Posts Tagged ‘Free Agency’

By Steven Inman

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Photo by Fox Sports

After losing the N.L. Wild Card Game, the Mets entered the offseason with a long list of needs. The club did most of their heavy lifting early by bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker. The Mets feel their bullpen is an area that needs improvement with the possibility that closer Jeurys Familia will miss time with a suspension after an alleged domestic violence incident. The Mets reportedly had interest in a few relievers that have gone off the board recently such as Brad Ziegler, who signed a multi-year contract with division rival Miami.

Junichi Tazawa, 30, would also have been a good fit for the Mets to eat up some middle relief innings but he also went to the Marlins. The Mets have been saying to agents that they are unable to add more salary now until they can move one of their expensive outfielders, most likely Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson. The Mets have gotten more bites on Granderson than Bruce but neither has been seen by other teams as much more than a salary dump. Granderson finished the season red hot for the Mets and in my opinion is the better fit for New York in 2017. The Mets should have just dumped Jay Bruce so they don’t get left out in the cold on the reliever market. The longer the Mets stubbornly hold on to Bruce, the more likely they are going to miss out on adding to this bullpen.

The trade for Jay Bruce was very perplexing when it happened as the Mets didn’t really have a fit for him and the team was overly left-handed before the deal. The team was probably hoping Bruce, who didn’t cost much to get, would get hot like Cespedes did when acquired the summer before, but Bruce went on to not hit at all in his 2 plus months in Queens. That should have been the reason for the Mets to decline Bruce’s $13M team option as he really didn’t have much trade value. There is also the legitimate question of whether Bruce can handle the spotlight of playing in New York City. Some Mets fans believe picking up Bruce’s option was done as a “hedge” to protect themselves if Cespedes departed. If the Mets lost Cespedes they would have been better off declining Bruce’s option and using that money to add a different outfielder like Ian Desmond. It’s easy to wonder if the Mets, who were 25th in runs last year, lost Cespedes and replaced him with Jay Bruce for a full season, would they have scored the least amount of runs in the National League?

To start the offseason teams like the Blue Jays and Orioles reportedly were willing to take on Bruce’s contract but the Mets demanded something for the slugger. When the Orioles showed interest earlier in the offseason, the Mets reportedly asked for All-Star reliever Brad Brach. It seems like the Orioles moved on to trying to re-sign Mark Trumbo after that request, at least for the moment.

Now with so many notable home run hitters still stuck on the free agent board the Mets would be very fortunate to get someone to take Jay Bruce off their hands. Think of the scenario from an opposing team’s viewpoint: why would a team take on Bruce’s $13M and give the Mets something in a trade when they can just sign a similar player like free agent Chris Carter to a cheaper contract?

The Jay Bruce move continues to hurt the Mets and if they don’t clear payroll soon, they might lose out on re-signing Jerry Blevins or another lefty specialist that they need.  Also moving Bruce is vital for the Mets so they can get Michael Conforto every day at-bats. It’s going to be a distracting storyline in Spring Training if the Mets are unable to move Jay Bruce before camp opens in 6 weeks.

Do you think the Mets have been asking for too much in a Jay Bruce deal?

By Steven Inmandownload

Met fans can rejoice as “La Potencia”, Yoenis Cespedes is now back in Queens and locked up long term. The Mets had to give Cespedes the 2nd highest average annual value ever, but the team locked up their best hitter. After years and years of payrolls under $90M, the Mets being broke is a thing of the past. Ownership wants to win and they are giving Sandy Alderson the resources to get it done. While the Mets are back to spending big money, they are still being cautious about it. The Mets in the past when they spent big money always seemed to agree to deals one year too long on key contracts such as Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner. The Mets stood their ground this time on not giving the 31-year old Cespedes a 5th year and they look very smart today for doing so.

With all that said, the work is not done here just yet. The team now has 4 corner outfielders and no starting center fielder. Based on various reports it seems fairly obvious the Mets plan on trading a corner outfielder with Jay Bruce being the most likely to go. The Mets shouldn’t stop with Bruce, they should trade Curtis Granderson also and get a center fielder. The Mets have never prioritized defense but if they could put Cespedes in left and Michael Conforto in right, planked by a defensive, right-handed, center fielder, the Mets could have one of the best outfields in baseball. Here are a few of their options.

Dexter Fowler

Of the hitters listed here, Dexter Fowler is perhaps the best fit for the Mets. While he will cost a draft pick, Fowler, 30, could be a difference maker for the Amazins. The switch-hitter has been significantly better from the right side of the plate throughout his career which works in this very left-handed Met lineup. Fowler really improved his defensive numbers in center field this year thanks to playing deeper. The questions that would pop up if Fowler can handle center anymore are gone. Fowler is likely looking at a 4 year deal worth around $60M which is what the Mets handed Curtis Granderson 3 winters ago. Fowler was on perhaps the biggest stage in sports when he homered to lead off Game 7 of the World Series to help end a 108-year title drought for the Chicago Cubs so no, New York will not be too much for the Atlanta native to handle.

A.J. Pollock

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Photo by CBS Sports

A.J. Pollock is a gifted, 5-tool center fielder who possesses a blend of power, speed and strong range in center field. He is the right-handed bat that would complete the Mets lineup and would make New York a strong threat to the Cubs to get back to the World Series. Pollock will be 29 next week and has 2 years left of club control before becoming a free agent as a key part of the 2018 monster free agency class. After a breakout 2015 season where he slashed .315/.367/.498, Pollock missed 150 games in 2016 following a serious elbow injury. After all the time he missed in 2016 and the Diamondbacks rough season, it’s hard to imagine the Notre Dame product isn’t available. The team already dealt Jean Segura on Thanksgiving, Segura also had 2 years of control left like Pollock. The Diamondbacks look to be rebuilding with a new front office after a disastrous stint with Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa running the ship.  Pollock will make $6.75M this season before going through arbitration in his final year of club control next winter. Despite his low monetary price tag, he will not be cheap under any circumstance in terms of prospects. The Mets should be willing to give up anyone in their farm system not named Amed Rosario to acquire Pollock if he is indeed available.

Ian Desmond

The Mets have had interest in Ian Desmond in the past. The Nationals dangled him out on the trade market before his final year in Washington but the asking price (Noah Syndergaard) was obviously a non-starter for New York. (Imagine the Nationals with Syndergaard right now) Desmond transitioned to the outfield beautifully in 2016 after a few rough seasons defensively as a shortstop. While he was much better in left field for the Texas Rangers this past season, he showed he could handle center field. Last winter he got frozen out of the market with a compensation draft pick attached to his price tag. I’d be a little concerned about giving Ian Desmond a long-term deal at this stage of his career but he is a big right-handed bat that has shown in the past he can hit the ball a long, long way at Citi Field. Desmond, 31, has a draft pick attached to him again and if he gets frozen out of the market again this winter the Mets should pounce.

It looks like right now the Mets plan is to trade Jay Bruce for anything they can get and try to get by with Curtis Granderson in center field in 2017. While Granderson wasn’t horrible in limited playing time in center field this past season, he certainly doesn’t give the range the Mets are going to need out there and is now another year older. The Mets are trying to win now and to do that they are going to have to sure up this defense. Even with Cespedes’ return this is still a significantly below average offense, remember the Mets last year were tied for 25th in baseball in runs last year despite Cespedes’ fantastic campaign. The Mets are going to need another bat here and they can get the payroll for one by trading both Granderson and Bruce.

What should the Mets outfield look like next season?

By Steven Inman

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Photo by Newsday

A Mets season that was filled with many ups and downs ended on its lowest note as Madison Bumgarner shut down the Mets in the NL Wild Card game at Citi Field. On paper, when healthy, the Mets still have a very good team entering 2017 but if they want to win their first World Series since 1986, or even take the National League East back from Washington, they’re going to have to make some quality decisions. The Mets payroll entered 2016 at around $135 million, its highest since 2011. After acquiring Jay Bruce at the trade deadline, the Mets payroll is in the $140M range now. It’s highly unlikely the club will be able to go much higher than that. Having said that, $140M is a far cry from what the payroll was a few short seasons ago under $85M. The Mets payroll should be in the 6-10 range in baseball which should be enough to support what the Mets are trying to do. With huge raises in arbitration coming for some key Mets, plus Neil Walker accepting the qualifying offer at $17.2M the Mets aren’t going to be able to add much new money so they’re going to have to get creative.

Here are the annual MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections for the Mets.

Rene Rivera is likely a non-tender guy (who could be brought back at a smaller salary) but the rest of these players will be here, barring a trade. The Mets need to improve their offense and maybe address the bullpen as Jeurys Familia is probably looking at a lengthy suspension for an alleged domestic violence incident. Sandy Alderson and his front office have their work cut out for them but the correct moves can bring Queens a title. Here is what they should do.

 

  1. Re-sign Yoenis Cespedes to play left field

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    Yoenis Cespedes must be the Mets #1 priority this winter

Yoenis Cespedes has been a very polarizing figure since arriving in New York at the 2015 trade deadline but make no mistake about it, the Mets are a completely different team when the Cuban slugger is healthy. When Cespedes did not play in 2016, the Mets had a 13-17 record. He’s a complete game changer, especially as a left fielder. He really struggled range-wise in center field and the amount of running required for that position was taxing on his legs. Keeping him in left field will make the Mets defense better and give Cespedes a better chance of staying healthy. I think at the end of the day Cespedes would return to the Mets on a 4 year deal worth a little over $100M with another opt-out involved in the contract. The Mets are a little concerned not over dollars with Cespedes but the length of any deal. It’s fair to wonder if Cespedes would give an all-out effort if he was not playing for a huge payday but #52 is definitely worth taking that risk.

  1. Sign Dexter Fowler

It’s hard to imagine the Mets finding the funds to sign Cespedes and CF Dexter Fowler but the speedy outfielder is the perfect fit. Fowler would give the Mets an actual center fielder at spacious Citi Field instead of letting a corner guy like Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson or Yoenis Cespedes patrol out there. Fowler is an on-base machine at the top of a lineup and really improved his defensive metrics this season thanks to playing deeper in the outfield. He is probably looking at a 4-year deal at around $15M a season but at just 30 years old he should be able to hold up health wise. Fowler just helped the starving Cubs fan base end a 108 year title drought so I don’t think the bright lights of New York City would be too much for him. With that said, if the Mets sign Fowler they would have to forfeit a draft pick.

So how can the Mets afford Fowler and Cespedes you may be wondering?

  1. Trade Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson

Both Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson are in the final years of their contracts and in my opinion the Mets would be better off letting the two conclude their deals elsewhere. Both are lefty swinging corner outfielders who really don’t fit on the same team. It didn’t make much sense to bring Jay Bruce to Queens in the first place. Bruce not hitting for an entire summer in New York should have convinced everyone in the Met front office that they should move on from him, especially with better options available at similar salaries. The Blue Jays thought they had a deal for Bruce done last spring; perhaps they have interest in him again. Granderson’s strong finish to the year will probably be able to entice some team to take on the final year of his deal.While the Grandyman has been a good citizen and was huge in the Mets 2015 postseason run, he will be 36 before Opening Day and is a below average defender due to his declining range and poor arm. Clearing Bruce’s $13M and Granderson’s $15M would give the Mets enough money to sign both Cespedes and Fowler and perhaps pave the way to consistent playing time for Michael Conforto. Conforto could become one of the Mets best hitters if they just gave him the playing time he needs. Both Granderson and Bruce are older guys coming off mediocre years so it’s hard to imagine the Mets getting anything of value for either player but getting their contracts off the books would be huge for the Mets offseason. Getting these two out of the Mets lineup would allow the team’s outfield defense to improve tremendously along with preventing the club from being overly left-handed like they were in 2016.

  1. Re-sign Jerry Blevins

Often the most overlooked pitcher in the Mets brilliant 2016 bullpen, Jerry Blevins was terrific in his second season for the Mets and retaining him should be a priority for the Mets. With Familia facing a potential suspension the Mets need to find as many reliable arms as they can get their hands on and Blevins has proven in New York that he can get big outs. Terry Collins was able to push a mostly injured Met group to the playoffs but one of his huge weaknesses as a manager is overusing his best bullpen arms. If the Mets do not find more bullpen help Collins will overuse Addison Reed without a doubt. With big left-handed bats like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy with the Washington Nationals, the Mets could probably use a second Jerry Blevins, much less lose the one they already have.

The offseason is a tricky time for baseball front offices. All teams enter the winter with holes they would like to address but budgets can cause teams to be unable to fill all of their concerns. The Mets would love to upgrade at catcher and possibly add some rotation insurance after they lost 4 of their 5 young stud starters to season-ending injuries but that is unlikely to happen. If the Mets are able to re-sign Cespedes and Blevins along with adding another key bat (preferably a center fielder) the Mets could be parading down the canyon of heroes next November.

How should the Mets upgrade their team this winter?

By Steven Inman

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Photo from NY Post

 

On Monday, Lucas Duda was placed on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. Duda wasn’t hitting much recently but the Mets offense could use all the help it could get. Only the Braves and the Padres have scored less runs than the Mets (73 runs) in May.

Duda is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. David Wright had the same injury a few seasons ago and winded up missing a little over 2 months. The Mets are going to have to find some offense at first base. While the trade market hasn’t fully developed yet the Mets do have a few alternatives to Duda. Here are some of their options.

David Wright: With David Wright’s recent throwing issues this could make some sense. It seems inevitable at some point now that David Wright will eventually wind up at first base before his contract is up but the captain has struggled with preparation before games due to his well documented back problems. Adding a new wrinkle like learning a new position after 13 years in the majors might be too much for the veteran to handle right now. Plus then the Mets would have to find someone capable of playing third base every day.

Wright could be an option long-term for the Mets at first base, just not now.

Michael Conforto: At this point, this seems to be Terry Collins preferred option. It would present an opportunity to free Juan Lagares to roam center field every day again and allow Yoenis Cespedes to move back to left field while keeping Conforto’s bat in the lineup. Other than Cespedes, Conforto has been the Mets most consistent bat all season, so making him learn a brand new position doesn’t make a ton of sense either. Conforto, 23, has played a very solid left field for the Mets to start the season. The Mets should leave Conforto alone and let him continue to get better in left field.

Wilmer Flores: Wilmer is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Friday and he should get the first look at playing first everyday with Duda out. Flores has badly struggled this season adjusting to a bench role. If Flores hits the way he did last season, expect him to be the everyday first basemen until Duda is ready to return. The Mets likely won’t consider outside options unless Flores fails to hit as the first basemen.

Eric Campbell: While Campbell has proven to be a very versatile player for the Mets, he hasn’t hit at all since his rookie season, with a career slash line of .227/.316/.320. Campbell has played first in all five games since Duda went down. The Mets can and should do better here.

Ty Kelly: Mike Puma of the NY Post called Kelly “Campbell with more speed” on twitter. If that’s truly the case, not sure why the Mets would want another Eric Campbell on the roster. While the switch hitter raked in Las Vegas, Kelly will probably not be in the first base competition unless he can impress coming off the bench for now.

James Loney: The veteran first basemen is currently in Triple-A in the Padres system. He is a solid defensive first basemen who has 10 years of big league experience under his belt with the Dodgers, Red Sox and Rays. The lefty bat has been playing some right field as a way to become more versatile for a big league team. Loney has never been a big power hitter but he has always hit for a high average. Loney has an opt-out that would allow him to leave El Paso if a club was willing to put him on their big league roster. Loney is a perfect fit for the Mets, as he hits for a high average, especially against right-handers. He has hit .340/.372/.425 in 41 games in the Pacific Coast League this season. Plus Loney’s contact skills could work well off the bench as a pinch hitter once Duda returns. The Mets would only need to pay the prorated version of the league minimum since the Rays are still on the hook for Loney’s $9.66 million 2016 salary.

Juan Uribe: While Uribe didn’t hit well for the Mets when he came to New York last season, the Mets seemed to take off when he and Kelly Johnson were traded to Queens from Atlanta. Uribe hasn’t hit much with the Indians (.237/.305/.342) but he is a versatile player who could play some first along with filling in for David Wright at third. Uribe is only making $4M this season so he could be an option for the Mets but the Indians are unlikely to sell off a clubhouse leader while they are in the race.

Dom Smith: Many think that Dominic Smith is the heir apparent to Lucas Duda at first base. The lefty bat was the Mets first round pick back in 2013. Coincidentally some scouts believe Smith is a very similar player to Loney. Smith, 20, has hit solidly in 44 Double-A games but likely isn’t ready for the big leagues. Smith isn’t an option to fill the Mets first base hole right now.

Who should get the first crack at the Mets first base gig?

By Steven Inman  

  Every March on this site, we grade the Mets winter and it usually involves the word “incomplete”. Sandy Alderson and his front office don’t usually do enough in the offseason to have fans and media change their tune when it comes to the outlook of the New York Mets. After reaching the World Series for the first time in 15 years last season, expectations were at an all-time high for the Mets to put on the finishing touches to what could be a world champion roster. Sandy Alderson and his staff will not be getting an “incomplete” for the acquisitions they put in the blue and orange this winter.

Additions:

As you know the Mets big moves this winter were the re-signings of both Yoenis Cespedes as well as Bartolo Colon. Cespedes was a key cog in the Mets revitalized offense back in July. While the slugger did struggle in the postseason, the Mets are very fortunate to have him returning to their lineup. Expect Cespedes to have another quality year in New York before trying to cash in on the open market next offseason. The ageless Bartolo Colon is returning for his third season in Queens, the right-hander was solid for the Mets over his previous contract and reportedly turned down larger offers to return to the Mets. While Bartolo doesn’t have the same potential this season that the Mets other four starters possess, Colon should be able to eat innings for the Mets this season.

The Mets most underrated move this winter was the trade that sent Jonathon Niese to Pittsburgh in exchange for long-time Pirate Neil Walker. The switch-hitting Pirate is an upgrade defensively for the Mets at second base and is a solid hitter. While Walker has never made an All-Star team in his career, the 30-year old has the potential to continue to be a top 5 second basemen in the National League this season.

Walker’s new double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera gives the Mets some much needed depth. While Cabrera isn’t the most “rangy” of shortstops, he is an upgrade defensively over Wilmer Flores. The move allows Flores to play all over the infield. Perhaps most importantly Flores can now spell David Wright a few days a week at third base. Having Flores as the primary right-handed hitter off the bench is a huge upgrade to what the Mets were throwing out there in May and June last season.

Antonio Bastardo will also be a solid late-inning option for the Mets. Terry Collins has said the 8th inning will belong to Addison Reed to start the season but if he struggles Bastardo is more than capable of getting the job done.

Subtractions:

While the Mets spent more money this winter than they seemingly have in a decade, they did lose some key contributors from last year’s pennant winning team.

The subtractions start with Daniel Murphy, who was the second-longest tenured Met behind David Wright before the infielder left for a three-year contract with the Mets biggest rival. Murphy had the greatest postseason a Met has ever had, and the Mets certainly do not reach the postseason without Murphy. With that said the Mets made the right decision to move on from No. 28. Murphy is a good player and he should have a solid season in Washington but Neil Walker is just as good of a player as Murphy and the Mets didn’t have to commit to him long term. Throughout his career Walker has shown better power and higher on-base percentages than Murphy. The Mets also get a compensation pick back for losing their NLCS MVP.

Like Murphy, Jonathon Niese was also one of the longest tenured Mets. Niese had an up and down career with the Mets so it was strange to see the front office was able to spin him for Walker straight up. Trading Niese also freed up a rotation spot to let Bartolo Colon return. The Pirates are hoping for a breakout season from Niese after some work this spring with pitching coach Ray Searage. Niese’s contract wasn’t bad for the Mets but he was certainly expendable. The Mets being able to fill a hole like second base in the process made this move even better.

When the Mets acquired Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson back in July the club really seemed to take off. Both players played well as Mets but once Asdrubal Cabrera signed and Ruben Tejada was tenured a contract, it seemed very unlikely either Johnson or Uribe would be back. Johnson re-signed with the Braves while Juan Uribe went to Cleveland to fill the Indians third base hole.

Veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer also announced his retirement, forfeiting a majority of his $12.5M 2016 salary. Cuddyer’s sudden retirement likely had an impact on the Mets spending.

Mets Offseason Grade: A+

Yes the Mets had a borderline perfect offseason. They filled all of their holes without trading away key prospects or tying up long-term money. The Mets were able to retain or upgrade every spot on their team. Sandy Alderson and company deserve a ton of credit for the turnaround of the New York Mets. While the Mets look impressive on the field, they must now execute as we get closer and closer to Opening Day.

By Steven Inmanimages (1)

Throughout the entire postseason, Terry Collins had trouble finding a reliever to help bridge the gap from his starting pitcher to Jeurys Familia. That situation cost the Mets a few times leading up to the World Series. The Mets had hoped that a trio of Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Familia would help the Mets make games shorter. It certainly didn’t work out that way as Tyler Clippard looked finished by the time the postseason came around and Reed was the losing pitcher in the Mets final game of the season.

Reed is back after settling at $5.3M in arbitration with the Mets and Clippard is still a free agent. Expecting that Reed would be better than he was in ’15 and hoping somebody else internally stepped up as a set-up man was a naive approach for a contending club so the Mets went out and got arguably the best set-up man on the market in Antonio Bastardo.

Bastardo has been an elite reliever with the Phillies and Pirates the past few seasons. Being left-handed many assume Bastardo is strictly a lefty specialist but that is not the case. Right-handed bats have hit just .211/.308/.332 against Bastardo in his 7-year career. (LHB just .178/.277/.319) He can be the Mets 8th inning guy against lefties and righties.

While Bastardo’s big red flag came from being involved in the Biogenesis scandal a few seasons ago, the 30-year old lefty has been very durable throughout his career. Bastardo has not been on the disabled list since 2010. To continue being an elite reliever the lefty must limit his walks going forward.

Bastardo at 2 years for $12 million is a terrific signing for the Mets. Lesser relievers have done less and earned more this winter and the combination of Bastardo and Familia at the back end of the bullpen will be very formidable. This is a very good signing by the Mets and will help put less pressure on the Mets starters to go deep into games early in the season.

The Mets for the first time in the Sandy Alderson era have now addressed all of their needs in an offseason. They enter Spring Training as one of the favorites to return to the World Series.

By Steven Inmandownload (1)

In what looked like a pipe dream a week ago, is now reality. The Mets have reportedly re-signed free agent slugger Yoenis Cespedes to a 3-year, $75M deal. It appeared unlikely that the Mets would fork over this kind of cash for any player, let alone one that isn’t a perfect fit. Cespedes isn’t a true center fielder and lacks the on-base skills that Sandy Alderson and his front office normally crave.

That being said Cespedes is a difference making bat that turned the Mets’ worst ranked offense in July into one of baseball’s best. The Mets don’t sniff the postseason without the trade for Yoenis Cespedes. Now with their cleanup hitter back the Mets are just as good as the club that went to the World Series. New York enters the 2016 season as the favorites in the NL East. If the club can keep their young pitchers healthy it should be a very fun year in Queens.

The Mets deserve credit for spending the money and bringing back Cespedes. As his price continued to drop the club maintained that they would not go more than 3 years on a contract. Assistant GM John Ricco on SNY last month said it was highly unlikely the Mets would bring back Cespedes.

Alderson deserves credit for playing the market well and giving Cespedes enough incentive to return instead of taking a more lucrative offer from rival Washington. Having more money up front along with a year one opt-out certainly enticed Cespedes to return for at least another season.  Ownership deserves credit as well for forking up at least $27.5M to help round out a championship caliber team. The Mets now have a payroll near $140 million, their highest total since the end of the 2011 season. Fans can’t complain that the franchise doesn’t spend money now.

The deal is perfect for the Mets. They keep another key piece from last year’s World Series roster. They also don’t commit major money long-term which would allow them money in the future to still sign their super rotation long term. The Mets are also thrilled that with Cespedes’ opt-out he stays motivated for the possibility of cashing in again next winter at age 31. The deal is also good for Cespedes. If the slugger has a great year he will enter the free agent market as the best bat available. If he struggles or gets injured he would still have two more guaranteed years with the Mets at big money. Many thought the Mets would never spend enough to win. This is a very encouraging deal for the future of the New York Mets.