New York Mets: 5 Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency
Sandy Alderson and the rest of the New York Mets' front office will have to make several tough decisions regarding their team entering the free-agency period which begins after the conclusion of the World Series.
The Mets have a number of free agents, as well as players who will be arbitration eligible—which could potentially mean hefty raises.
This list does not include either R.A. Dickey or David Wright, who are not technically free agents until the end of 2013, unless a long-term extension is reached this winter.
Here are the team's five biggest needs entering free agency.
Figure out the Catching Situation
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Those were the OPS totals of the current Mets' free-agent catchers—Kelly Shoppach and Josh Thole, respectively.
The production, or lack thereof, that Mets catchers posted in 2012 was abominable. In fact, the worst offender was Mike Nickeas, whose numbers were so poor I won't even post them in fear of entering cardiac arrest.
If the organization had money to spend, they should obviously pursue free-agent power-hitter Mike Napoli, but that is unlikely.
They could pursue Russell Martin, who has done a solid job for the crosstown New York Yankees over the past two seasons.
He has amassed 39 home runs for the Bronx Bombers, which would be a welcome sight in Flushing.
Nevertheless, given their financial state, I fully expect Thole to be back because of his affordable price, and perhaps another Quadruple-A right-handed bat will platoon with him.
Develop Outfield from Within or Free Agency?
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The outfield is a huge question mark, considering it is hard to find one player worthy of a starting job on most teams.
Power was at a premium to begin with, and if Scott Hairston departs, those numbers become even more paltry.
They have a number of players who could play vital roles off the bench such as Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin, who set the team record of pinch-hit home runs with five.
Lucas Duda and Jason Bay appear to be the most likely players to be given defined roles entering the season, but they are about as consistent as a seismograph during a tsunami.
If Duda can rediscover the power stroke that enabled him to hit four April home runs and become a force in the middle of the lineup, the outfield looks much more decent.
Bay has been a calamity, and any scenario that features him seeing significant at bats is not a pleasing one to fans of the blue and orange.
As far as the free-agent market is concerned, obviously names like Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn. B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino would improve the club, but their price tags are not feasible for the Mets.
It is unfortunate to hear, but they will most likely enter the 2013 season with an Opening Day outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and perhaps Valdespin.
Unless, Alderson is able to swing a blockbuster deal to move Ike Davis for a power bat such as Corey Hart, as I have suggested in the past.
Power Arms at the Backend
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No need to beat a dead horse here, but the Mets bullpen was brutal once again in 2012.
The bad news is they have nobody they can pencil in as an effective late-game reliever with a one-run lead at hand.
On the flip side, they have arms that can be pieces to the puzzle if given the appropriate role. For example, as much as I dislike the sight of Frank Francisco entering a game, he will be on the team next season and he can be a serviceable seventh-inning reliever.
Also, Bobby Parnell was probably the best bullpen arm all season, and he's a formidable eighth-inning arm.
It would be of the utmost important for the club to acquire a dynamic power arm that limits base runners such as Joel Peralta.
He has been one of the best late-inning relievers in baseball for the past three seasons, and he has the type of mentality to be an effective closer.
Over his past 183 innings, he has posted a .90 WHIP with a 132 ERA+. He is available on the free-agent market, and that is the type of pitcher the Mets need.
Who Can Be Next Year's Scott Hairston?
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Among the biggest surprises of the 2012 Mets was outfielder Scott Hairston.
Known to be a fourth outfielder in his career, Hairston seized his opportunity to start when given the chance as he hit a career-high 20 home runs and drove in 57 runs in only 377 at bats.
No need to be a mathematician to figure out he was a bit more productive than his heir, Jason Bay.
Hairston will be a free agent, and based upon his performance he could certainly warrant a multi-year deal in the range of $5 million annually.
He will be 33 years old in May, however, and he only hit compiled a .739 OPS against right-handed pitchers, compared to .867 against lefties.
Assuming the Mets do not wish to retain him, they will need to replace his power somewhere else. Where does that come from on the open market?
It is unlikely they will be willing to pony up $10 million annually for a one-dimensional player. If they would have been willing to spend the money last offseason, they could have signed Jason Kubel for two years and $16 million, as the Arizona Diamondbacks did. They reaped the benefits of that signing by receiving 30 home runs from the journeyman.
They should really consider re-signing Hairston, considering his success in New York and the current asking prices of the elite free-agent outfielders.
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There are some moves which do not receive much publicity, but they end up providing multiple victories over the course of a season.
Last season, once Ruben Tejada went down with an injury, the depth of the Mets was tested. They played multiple players at shortstop, ranging from Omar Quintanilla to David Wright.
Having competent backups such as Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner is important for a team to withstand the inevitable injury bug.
There are always dozens of defensive-minded middle infielders available on the free-agent market for cheap, which will be important to this club considering the injury history of both Daniel Murphy and Tejada.
The outfield already possesses capable backups such as Mike Baxter, but a right-handed bat will be needed.