With the 2013 season now having been completed, the Mets can move onto the offseason. At this point, the team will need to decide which players should remain a part of the future, which players could be used in potential trades, and which outside players could be brought in from free agency.
Usually, this is not the most exciting time of the year for baseball fans, but for a team like the Mets, their fans should be more excited than usual. The Mets may have a few notable holes to fill on the major league roster, but if solutions can be found at those areas, the Mets could very well look like more of a contender than they have for the past few seasons. This is a time where the Mets' front office could make at least one big move that will help the Mets get closer to their future potential. Hopefully, something along those lines can occur.
Here is a preview on what to look for this offseason and what in particular to expect.
Going forward, the Mets do not have much money at all committed to long-term contracts. The only two notable long-term contracts under the Mets' control are for David Wright (through 2021; $20 million salary for 2014) and Jon Niese (through 2018; $5 million salary for 2014). This should not be a surprise, due to the fact that the Mets have a young team.
Mets players that will be eligible for arbitration include Scott Atchison, Mike Baxter, Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Omar Quintanilla, Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner and Eric Young Jr. Most, if not all of these players should get contracts from the Mets this winter.
Younger players that will be under team control in 2014 include Greg Burke, Robert Carson, Travis d'Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Hefner, Zach Lutz, Jenrry Mejia, Anthony Recker, Scott Rice, Carlos Torres and Zack Wheeler.
Thankfully for the Mets, two of their most recent big contracts will finally come to an end. One of the contracts was for former outfielder Jason Bay, whose four-year $66 million contract is now off the books for the Mets. Bay was originally signed through this season, but last November, he and the Mets mutually agreed to make Bay a free agent last offseason, while the Mets would simply pay him his remaining money and not have to deal with him anymore. However, part of Bay's payment ended up getting deferred, which means the Mets will have to pay Bay some money this offseason.
The even larger contract that the Mets can finally be rid of belongs to Johan Santana. He has a $25 million option for 2014, but the Mets almost certainly will opt for a $5.5 mullion buyout, which would make Santana a free agent.
No longer having the Bay and Santana contracts will save the Mets roughly $40 million this offseason. This money can now be used in free agency. Having more money available means that the Mets can afford to be more flexible and aggressive this offseason with free agents.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post back in June, the Mets expect to have a 2014 payroll between $90-100 million.
For better or worse, the only 2013 Mets that are now free agents are pitchers. Starting pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang are both free agents now, along with relievers David Aardsma, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Frank Francisco and LaTroy Hawkins.
Among these seven pitchers, Francisco should be the least likely to return, due to the 5.48 ERA he had during his past two seasons with the Mets. Francisco was very inconsistent in 2012 and missed most of this season with injuries as Bobby Parnell became the new closer and had a successful season.
Matsuzaka and Harang could both be in the Mets' camp for spring training, depending on what other kinds of offers they end up receiving. The likelihood of Aardsma, Byrdak, Feliciano or Hawkins returning is not particularly certain, but definitely possible.
The Mets have some notable areas of concern that will need to be addressed this offseason and will hopefully result in significant upgrades at each position.
- First Base:
The Mets have a logjam at first base. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda both are natural first basemen and at this point, the Mets cannot have both of them on the same roster. Duda's outfield experiment has not gone well for years and it seems all but over by now. The Mets could choose to trade one of the two, or even both Davis and Duda this offseason if they can find the right deals.
Further complicating the matter are the right-handed bats of Josh Satin and Wilmer Flores. Satin played reasonably well for a part-time platoon first baseman, while Flores has had experience at first base, despite playing all but one of his games for the Mets this season at third base, with the one other appearance being at second base. Flores' value on the trade market could be higher than Davis, Duda or Satin, which means that Flores could become a big trade chip for the Mets.
The Mets will need to discuss and decide the future at first base in order to create more stability at the position.
Unlike first base, the Mets do not have much depth at shortstop besides Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla. Tejada had a very poor season this year, while Quintanilla should not exactly be considered a long-term solution at shortstop. This is a position that the Mets could upgrade through free agency. The trade market could also be useful. The likelihood of trading for someone like Jose Reyes or Troy Tulowitzki could be wishful thinking, but signing a short-term fix such as Jhonny Peralta could be a more reasonable possibility.
The Mets could use all the help they could get in the outfield. Despite having a speedster in Eric Young Jr and a Gold Glove caliber center fielder in Juan Lagares, neither have developed into particularly great hitters yet. Lagares' defense though gives him most likely the best chance of any current Mets outfielders starting in 2014. Young was a serviceable left fielder who led the National League with 46 stolen bases, but did not hit particularly well with a .249 average and a .310 OBP. If the Mets can find a better option in left field outside the organization, Young could very well get demoted to the bench.
Right field though is the biggest question mark among the three outfield positions. If there is any outfield position that will probably get filled through free agency or the trade market, it would most likely be right field because the Mets do not have a dependable starting right fielder on the team right now. Look for the Mets to make a big signing or trade there.
- Starting Pitching
With Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee all expected to return to the starting rotation in 2014, the Mets will need to sign or trade for one or two other starting pitchers, depending on whether Matt Harvey ends up getting Tommy John surgery on his elbow. Harvey will rehabilitate his elbow for now and may even participate in the Arizona Fall League.
As usual, the Mets will spend yet another offseason trying to put together a more successful bullpen than the previous season. The Mets have a closer in Bobby Parnell and a few young relievers in Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia to build a bullpen around. If the Mets can find some solutions in the middle relief, the bullpen could become more of a strength in 2014.
In order to make some upgrades at their positions of need, the Mets will have to target specific free agents and determine whether they could be more valuable than the Mets' internal options. Here is a breakdown of the top free agents for each of the Mets' positions of need.
- First Base
The top free agent first baseman will likely be Mike Napoli of the Red Sox. Despite hitting 23 home runs and driving in 92 RBI this season, Napoli also strikes out a lot and batted just .257. He could be a solid short-term option, but his numbers may not turn out as well by playing his home games at pitcher-friendly Citi Field. Other notable free agent first basemen include Kendrys Morales, James Loney, Corey Hart, Michael Morse and Justin Morneau. None of these players would exactly be long-term solutions and with the depth of in-house first base candidates as deep as it is, the Mets may not even try to pursue any free agent first basemen. Nonetheless, the possibility of adding one of these veterans should not be ruled out.
Stephen Drew, another current member of the Red Sox will probably be the top shortstop in free agency this offseason. Despite a .253 average, Drew has hit 13 home runs and driven in 67 RBI this year. Drew's value will be even higher because of how weak the rest of the shortstop market will be. Jhonny Peralta is another soon-to-be free agent shortstop that the Mets could try to sign for one or two seasons.
One outfielder that could be a very good fit for the Mets would be Shin-Soo Choo of the Reds. Choo has power, but is better known has a hitter that will get on base a lot. Choo this season set career highs in both walks (112) and OBP (.423). Such on-base numbers are exactly what the Mets could use in order to drive in more runs consistently. If there is any free agent the Mets will likely pursue heavily, it would likely be Choo, who could become a major force in the Mets' lineup right away. Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz and Nate McLouth are among the other top free agent outfielders.
- Starting Pitchers
Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, Bronson Arroyo and Ricky Nolasco are some of the top free agent starting pitchers. It would be difficult to determine which of these pitchers would be particularly good fits with the Mets because of certain factors. It may not be clear what kind of contracts each of these pitchers will be seeking, or what kind of deals the Mets would prefer to make. If the Mets are comfortable giving a multi-year contract, pitchers like Jimenez, Santana, Lincecum or Nolasco could become good options. On the other hand, older pitchers such as Arroyo could become good options for one-year contracts.
- Relief Pitchers
Middle relief options are so difficult to predict because there are so many options at that position. Jesse Crain, Matt Belisle, Chad Gaudin and Jason Frasor are among the top right-handed middle relievers, while Javier Lopez, JP Howell and Scott Downs represent the most prominent free agent southpaw middle relievers.
If free agency does not work out, the Mets may have to use some of their talent to trade for other players that will help them improve.
Among hitters, the Mets' trade chips could include Ike Davis, Lucas Duda or Wilmer Flores, while Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia or minor league prospect Rafael Montero could be among the Mets' most useful pitching trade chips. Players as good as Flores or Montero will very likely cost more than older players that have not yet achieved a particularly high amount of success.
Among all Mets' players though, Flores probably has the best chance of being traded, simply because he is blocked at third base by David Wright, who will be playing there for a good number of years to come.