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On the Mets emulating the Red Sox

Written By on 4th November, 2013

At Sports on Earth, Jon Bernhardt shared his outlook on National League East. The lengthy breakdown of each team is a sobering, worthwhile read for Mets’ fans. In sum, Bernhardt foresees another wasted season in Flushing. His rationale is unassailable [1]. The Mets lack talent, the Nationals and the Braves should be to good to for New York to surpass. Simple enough.

The Mets can’t weaken their opponents, but they can improve. Many have pointed at the Red Sox worst-to-first reconstruction and suggested the Mets follow the champion’s blueprint.  If the Mets wade into the free agent pool for the first time in years their spending would be progress. However, like the Red Sox, the Mets will need more than a few good signings to be successful.

Last off season the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, and Koji Uehera. Outside of Victorino, Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington signed each for just one year, each for less than $10 million. The quartet produced over 17 fWAR for $32 million.  That’s a coup.

There is a handful of similarly situated talent the Mets could pursue. Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz, Corey Hart, David Murphy, Chris Young, Marlon Byrd could be paired with Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo or one another to bolster the Mets’ outfield. Dwell on their flaws, but each has performed as an above average and would be an upgrade over Eric Young Jr. and a nonexistent right fielder.

Likewise, the Mets need to bolster their rotation. Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner will miss the season as they recover from Tommy John surgery, leaving the tea, with Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Carlos Torres and Jenrry Mejia. Tim Dirkes of MLB Trade Rumors believes the reinforcements will be a pair of aging veterans, Roy Halladay and Bronson Arroyo.

The Wilpons cannot expect success without pursing diverse high risk, high reward risk signings. I’m torn whether I’d characterize last season’s Shawn Marcum and Marlon Byrd signings as such a transactions. In isolation it might have been, but two such signings isn’t enough. Dirkes is right, Arroyo and Halladay are comparable to the prior Flushing arrivals, but the two wouldn’t be inspired choices.

Don’t forget that Cherrington also signed Ryan Dempster ($26.5M/2 years) and Jonny Gomes ($10M/2years). Actually, Gomes will not let anyone forget that he and his beard were on the roster. Dempster, however, was demoted to the bullpen and played an insignificant role in October. Neither were awful signings, but both were risks that did not yield a return similar to the aforementioned group. They exemplify the importance of signing an array of talent.

Cherrington took risks on injury-prone, aging yet talented free agents to make a decent team watchable. The less told story behind the Red Sox championship season is the performance of the players they retained from their 69 win campaign the year before. Breakouts from Daniel Nava, Junichi Tazawa, Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the resurgence of  Jon Lester and the resurrection of John Lackey… well, you know the story [2].  In hindsight, the team’s success isn’t a surprise.. They added several above average contributions to a core of Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury.

A few free agents may make the Mets watchable, but like the Red Sox, the Mets need their current players to produce if they are going to be competitive. Signing  Stephen Drew, Shin-Soo Choo and one of Curtis Granderson/Nelson Cruz/Marlon Byrd/David Murphy and a few arms[3] — my preference — won’t matter if Ike Davis, Juan Lagares, and Travis d’Arnaud do not develop.

2013 was billed as the year when Davis, d’Arnuad and Tejeda would develop into first division starters and prime the 2014 Mets. If 2013 was nothing more than a tryout for the 2014 roster, it was a failure. Lagares emerged, Gee surprised and Wheeler was solid, but nearly everyone else of consequence faltered.

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series thanks to a core of All-Stars, a slew of successful signings and strong seasons from the majority of their holdovers. The Perfect Storm.

Winning the World Series is an unreasonable expectation of the Mets. Making the playoffs is too. But, if the Mets spend as one would expect New York team to spend and their younger players develop, they should be watchable in August and September. At worst, they should a few intriguing chips at the trade deadline. Progress. That’s all the average Mets fan wants.


[1] Though, I pray his is incorrect that the Mets will not spend. For one, they need talent. But more importantly, there will be riots at Citi Field this season if the Wilpons don’t prove they are financially stable.

[2] Congratulations, Boston. Were Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Dempster the only underachievers this season? Remarkable. Also, Mike Carp isn’t mentioned throughout this piece. He contributed a lot this season for $500k. I’ve avoided using the word lucky throughout this piece. I won’t start now. The Red Sox’s front office and scouts deserve a lot of credit.

[3] Granderson, Byrd and Cruz may sign one year contracts given their respective injury history and Performance Enhancing Drug use. Very similar to what the Red Sox did.

Cruz is a butcher in the field, but Juan Lagares should eat away at his opportunities. A Choo/Granderson pairing would make the Mets susceptible to death by LOOGY, but it’s better than the alternative (read: sucking) with the greatest upside. I’d probably line them up Choo-Wright-Murphy-Granderson(Cruz/Byrd)-Davis-d’Arnaud, Drew, Lagares. If I signed Granderson and Choo, I’d also try for Corey Hart to platoon with Davis/Granderson against tough lefties and DH. The Jonny Gomes role.

JD Sussman
JD Sussman
About JD Sussman

JD is a co-founder of Bullpen Banter and muses about prospects, sabermetrics, and often intermingles law and baseball in his work. In addition to managing the site, JD is awaiting admission to the New York Bar. Additionally, he sporadically contributes a prospect column toFangraphs. Be wise and follow him on Twitter. He can be reached via e-mail at jdsussman@bullpenbanter.com.

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