain team that makes bad trades, needs pitching help AND undervalues good-hitting, poor-defending catchers . . . well, I smell a deal.
My proposed trade is a WFAN trade, I think, but I did throw in Tim Byrdak, cash, and made the other team the Angels so it looks more like a realistic trade. Oh, and Steven Geltz is a fringe relief prospect I found with a three-minute Google search. I assume that’s how the Mets found all their relievers for this past season.
Ongoing: David Wright rebounds to hit .305/.395/.545, but fields .940 and posts a UZR of -12. The Mets discuss moving him off third base, only to realize immediately they don’t have anywhere to stick him. Wright is eventually moved to left field when Jason Bay’s contract expires after 2013; Daniel Murphy becomes the everyday third baseman. I don’t know what happens to Lucas Duda, whom I’ve already penciled into left field, because I haven’t thought this all the way through yet.
Fun/depressing side note: Since 2009, David Wright ranks last in UZR and third-to-last in defensive runs saved among major league third baseman. He’s also ninth among third basemen in Fangraphs’ catch-all stat, wins above replacement, sandwiched between Michael Young and Martin Prado. I think (hope) moving in the fences at Citi Field is going to fix Wright offensively – and I’m guessing he’s the #1 reason they want to move the fences – and maybe that somehow helps him in the field. But it’s almost at the point where the Mets have to move him to another position in the field, because by the numbers, he’s become the poorest fielding everyday third baseman in baseball and a middling player overall.
But hey, he’s still better than Martin Prado.
August 1: The Mets are 55-54, but seven games behind the wild card leading Brewers. The everyday lineup is now:
SS – Ruben Tejada
2B – Kelly Johnson
1B – Ike Davis
3B – David Wright
LF – Lucas Duda
C – Hank Conger
CF – Cody Ross/Jason Pridie
RF – Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Jason Pridie bats leadoff on the days he plays. No one can figure out why.
August 3: Johan Santana is back. He makes all his starts the rest of the way.
August 13: Hey, whatever happened to Chris Young?
August 24: Ike Davis is healthy and hitting .273/.373/.512 with 22 home runs after four-and-a-half months. The Mets sign him to a four-year, $32 million dollar extension that covers the 2013-2016 seasons.
This is the other side of the “The Mets have a lot of money on the books for 2013.” If Davis is hitting and healthy, I’m going to guess Sandy Alderson locks him up now and saves money by buying Davis’ three arbitration years and a year of free agency. Davis walks, has power, good defensive first baseman and big target for the other infielders. Maybe not a super star, but a very good player and makes a few All Star games. He’ll be worth it, and it saves the Mets money over what he might get in arbitration.
September 1: 69-68. R.A. Dickey leads the Mets staff in ERA, followed in order by Johan Santana, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Chris Capuano. Meanwhile, down on the farm, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia are all in the Triple-A rotation; Zack Wheeler is in Double-A. They all have 2.53 ERAs. Not really. One of the four is hurt and another is struggling, but we’re all really excited about the other two.
September 6: Familia and Mejia are called up for cups of coffee. Mejia accidentally spills his.
September 14: Daniel Murphy has played first, second, third, left, right, bus driver, ambulance man and ticket inspector at various points this season, gathering 400 plate appearances and hitting .283/.339/.456 along the way.
September 25: David Wright hits his 30th home run and makes his 30th error of the year in the same game.
October 3: Season ends. Mets finish 80-82, but attendance is actually up to about 2,550,000 fans on the year. Dynamic pricing backfires, however, and they pull in about the same amount of money as they did in 2010. The Phillies win the NL East again, the surprising Nationals finish second, the Mets are third and the depth-challenged Marlins fourth, while an injury-ridden Braves team completely implodes and finishes last.
October 4: That left over Jose Reyes money? The Mets begin gearing up for a run at a loaded 2012 free agent class. Matt Kemp rumors start flying almost immediately.
November 22: Happy birthday Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson! At the party, they realize that there’s an outside possibility Jason Bay’s 2014 option vests.
November 23: Mets cut Bay.
12 21: World ends.
That’s what I’ve got. Other predictions, baseless or otherwise, in the comments.