With nothing left to be decided on-field for the New York Mets, October baseball has officially arrived.
The pivotal and oft-discussed year that fans and the franchise have been patiently waiting for—as we’ve previously discussed—is on the horizon. While contenders study their postseason foes, the Mets are preparing for 2014.
So put on your lucky fantasy draft tee-shirt. Feel free to don your best armchair general manager’s hat. It’s time to create a free agency shopping list for the Mets.
It can be an exciting time of year, even for teams without playoff baseball. Unlike fantasy baseball, however, a pragmatic approach to the offseason requires the consideration of a number of perpetually evolving circumstances.
Here’s what we know at this point in time:
The Mets have shifted into offseason mode.
Their winter wish list is comprised of an outfielder, a shortstop, a first baseman and pitching help for the rotation as well as the bullpen. It reads closer to the needs of an expansion team than one hoping to contend in 2014.
They'll be perusing the impending free-agent market weeks before Major League Baseball ever crowns its eventual world champions. Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson have promised to spend money this offseason, but for the most part, the extent of available funds remains unclear.
Expectations should be tempered accordingly.
Below is a list of 15 plausible free-agent targets for the Mets, broken down by position of need. Financial constraints and individual sign-ability were kept firmly in mind.
For example—the front office is about as likely to throw enough money Robinson Cano’s way to pry he and his loyalty away from the Yankees as they are to commit multiple years to a front-end starting pitcher like Matt Garza.
It’s impossible to predict exactly how the offseason will shake out, admittedly. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments’ section.
Jose Abreu, 26: Could the Mets go international this offseason? Abreu’s name has drawn buzz around the league ever since the Cuban defector arrived in August this year. Along with stealing the back-pages, the 26-year-old (27 by the start of the season) would provide the team with the power-hitting first baseman they have so sorely lacked.
His cartoonish statistics in Cuba demonstrate the raw potential of his bat. From 2010-12, Abreu slashed .412/.562/.872 (AVG/OBP/SLG). For—admittedly imperfect—comparative purposes, Yasiel Puig hit .316/.412/.539 over two Cuban-league seasons in 2009 and 2011.
The Mets won’t be the only team interested in the slugger’s services though. Unless he falls into their price range, prepare for some tire-spinning talks and not much more.
James Loney, 29: Finally ready to hit free agency, the enigmatic former first round draft pick has been the source of trade banter for a few seasons now. His .761 career OPS leaves plenty to be desired offensively, but the Mets could use any dependable production they could get at the position.
Loney has been worth 10.9 WAR over the course of his career.
His age, experience and career production should combine to keep the former can’t-miss talent an affordable option. Given the uncertainty surrounding Mets first basemen, Loney could be just the type of player—if the price is right—the team takes a flyer on.
Fan Poll: Which position should be priority number one this offseason?
Jhonny Peralta, 31: He’s fresh off a 50-game PED suspension and certainly no youngster, but Peralta could also be the answer to the woes plaguing the Mets at shortstop. In terms of offensive production, he’s probably the strongest option. He owns a .755 career OPS—far greater than the .680 average OPS for shortstops in 2013.
Stephen Drew, 30: Injury shortened seasons in 2011 and 2012 should drive Drew’s price down enough to generate plenty of Mets interest.
When healthy, he’s hit. Drew is coming off of a 3.1 WAR season—his first and sole year in Boston.
Yunel Escobar, 30: It’s all about defense when it comes to Escobar. He’s a light hitter, but his defensive prowess was enough to make him a 3.3 WAR player in 2013.
Whether the Rays decide to pick up his option before he hits free agency remains to be seen, but he’s an intriguing shortstop candidate nonetheless.
Shin-Soo Choo, 31: No impending free agent has been linked to the Mets more often than Choo and it shouldn’t be any surprise. An .855 career OPS to go along with a BB% of 12.2 are especially impressive to an Alderson-led organization.
It’s important to remember that Choo is represented by Scott Boras, however. Hunter Pence—a similar player—just inked a five year, $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants.
Carlos Beltran, 36: Don’t rule out a possible reunion just yet. The Mets need outfield bats and Beltran still possesses a relatively strong one despite his age. If the team fails to land a younger outfielder like Choo, an asset like Beltran is not a bad backup plan on a short term deal.
Nate McLouth, 31: He may not be the sexy acquisition the fans covet, but McLouth is a proven starting outfielder—something the Mets lack.
A .334 career OBP isn’t ideal for a leadoff hitter, but his 30 stolen bases in 2013 make him a viable candidate for the team as presently constructed.
David Murphy, 31: Murphy has had a bit of an uneven career and now could be a chance to buy low on the outfielder. Before struggling mightily this year, he slashed .304/.380/.479 in 2012. His career OPS stands at .778.
Bronson Arroyo, 36: He’s already been linked to the team and would perfectly fit the innings-eater mold the Mets are after. Arroyo has been about as dependable as they come in the starting rotation, averaging 211 innings pitched since 2005.
Chris Capuano, 35: Capuano may not quite have the résumé of an Arroyo, but he’s proven capable of taking the ball every fifth day and he should command a slightly lower price tag. He offers the Mets some familiarity as well. In 2011, he threw 186 innings for the Mets with a 4.55 ERA.
Frasor was outstanding in 2013. His ERA was 2.57 and he added 48 strikeouts in 49 innings.
Scott Downs, 37: Downs is particularly effective against left-handed hitters—holding them to a .630 OPS in 2013. If the Mets could pry him away from the Atlanta Braves, they would add one more dependable arm to the bullpen, while simultaneously hurting a rival ball club.
LaTroy Hawkins, 40: Hawkins might be an old man by baseball’s standards, but his 2013 numbers paint a different picture. He helped anchor the Mets bullpen with a 2.93 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 70.2 innings this year.
His positive clubhouse presence should also be of some importance in the decision to re-up for another season.
Boone Logan, 29: The Mets would love to add another left-handed middle reliever and the former-Yankees arm could be a fit. The ability to generate swings-and-misses out of the bullpen is crucial. Logan provides that in spades—evident by his 50 strikeouts in just 39 innings this year.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
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