News that John Lackey is heading to Boston has me revamping my offseason plan.

At the beginning of the month, I did an article about how I would craft the 2010 Mets.  Since then, it looks like my number-one target of John Lackey is instead signing with the Red Sox.  So, I need to come up with a new plan.  See, as a general manager, you need to be flexible!

Anyway, I am going to use the same parameters as the last time – that the Mets have the financial ability to field a team at 2009’s payroll level.  Given the alleged offers of 4 years/$65 million to Jason Bay and 2 years/$12 million to Bengie Molina, I think that is a reasonable assumption.

So, here is v2.0 of my 2010 Mets roster.  All numbers in parentheses are 2010 contract values in millions.

C – Josh Thole ($0.5), Henry Blanco ($0.75)

1B – Carlos Delgado ($5), Fernando Tatis ($2.5)

2B – Daniel Murphy ($1.0), Luis Castillo ($6.3)

3B – David Wright ($10.3)

SS – Jose Reyes ($9.4), Alex Cora ($2.0)

OF – Carlos Beltran ($20.1), Matt Holliday ($17.0), Angel Pagan ($0.75), Cory Sullivan ($1.0), Nick Evans ($0.5)

SP – Johan Santana ($21), Oliver Perez ($12.0) Jon Garland ($8.0), John Maine ($3.0), Mike Pelfrey ($0.75)

RP – Francisco Rodriguez ($12.2), Pedro Feliciano ($2.5), Elmer Dessens ($0.7), Bobby Parnell ($0.5), Fernando Nieve ($0.5), Brian Stokes ($0.5)

That puts my payroll at $139.25 million.  Last year’s Opening Day payroll was $149.37 million.

The biggest mistake I made with the first version was putting Daniel Murphy at first base.  While that is what the Mets are likely to do, it is not what I would do if I were running the club.  That is fixed with this edition.  I think the concerns about his defense are overblown.  I expect him to be below average in the field, yet still an improvement defensively over Castillo, who finished last year with a -12.0 UZR/150, the worst mark among full-time second basemen.  I continue to shop Castillo, willing to eat two-thirds ($8 million-plus) of his remaining contract.

The other changes were signing Holliday instead of Lackey, Garland instead of Marlon Byrd, having Blanco instead of Santos as my backup catcher, re-signing Delgado and updating some dollar numbers.

With Lackey seemingly off the board, I would go all-in for Holliday.  This would give the splash that the tabloids want, a productive middle-of-the-order hitter that the lineup needs, a righty bat to help the club versus LHP and a good defensive outfielder to team up with Beltran and Pagan to help out the club’s fly ball pitching staff.

It is not going to be cheap to get Holliday, but he is 16 months younger than Bay, the actual team’s primary offensive target (so far).  Since the Mets did a backloaded offer for Bay, I am doing the same with Holliday.  I give him a 6-year, $127 million deal, keeping Santana as the highest-paid player on the team.  My offer includes yearly salaries of $17-$20-$22-$22-$23-$23.  Beltran would make more than Holliday this year, while Holliday would become the top paid position player in 2011.

The Mets still need to add another pitcher, unless you are willing to put Jon Niese in the rotation.  I like having Niese in reserve at Triple-A to be the first pitcher to promote when Santana/Maine get hurt or for when Perez/Pelfrey implode.  I hope to get Garland with a 3-year/$24 million contract.  I worry a little bit about the infield defense with Garland, but even given that concern, I still project him as an above-average pitcher with a sub-4.00 ERA for the life of the deal.

Delgado was still a very good hitter (.298/.393/.521 in 112 PA) last year before suffering an injured hip and strained oblique.  He is the perfect fit on a one-year deal, giving the club a chance to have an impact bat at a fraction of the cost while still allowing top prospect Ike Davis the opportunity to assume the position a year or two down the road.  It is tough to come up with a reasonable offer for Delgado, so I used the Bobby Abreu deal from last year as a guide.  There is room in the payroll if need be (the same applies to Holliday and Garland) to make it more attractive, if necessary.

My batting order is:

Jose Reyes

Daniel Murphy

David Wright

Carlos Beltran

Matt Holliday

Carlos Delgado

Angel Pagan

Josh Thole

Murphy and Pagan could flip-flop in the order and Wright-Beltran-Holliday could be in any order you preferred.  I see that as a very good offensive club, probably one of the top five in the NL if the majority of the players are able to stay healthy, not necessarily a given.

However, it all comes down to pitching.  No matter what scenario you come up with, the Mets need Santana to be healthy and pitching like he was at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.  I am also counting on healthy (and reasonably productive) years from Maine and Perez.  I expect Maine to be above average when he is healthy enough to pitch, but I do not expect more than 150 innings out of him.  I am more bullish than most on Perez.  I think he is likely to be a top-end #4 SP, delivering 175 IP and an ERA around 4.00 once he comes to Spring Training in shape and has no WBC-related issues this year.

Last year I was bullish on Pelfrey but I have changed my mind on him.  I see him as the weak link of the rotation and I see his future on the team in the bullpen.  If everyone stays healthy, I could see Niese being called up in the middle of the year to be the #5 SP, with Pelfrey and his one pitch being shifted to the pen as a power arm to team with Parnell and Feliciano as a bridge to Rodriguez.

I am somewhat concerned about having only one lefty reliever.  A trade/release of Castillo or a demotion for Sullivan/Evans at some point in the season would be options for getting a second lefty on the squad.  The key is to have someone in Triple-A who could fill this role.  In v1.0, I signed Will Ohman to a major league contract as my second lefty.  This time, I need to be active with NRIs for southpaws who would be willing the spend time in Buffalo waiting for the right time for a promotion.  John Bale, Joe Beimel and Jimmy Gobble are examples of pitchers that I would be targeting for this role.

This team would still not be the favorite for the NL East.  But the Holliday signing buys some goodwill from both the press and the fan base, it is a team with upside if the veterans stay healthy (not a given by any stretch) and one that is giving shots to three players – Murphy, Thole, Pagan – who are low-cost and who could surprise offensively.

Additionally, this team is better – I would say 5-10 wins better – than a club that trotted out Bengie Molina, Luis Castillo (or Orlando Hudson), Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur, which is the collection that the Mets seemingly want to be their 2010 squad.  And the key point is that it would not cost any more than either the 2009 version or the proposed 2010 one, either.

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