I know Mets fans (myself included) have been waiting patiently, for the most part, to get past the point of laying the foundation for a winning team and move on from "rebuilding" to contending. However, in my opinion this team still has too many question marks to try and answer in one winter. Trying to fill holes in two OF spots, SS, 1B, and deciding where Flores fits in one off-season could result in missing out on future opportunities down the road and/or rushing evaluations of our own prospects. Therefore, I'm throwing out this two-year plan which I believe addresses some of those concerns, makes us more competitive next year and in 2015 (at least in theory). I am sure there are flaws in my thought process, or better scenarios, I'm just throwing this one out there to get your thoughts.
1. sign Ellsbury - I was not on board with this idea for quite a while, thinking we needed more power as our top priority. But two things changed my mind. First, a traditional top level "slugger" is not available on the FA market or trade as I don't believe Stanton or Cargo will be available, at least not at a price I am comfortable with. Second, and more importantly, was watching the impact Young had when he first joined the team. Having a legitimate leadoff hitter who got on base and had speed seemed to change the whole dynamic of the lineup. But, as expected Young fell back to what he really is. Ellsbery provides that same spark but is a far better and more productive player than Young.
2. Move Flores to 1B - Personally, I don't see the point of replacing Murphy with a guy who will just provide similar, if not slightly better offensive production and is unproven defensively at second. To me, Murphy is at worst a decent major league 2B, why mess with that. While I am an Ike fan, he has not shown enough since he's been back to give me confidence he'll be able to turn it around in a meaningful way. Flores may not project HR numbers typically associated with a 1B, but 15-20 HRs with a solid average and his ability to drive in runs would be sufficient. Alternatively, despite the reports I've seen, I would love to have Flores play some outfield in the fall. He may fail miserably, but it doesn't hurt to look at the possibility. If he can play in the OF then we could go with a platoon of Ike and Satin at 1B.
3. Outfield - play Lagares in LF, Ellsbury in CF, and consider the following alternatives in RF: (a) bring back Byrd - I don't expect the same production as this year but even some decline should be OK for the sort term, (b) sign Morse, who can play 1B and OF, and hope next year is closer to his career numbers of .286 BA, .339 OBA, .486 SLG (but it needs to be a short term deal, 1-2 years, as he isn't really a long term answer), or (c) sign Granderson, again a short term stop-gap deal, even if we need to overpay for those 1-2 years. I think (hope/pray) that Puello is the real deal, and I don't want someone not worthy of a long-term contract blocking him, which is why I am not in favor of signing Choo, despite the fact he would definitely provide an upgrade for a year or two.
4. Shortstop - sign Drew to a short term deal, similar to Morse or Granderson. He is at least a solid major league SS, but thinking long term we may have better options (see below).
1B Flores most likely (or some combination of Ike, Satin and Morse)
RF Byrd/Morse/Granderson (or Flores if he shows he can be at least serviceable there)
1. Take another look at the outfield - if Lagares shows next year he's not an everyday OF or RF still needs an upgrade, we can take a look at guys like Chase Headly (if he can put up numbers next year closer to his 2012 season), or Nick Markakis, who is only 24 years old and while not a star, is a young major league caliber OF who could be more than a stop-gap. But, ideally, Puello would also be ready to man an OF spot by 2015.
2. Shortstop - while Drew is serviceable, the 2015 free agent SSs offer a chance to really upgrade again, potentially with a young player to lock up going forward. This class includes JJ Hardy, Jed Lowrie, Hanley Ramirez ( I know, not likely), Asdrubal Cabrera, and Elvis Andrus, with both Cabrera and Andrus being under 30 years old (I think Andrus may only be 26 after next season). I'm willing to wait a year for one of the above rather than throw money and/or prospects at players with question marks or not as good (in my opinion).
UPDATE: take Andrus out of consideration. He was/is listed as a free agent after 2014 @ mlbtraderumors.com, which I thought was pretty reliable. However, in looking into this deeper, he signed a long extension just prior to the season.
SS Andrus/Lowrie/Hardy (whichever your preference is)
I know a lot can change between now and the 2014-2015 off-season, guys get extensions, wanting to sign a targeted free agent is one thing, actually getting it done is much harder obviously, new holes open up, etc. But I think this rough outline, or at least the thinking behind it (I hope) may accomplish a couple things. We make upgrades where we can, hopefully without being hamstrung going forward with too much invested in long term deals. For example, Choo and Peralta may be better for next year, but maybe not for the long term. Also, we give guys like Puello and Lagares time to develop, while having contingency plans in place if they don't work out. I think we need, especially with our current owners, to have as many young, cost effective pieces in the lineup as possible, provided they produce. Finally, and I think most importantly, we hold onto our young pitching, at least for one more year. This provides a chance to monitor their development, giving an even clearer picture of who is indispensable, and who can be moved in the right deal(s). Or, as Harvey's injury (please let it not be serious) shows, you really cannot have too much good, young pitching, so any and all alternatives to trading pitching while still bettering the team must be explored.
I'm sorry this turned into such a long winded post. If you were able to stick it out to this point, thank you, and I look forward to reading your thoughts/responses.