The "Hot Stove" of MLB free agency is heating up in anticipation of the Winter Meetings, and New York Mets fans are getting restless as they wait for the front office to make a move. Signing Mike Napoli to a multi-year contract would kick start New York’s offseason, and completely change their path for the rest of the winter.
Marc Carig of Newsday reported David Wright wants the Mets to follow the offseason strategy the Boston Red Sox employed last winter. The best way to put that plan into play is to sign one of the key players from that team: Mike Napoli.
He was on the verge of signing a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston last winter, but concern about his hips reduced it to one-year, $5 million. Incentives were in place to raise his salary to $13 million, and that’s what he did.
In 139 games played and 498 at-bats, Napoli hit .259/.360/.482 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI. He followed his regular season performance with some big hits and monster home runs in the postseason, being a crucial piece of Boston’s championship puzzle.
Rob Bradford of WEEI.com captured Napoli’s feelings about Boston in a few words:
I want to be here. I love this place. They've treated me so good here. The way they've taken care of me, its' unbelievable. When the time comes I'm pretty sure we're going to have some conversations. I hope to be back here next year.
Boston immediately put a multi-year offer on the table for their first baseman, but he’s opted to test the market. If all he wanted to do was play for the Red Sox, this conversation wouldn’t be happening right now. Either their offer was insultingly low, or he wants to inflate his value.
The Mets need to find some proven offensive players from an external source for their lineup. General manager Sandy Alderson and company like Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, but the probability of them netting $100 million contracts puts the Mets out of the running.
Outside of these two, the next tier of outfielders New York is interested in pursuing include Curtis Granderson and Nelson Cruz. However, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported earlier this week the Mets are worried those two will end up becoming overpriced.
The “Amazins” also like Jhonny Peralta, but are shocked the shortstop is looking for at least three years and $45 million, according to a tweet from Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Where else will the power and protection in the lineup they desire come from?
A few weeks ago, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports published an article with free agent contract predictions from an unnamed agent, unnamed general manager and himself. Unlike some of their other predictions, they were in agreement on Napoli. They each felt he would get three-year deal for approximately $39 or $40 million.
In a perfect world, the Mets would sign a legitimate power bat to a two-year deal. That’s not going to happen. At some point, they’ll have to go out of their comfort zone to get the impact bat they need.
Signing Napoli would bring power to the Mets, and protection in the lineup for David Wright. He’s a good clubhouse guy with postseason experience, including a World Series ring. Having him in the bag would allow Alderson to head to the Winter Meetings actively shopping Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, as teams have already expressed interest in both.
Watching Davis or Duda (or both) put it all together after New York trades them would be frustrating. However, the Mets want productive players that won’t break the bank. If they get priced out of players like Granderson, Cruz and Peralta, they could once again be out of luck and looking for talent at the bottom of the barrel because they waited too long.
Napoli is a solid player and has enough power to hit the ball out of Citi Field. Awarding him a three-year contract may allow enough time for 2013 top-pick Dominic Smith to move through the minor leagues and be ready for the big stage in Flushing by 2017.
With contract figures already becoming inflated, it’s time for the Mets to get creative. Napoli could give them what they’re in desperate need of, and would be the cheapest option out of all the external ones discussed above.
The Winter Meetings would be less stressful on Alderson if he already made a move to improve the 2014 team. This is a creative one that could alleviate some of that stress.
To keep up with Matt, follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8
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