As the offseason progresses, the Mets will need to make certain decisions on how to improve their team in the best way possible. Free agency and the trade market will both be explored in depth, but in order for the Mets to make trades, they will have to consider various factors with the players they already have as well.
One of these factors is money. The Mets may have a lot of money generally speaking, but it does not grow on trees. The Mets only have a certain amount of money that can be put into the payroll of the 2014 team. With that being said, they also have to find the most cost-effective way to put together a successful 25-man roster. This means that a higher salary could be the difference between one player getting traded instead of another.
Here are five cost-effective moves the Mets could make in order to create more payroll flexibility.
With a logjam at first base, the Mets will have to make a critical decision at that position. One possibility could be trading Ike Davis, who did not have a particularly good season in 2013.
Davis batted just .205 this season, with nine home runs and 33 RBI in 317 at-bats. Hes raised his 2012 .308 OBP to .326 thanks to a higher walk rate, but his slugging percentage fell from .462 to .334. Davis got off to a very slow start and eventually was demoted in June for nearly a month. He hit slightly better after coming back, but in late August, he suffered a season-ending oblique injury.
For much of the season, Davis was platooning at first base with the right-handed hitting Josh Satin. This was understandable, being that Davis hit only .145 against southpaws, with one home run and five RBI.
Davis will be eligible for arbitration again in 2014. After earning $3.125 million in 2013, he will almost certainly be due for a raise. The Mets may look to save some money by trading him, which is one factor to consider. Unlike Davis, Duda only made slightly more than $500,000 in 2013. Being that Duda's 2014 salary will continue to be lower than that of Davis, Lucas Duda could be the better option from a financial perspective.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News has reported that the Mets will likely trade one of Davis or Lucas Duda. Along with the money factor, other areas of consideration should be include overall offensive performance, plate discipline and defense, among other things.
It will be fascinating to see what happens at first base for the Mets this offseason and which factors will end up having a larger effect.
Since 2011, Daniel Murphy has been one of the Mets' most dependable hitters. In 2013, he led the Mets in batting average, runs, hits, doubles and RBI.
The big knock on Murphy, though, is that while he is a very good hitter. He is also quite aggressive at the plate and does not draw many walks as a result. Murphy simply seems to enjoy putting the ball in play, but it would be that easy to raise the .319 OBP he had in 2013. To his credit though, he runs hard on every play, always makes his best efforts and plays the game the right way. His power has improved as well, with a career high 13 home runs this past season. Defensively, he has continued to improve generally speaking.
Murphy is one of the few staples in the Mets lineup, but that doesn't mean he is untouchable. The Mets could look to move him in a trade if it were to give them a noticeable upgrade at other positions, such as shortstop or the outfield.
Murphy made almost $3 million in 2013, and will almost certainly get a raise through arbitration. If the Mets want to shed even more cash, they could choose to move Murphy in order to upgrade another particular position.
More than likely, Murphy will stay put because he is a good contact hitter and the kind of player you want on base for David Wright, among others, to drive in.
Mike Puma of the New York Post recently reported that the Mets have some interest in free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, as a backup plan in case neither Stephen Drew nor Jhonny Peralta end up signing with them.
The 36-year-old Furcal missed all of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. With two young shortstops now on the Cardinals in Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, Furcal's time with the Cardinals pretty much ended with the surgery.
Furcal would be a good short term solution at shortstop for a season or two, being that Ruben Tejada struggled so badly last season. Furcal, of course, would have to stay healthy for such a signing to pay off, but if he is healthy, he will very likely provide more offensive production than the light-hitting Tejada and backup infielder Omar Quintanilla.
If Drew and Peralta ask for too much money and/or end up signing elsewhere, Furcal could be a wise and low-cost alternative at shortstop.
After batting .285 with 21 home runs and 71 RBI this past season, the Mets traded Marlon Byrd to the Pirates in order to put him on a winning team down the stretch. After the trade, though, Byrd hinted that he would be open to returning to the Mets in 2014.
Byrd would most likely not be the very best option out there. Shin-Soo Choo is a better all-around player, for example, and will probably get on base at a much higher rate than Byrd. But on the other hand, if Choo asks for a big long-term contract, that could possibly be a little much for the Mets to pursue. If the Mets end up trying to find a cheaper bargain in right field, a second helping of Byrd could work.
Although Byrd put together a very good season that completely revived his career, he is now 36 and he would not be the most ideal option for the future. Nonetheless, bringing back Byrd is something the Mets should at least keep in mind, and it would not cost too much to do so.
Last offseason, the Mets needed a veteran starter to fill the back end of their starting rotation, which led to the signing of Shaun Marcum to an incentive-based contract. Marcum earned a $4 million base salary and was eligible to earn an additional $4 million based on certain performance achievements, which mostly referred to his staying healthy.
This time around, the Mets could look to make a similar kind of signing and hope that it turns out better than Marcum's 1-10 season in 2013. One pitcher who has had trouble staying healthy who could use a contract that is cheap, but with incentives for staying healthy is Josh Johnson.
Johnson last offseason was part of the huge Marlins and Blue Jays trade that also included Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck all getting sent to the Blue Jays as well. Johnson unfortunately had one of the worst seasons of his career this past season, with a 2-8 record and a 6.20 ERA in 16 starts.
At just 29, Johnson still could have a long future ahead of him, but he will need to find a way to stay healthy and pitch effectively going forward. If he does not get any lucrative offers at first, the Mets should try to sign Johnson to a similar contract they gave to Marcum last offseason.