Chances of Each Important New York Mets Player Returning for the 2013 Season
But the Mets have several players due salary increases that will challenge Alderson's ability to meet that $95 million figure. That means he'll have to make some tough decisions over which players to keep and who to let go.
David Wright and R.A. Dickey are two stars under contract that the Mets will almost certainly bring back next season. But would it be the best move for Alderson to move those players if he can't agree to contract extensions with either of them?
Wright and Dickey are among 10 of the Mets' most important players that may or may not return in 2013. What are the chances that each of them will be in a Mets uniform next season? Here's how we see it.
David Wright: 75 Percent
This could be the Mets' biggest offseason question. Will the team sign David Wright to a contract extension or should they trade him before he can leave via free agency?
Wright has a $16 million club option for 2013 that the Mets will almost certainly pick up. But that doesn't mean he can't be traded.
If Alderson feels the best way to improve the roster is through trades, then Wright is his biggest piece to deal. However, the teams that might be most interested in trading for Wright are NL East rivals—the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves—which makes a deal unlikely.
In an interview with ESPN New York's Adam Rubin, Wright seemed like a guy who would like to end his career with the Mets but doesn't want to sign his last contract with a team that is more interested in a youth movement.
Wright will surely be after a contract similar to the six-year, $100 million deal Ryan Zimmerman signed before the season. With Alderson slashing payroll to create roster flexibility, will he really be willing to commit 20 percent of his budget to one player?
R.A. Dickey: 75 Percent
Like Wright, R.A. Dickey also has a team option—this one for $5 million—for next season that the Mets will likely pick up.
But will the Mets work out a contract extension with Dickey? The knuckleballer will soon turn 38, which doesn't make him an obvious candidate for a long-term contract. But as a knuckleballer, Dickey doesn't have heavy mileage on his arm and should be able to pitch for at least a few more years.
However, Dickey recently told the Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough that he and Wright are a "package deal," and that it would be difficult to imagine re-signing with the Mets if they didn't also bring back their star third baseman.
At 38, Dickey surely doesn't want to be part of a semi-rebuilding effort in which development of younger players is emphasized over assembling a roster that can compete in the NL East.
Trading Dickey (and Wright, of course) would be hugely unpopular to Mets fans and a definite sign that the team is looking toward the future rather than the present. But Alderson might see a pitcher whose trade value might never be higher and will likely get more expensive over the next couple of seasons.
Ike Davis: 20 Percent
Honestly, what are the chances Ike Davis is coming back to the Mets next year if someone affiliated with the team is chirping to ESPN New York's Adam Rubin about his off-field behavior?
Rubin reported on Sept. 18 that the Mets were concerned that Davis stayed out too late after games and worried that it could influence younger players on the team. In addition, the team isn't happy that Davis apparently ignores advice from coaches on his hitting.
Davis, as you might imagine, wasn't thrilled that someone from the team put such misgivings about him out there for public consumption.
Maybe this is a passive attempt to get Davis to shape up. However, it reads more like a justification for trading a slugger who will contribute more than 30 home runs and 90 RBI to the lineup.
The Mets could move Lucas Duda to first base next season. Would he provide 30-homer power with good defense at that position? Perhaps not, but moving Duda to first would also improve the Mets' outfield defense.
Johan Santana: 95 Percent
Johan Santana has one season remaining on his contract worth $25.5 million, along with a $25 million option for 2014 (or $5 million buyout).
What are the chances another team would be willing to take on that salary for a pitcher two years removed from shoulder surgery who hasn't pitched through a full season since then?
Of course, Santana did throw a no-hitter this season—the first in Mets history—doing so against a powerful St. Louis Cardinals lineup. So he showed that he can still be dominant when healthy.
But overextending himself with 134 pitches in that game may have worn him out for the rest of the season. Santana just wasn't the same pitcher after that. Actually, he was abysmal after the All-Star break, compiling a 16.33 ERA in four starts.
Santana will almost certainly be back next season. The question will be whether or not the Mets pick up that 2014 option. But if he stays healthy and pitches well, Santana could also become midseason trade bait for a playoff contender—though his salary might limit his market.
Jason Bay: 99 Percent
As depressing as the possibility might be, the Mets are stuck with Jason Bay next season.
He's owed a salary of $16 million next year and no other team is going to pay that kind of money for a player who could finish this season batting under .160 with an OPS around .530. Oh, and Bay has been relegated to a platoon player, playing only against left-handed pitching.
The Mets won't eat $19 million by cutting Bay (He has a $3 million buyout for his 2014 option). According to ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand, the thinking seems to be that Bay will be more productive if he can stay healthy.
However, making him a platoon player is an acknowledgement of how awful he's been. Limiting his plate appearances will also ensure that Bay doesn't reach the 600 at-bats that would trigger a $17 million option for 2014.
Bay's days of hitting 30 homers with 100 RBI appear to be long gone. The best the Mets can hope for is to get 20 home runs, 70 RBI and an OPS over .800 out of him. Is that beyond his capabilities at this point?
Frank Francisco: 95 Percent
The Mets needed a veteran closer to anchor their bullpen in 2012. Though he hasn't had a stellar season, Frank Francisco did fill the role he was signed to play.
However, there have to be some questions as to whether or not Francisco can make it through a full season healthy or if his workload has to be carefully monitored.
Tendinitis in his right elbow has kept Francisco from pitching since Sept. 18. He's also missed time with oblique and knee injuries this season.
The Mets are surely hoping for more than 48 appearances and an ERA better than 5.53 from Francisco next season, during which he'll be paid $6.5 million.
But the team could also be trying to groom a closer to replace Francisco in 2014. (The early candidate, according to the Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough, appears to be Jeurys Familia.)
That could limit his save opportunities next year, especially later in the season. It could also make Francisco a trade candidate if he stays healthy and pitches well. Playoff contenders are always looking for bullpen help at the July 31 trade deadline.
Andres Torres: 5 Percent
After a season during which he's batted .227/.325/.324, Andres Torres will almost certainly not be back as the Mets' center fielder next season.
Torres is eligible for arbitration next year, but it's far more likely that the Mets won't tender him a contract and let him become a free agent.
The team already has an in-house center field candidate in Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who played like an NL Rookie of the Year contender in the first half of the season. However, he faltered badly in the second half, hitting .107 after the All-Star break, and was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.
According to the New York Daily News' Andy Martino, the Mets won't pursue a top free-agent center fielder like Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton or Shane Victorino. That shouldn't surprise anyone who's paid attention to Alderson's slicing of payroll over the past year.
But if the Mets can't trade for outfield help, there remains the possibility that Torres could be brought back at a lower price after being non-tendered. At the very least, he can provide good defense in center field while the Mets pursue a long-term solution.
Jon Rauch: 85 Percent
With Frank Francisco's ability to pitch through a full season in question and the Mets attempting to groom a closer for 2014, it's especially important that the team bring back Jon Rauch to be the bullpen's setup man and backup closer.
Rauch, 34, has been inconsistent this season, sometimes pitching like the Mets' best reliever while looking like one of their worst in other instances. Though he's struggled in September (6.00 ERA in 11 appearances), Rauch has pitched well since the All-Star break, posting a 2.88 ERA in 34 games.
Overall, Rauch has a 3.51 ERA for the season. While his strikeout rate of 6.4 per nine innings is the second-lowest of his career, Rauch has compiled hit (7.0 per game) and walk (1.8) rates that are among the lowest of his 10 major league seasons.
Unless he gets a better offer on the free agent market, the Mets will likely bring Rauch back at a slight raise over the $3.5 million he earned this year.
Scott Hairston: 60 Percent
With outfield spots up for grabs with the Mets next season, the team will almost certainly try its best to bring Scott Hairston back.
Hairston has hit a career-high 19 home runs with 54 RBI this year, hitting .260 with an .803 OPS. He was especially effective against left-handed pitching, batting .292/.323/.562 with 17 doubles, 11 homers and 30 RBI in 185 plate appearances.
That made him a popular target before the July 31 trade deadline, but the Mets opted to keep him, probably because they needed someone to hit effectively in their outfield.
Hairston will surely be pursued by many teams looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder in free agency. As a result, he might get an offer that is more than the Mets are willing to pay.
But he also might not get the same playing time with another team that he's received this season with the Mets, and Alderson likely knows it will have to pay him more than the $1.1 million salary he got this year.
Daniel Murphy: 55 Percent
The Mets could have traded Daniel Murphy to a team looking for middle infield help (the Detroit Tigers come to mind). After a season in which he's hit .293 with a .743 OPS, would Murphy attract as much interest on the trade market this winter as he did last year?
Several teams just might find a second baseman who can hit .300 with 10-home run power appealing. Murphy also still has three arbitration seasons, which keeps him under team control through 2015.
With Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin on hand, the Mets have two players who can take over for Murphy at second base. While neither player might not hit as well as Murphy, both players would provide better defense at the position.
As mentioned, Murphy is eligible for arbitration next season and he'll likely receive a huge boost in salary as a result. He will probably also get raises over the next two years as well.
For a team like the Mets looking to keep payroll low, Murphy could get somewhat expensive. Alderson may want to trade him before that happens and go with cheaper players at second base.
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