New York Mets: 5 Cost-Efficient Moves to Improve During Spring Training
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Spring training is finally here. In National League East camps, pitchers, catchers and even some position players have reported and optimism is in the air.
With the bleak financial situation owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon are in thanks to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, Mets fans have reason for pessimism as the parent club readies for the 2012 campaign. New York's payroll is expected to drop by a record $50 million this season and many questions abound.
Still, despite the Wilpons' austerity program, spring should be a time when players and fans alike dream of success and better days ahead. It will be especially difficult in the NL East this year because every team in the division seems to have improved. On paper, the Mets seemed destined for last place.
With that said, here are five moves general manager Sandy Alderson can make that won't cost the Wilpons an arm and a leg and could make Terry Collins' squad more competitive than they are presently...
5. Sign Magglio Ordonez to a Minor League Contract
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It might seem crazy at first glance, but on reflection it does make sense. The 2007 American League Batting Champion re-fractured the same ankle he broke in 2010 during last year's ALCS against Texas. He turned 38 in January and is certainly past his prime.
The Caracas, Venezuela product still provides some value, though. Despite hitting just .255 in 92 games last season, Ordonez is a career .309 hitter and can be used as a utility outfielder against left-handed pitching.
This is not to suggest a strict platoon with rightfielder Lucas Duda, but Ordonez can be effective as a part-time outfielder and veteran bat off the bench. Although he does not possess great range, he also did not commit an error in 92 total chances in the outfield. The Mets should consider signing him to a minor league contract with a spring training invitation.
"The market has been tough for me, but I'm working towards continuing my career," Ordonez told CBSSports.com.
4. See If Scott Kazmir Has Anything Left
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Mets fans still cringe when the name Scott Kazmir is brought up.
Drafted 15th overall by New York in 2002, the hard-throwing southpaw hurler was traded for Victor Zambrano two years later in one of the worst trades in Mets history. Kazmir had several strong seasons with Tampa Bay before being traded to the Angels in 2009.
His career fell apart in Anaheim, though. Kazmir owned a dismal 9-15 ledger with a 5.94 ERA for Mike Scioscia's club and was released by the Angels last year. Overall, he owns a 66-61 career record and is just 28 years old.
The two-time former All-Star threw for 10 scouts at a workout in his native Houston last week and hit 91 mph on the radar gun. We'll see if the Mets invite him to spring training as he tries to rekindle what once was a very promising career.
3. Invite Pudge Rodriguez to Spring Training
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Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is on his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the best catchers of his era. The question is: how much does he have left in the tank?
The former MVP and 13-time Gold Glove winner batted just .218 for the Washington Nationals in just 124 at-bats in 2011. He's near the end of the road. He's also 40 years old.
However, the Mets should invite him to spring training to see just how much he has left and to compete for the backup catcher spot. Mike Nickeas is slated to be Josh Thole's backup and he hit just .189 last season. He's not exactly Carlton Fisk. Pudge can serve as a mentor to Thole, who struggled last season defensively by allowing a league high 16 passed balls.
Who better to learn from than one of the best backstops of all-time? Perhaps Rodriguez can enjoy one final year behind the plate, in a backup role, before heading off to Cooperstown.
2. Continue to Monitor Chris Young
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Like Johan Santana, Chris Young is coming off serious shoulder surgery. The 6'10" right-hander was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA with the Mets last season, but pitched only 24 innings. Young suffered a torn anterior capsule in his right shoulder and underwent surgery last May 16.
The Dallas, TX native is presently throwing on flat ground from 180 feet, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. Manager Terry Collins is expecting Young to be ready by the end of May.
It would behoove the Mets to save a little of their precious money to sign Young if he continues to progress well. Young owns a 49-34 during his eight-year career, but there are still some obstacles ahead.
This is the same surgery that ace Johan Santana underwent in September 2010 and Santana has yet to pitch in a major league game since. The Mets are cautiously optimistic regarding Young and will continue to monitor him. Patience is going to be key.
1. Add Mike Gonzalez for Bullpen Depth
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The Mets don't appear to have a lot of strengths as they gear up for the 2012 campaign, but one of them could be their bullpen. That's why they should look to sign veteran southpaw Mike Gonzalez to help to solidify their pen.
Tim Byrdak is currently their only lefty out there and Gonzalez would instantly become the No. 1 option for Terry Collins when a tough left-handed hitter is at the plate. The 33-year-old Gonzalez was especially tough against left-handed batters in 2011, compiling 27 strikeouts and a 2.25 ERA in 28 innings of work.
Gonzalez posted a 4.15 ERA in eight postseason appearances with the Rangers last season. He's had experience as a closer, notching 24 saves in as many opportunities for the Pirates in 2006. All told, Gonzalez is 17-21 with 56 saves and a 2.94 ERA for his career.
What is very impressive is that the Robstown, TX native has tallied 412 strikeouts in 358 2/3 innings during his major league career. He'd be a welcome addition to an improving Mets bullpen.