"Thinking Outside the Box"- Definition per Wikipedia "Thinking outside the box is to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel, creative and smart thinking."Thinking outside the box is a term frequently used by sports fans who are unhappy with the unoriginal ways their team has gone about building a team or style in which their team plays. In recent years Tony LaRussa has garnered both praise and disdain for thinking "outside of the box" and having his pitcher hit 8th, while Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano was mocked for his use of the Wildcat formation (until it worked and other teams started using it). The Mets in recent years have done the direct opposite by resigning what was available of a thin crop of FA (Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez) or playing veterans who were under-performing (Frenchy/Barajas recent examples) over young players. To quote the late great Owen Hart "enough is enough and it’s time for a change".
First things first…. The Mets are unlikely to have a lot of money to spend this upcoming off-season. According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNY the Mets already have over 120 million committed for next year not including Pedro Feliciano. With declining attendance and POTENTIAL losses (I fully admit I have no clue if the Wilpons lost money or not) but they certainly have operated in a fashion that would imply they are less willing to spend (2009 Payroll- 149.3 million, 2010 Payroll 126.5 million) (according to http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/2004/12/new-york-mets.html). That said as Paul McCartney once wrote "Money can’t buy you love" or wins…. I am going to examine a few ways the Mets can improve that are realistic within the Mets current budget yet still improves the team.
1. Trade Ike Davis- What? I know what you are thinking "I’m done reading this guys column", "I like Wallace Matthews more!". Let me clarify my position here…. I do NOT want to trade Ike Davis at all. I just believe in examining all options and if the Mariners really were willing to trade Cliff Lee for Davis I would like to find out what other pitchers around the league would be available due to Ike’s elevated prospect status. Could the Mets get Zach Greinke with Ike as a centerpiece? Would the Giants be willing to discuss Matt Cain? Would the Tigers be willing to discuss Verlander (with Miguel Cabrera moving full-time to DH?). These are things I would want to look into in regard to Ike. "Well Mr. Smartypants who would play 1st base?" The answer to that is two-fold in my opinion. #1 It’s my belief a top of the rotation pitcher is a lot harder to find than a league average 1b #2 The Mets actually do have quite a few bats in the organization who either could give "Ike-level" production now or will shortly. Nick Evans/Duda platoon for example likely outperforms Ike Davis in 2011. Maybe you move Wilmer Flores to 1b if you really don’t believe he can stick at SS. Maybe you sign a cheap option for a year. Whatever the case may be I believe in looking into the value of an asset and not becoming too attached to an unproven player.
2. "How come you’re always such a fussy young man
Don’t want no Captain Crunch, don’t want no Raisin Bran
Well, don’t you know that other kids are starving in Japan
So eat it, just eat it – Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic
Don’t want to argue, I don’t want to debate
Don’t want to hear about what kind of food you hate
You won’t get no dessert ’till you clean off your plate
So eat it"
Regardless of if the Mets have money problems or not they do have an odd mix of very young and guys who LIKELY won’t be here when the Mets are contenders again. With that being said if the Mets want the fans to accept a lower payroll how about making the big off-season moves reflect the idea of short term rebuilding ie offer Castillo and 3-4 million around the league (making him a 2-3 million dollar player) and if nobody bites… eat it. Nobody is taking Oliver Perez regardless of how much we throw in so eat it. I’m a HUGE fan of Carlos Beltran but even I realize he is no longer the player he once was and with chronic knee issues he is very unlikely to bounce back much. Instead of running Beltran out there for another year, I suggest eating whatever it takes to move Beltran to a team willing to give up SOMETHING in return. Beltran and 8 million to Boston for Felix Doubrant and Jed Lowrie would be a decent move in my opinion. This would allow the Mets to play Pagan every day in CF. I would then take Juan Rivera off the hands of the Angels (they are looking to move him and will likely kick in money to do so. He only makes 5.25 million and he would serve as insurance for my 2011 RF…. Fernando Martinez. By late 2011 I would either have Fernando proving his worth or hopefully Kirk Nieuwenhuis). Following the 2011 the Mets figure to have significant money to spend even after extending Reyes and Wright.
3. Enough loving the glove. The Mets under Omar Minaya have been FAR too willing to accept sub-par offense from positions the Mets (or more accurately Omar) deem "defensive". This is the excuse given to why Luis Castillo played so much (despite defensive metrics saying he was awful out there), hey he used to be known for his glove lets run him out there. This is why the Mets traded for Gary Matthews Jr. (despite the same metrics saying he was no longer strong defensively). Is defense important? ABSOLUTELY but on a team where the pressure to score runs has been placed solely on the backs of 2-3 players penciling in below average offensive players simply doesn’t work. The 2010 Mets have received 1657 ab’s from players going into the year people expected strong offense from (Reyes, Wright, Pagan and Bay) and with the exception of Bay have received strong output from all 4, the problem lies in the fact that the Mets have also received 975 ab’s from their other "starters" (Frenchy, Barajas, Castillo+ Cora) and that doesn’t even include 2 struggling rookies (Davis/Tejada with over 500 ab’s). The Mets have to be willing to accept a little less defense (though worse than Castillo is nearly impossible) in exchange for more help for the "good" players. Guys like Dan Uggla and Kelly Johnson routinely are overlooked by the Mets but would serve as huge upgrades. The Mets can/will be good again.