9 Best Free Agent Options for the New York Mets

Sean CunninghamContributor IINovember 28, 2013

9 Best Free Agent Options for the New York Mets

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    Kendrys Morales is a player who could come cheap who would improve the Mets offense immensely.
    Kendrys Morales is a player who could come cheap who would improve the Mets offense immensely.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    With free agency picking up and the winter meetings around the corner, there are still a number of free agents available that the New York Mets should consider. 

    On this list are the nine best available free agents for the Mets. Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury are the two most talented free agents still available, but with both asking for (and deserving) massive contracts, they have not been included on this list (while anything is still possible).

    For each free agent, the reasons why and why they don't make sense for the Mets are laid out. So here they are, the nine best available free agents for the New York Mets.

     

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference

1. Shin-Soo Choo

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    Shin-Soo Choo is patient and consistent, but could be too expensive for the Mets
    Shin-Soo Choo is patient and consistent, but could be too expensive for the MetsAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Why He Makes Sense

    While Chris Young was a solid low-risk signing, it far from solves the Mets corner outfield issues. Shin-Soo Choo would offer a long-term answer to the team’s outfield woes.

    While Choo is a poor center fielder, he wouldn’t need to roam Citi Field’s spacious center field with both Juan Lagares and Young as superior options, and his speed would make him an above average option in a corner spot.

    At GammonsDaily.com Bill Chuck discussed the benefits of signing Choo, believing that Choo was a game-changing type of talent. He used the fact that Choo was the best leadoff hitter in 2013, leading all leadoff hitters in on-base percentage.

    Chuck also notes that Choo has the eighth-best on-base percentage since 2009 (behind only stars like Miguel Cabrera), and along with Andrew McCutcheon and Mike Trout was one of just three players to have an OBP of over .400, hit over 20 home runs, and steal over 20 bases in 2013.

    Needless to say, Choo brings a lot offensively and fits into the Sandy Alderson model of an on-base machine.

     

    Why He Doesn’t

    Choo is a nice player, but he’s become so underrated coming into free agency that he’s become overrated, demanding a deal worth over $100 million.

    Via Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated, Choo’s defense “bordered on comical at times,” recording 18 runs below average in defensive runs saved.

    Choo also cannot hit lefties whatsoever, batting just .215 against lefties in 2013. The Mets shouldn’t spend 100 million dollars on a player if he is such a liability against a large number of pitchers in the Majors.

    Choo is a nice player, and makes sense for the Mets as an on-base machine. But he is aging and has many holes in his game, too many holes for a player asking for over $100 million. Unless his price drops (which it might as the market for him could collapse), the odds the Mets sign him remain low.

2. Stephen Drew

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    Stephen Drew's ability to play shortstop could be enticing for the Mets, but his price tag should keep Drew away from New York
    Stephen Drew's ability to play shortstop could be enticing for the Mets, but his price tag should keep Drew away from New YorkElsa/Getty Images

    Why He Makes Sense

    Well, he plays shortstop.

    With Jhonny Peralta off of the market, Stephen Drew is hands-down the best free agent shortstop. With Ruben Tejada having a pitiful 2013 season (.202 batting average) and few other options at their fingertips, Drew is becoming a more appealing option every day despite his lofty contract demands.

    He also fits into the style of player that Sandy Alderson covets, as he has a solid approach at the plate and good power for a shortstop. In 2013, while Drew only hit .253, he reached base at a .333 clip while slugging .443.

     

    Why He Doesn’t 

    A common theme for the elite free agents: his price tag is well above his value to the Mets. 

    While Scott Boras can joke around about the Mets' struggles with money, with the Wilpon’s tighter budget of recent years, Boras is becoming the franchise’s worst nightmare.

    Relative to the price tag being thrown around, Drew just isn’t worth that much money as a player. He will be 31, and the 2013 season may have been an outlier; in 2012, Drew hit a meager .223 while splitting time with Arizona and Oakland.

    As an aging shortstop who performed above his abilities in a contract year, Drew only makes sense for the Mets if they can get him at the right price. Unless his price on the open market falls drastically, he makes little sense for the Mets.

    In the end, a cheap, short-term option like Rafael Furcal makes more sense, or in this writer’s opinion a deal centered around Rafael Montero for Arizona’s Chris Owings would be ideal.

3. Mike Napoli

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    Mike Napoli has power that could potentially change the Mets fortunes
    Mike Napoli has power that could potentially change the Mets fortunesElsa/Getty Images

    Why He Makes Sense 

    Mike Napoli has the ability to provide a legitimate power threat that the Mets have been sorely lacking.

    Bleacher Report’s Matthew Musico wrote about why the Mets should sign Napoli, noting how it would provide the team with a postseason presence and lineup protection for David Wright. Along with these traits, he would be a welcome replacement for Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, players Mets fans have had to watch embrace mediocrity for the past number of seasons.

    Napoli would also present a cheaper option than many of the premier bats this offseason. Having played catcher for most of his career, his health has become a major  concern, which should lower his price tag (as it did last offseason).

     

    Why He Doesn’t

    The Red Sox got a discount on Napoli this past year because of his deteriorating health, but after a productive season, it appears as if he is seeking a long-term contract. While the Mets currently could use an upgrade at first base, the team has greater question marks. With Napoli’s health issues, signing him to a multi-year deal is a risk the Mets are unlikely to take.

    Also, while Napoli boasts noticeable power that the Mets sorely need, over his career, he has not been an elite major league hitter. He has a career .259 batting average and has only hit 30 home runs once in his career, in 2011 when he hit 30 exactly. In comparison, Ike Davis hit 32 home runs in 2012 despite having a horrific first half. The Mets already have big time power potential in Davis, so if they are looking for power, Napoli isn’t an option worth spending on.

    As a catcher, Napoli is an offensive force, but at first base, the offensive expectations are higher. He is a good player, but considering his knee issues and non-elite production, the Mets should stay away from offering him a multi-year contract.

4. Nelson Cruz

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    Nelson Cruz could add significant power to the Mets outfield if the team signed him
    Nelson Cruz could add significant power to the Mets outfield if the team signed himRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Why He Makes Sense

    Alderson wants power, and Nelson Cruz has it in spades.

    As a middle of the order hitter, since 2008 Cruz has never batted below .260, and since 2009 he has averaged 27 home runs per season in just 125.6 games per season.

    While Marlon Byrd provided the Mets with some much needed power in 2013, Cruz’s ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark is far superior and would provide Wright with the impact bat he needs to protect him in the lineup.

     

    Why He Doesn’t

    While Lagares and Young would make up for some of Cruz’s defensive deficiencies, the Mets cannot force the team to not hit the ball in Cruz’s direction.

    Cruz’s ability to stay healthy has been an issue throughout his career as well. Outside of 2012 when Cruz played 159 games, since he was the established starter for Texas beginning in 2009, he has averaged just 117.25 games a year. This becomes more of a concern if Cruz comes to the National League, as he can’t get weekly rest while playing as a designated hitter.

    The question of money comes again as a concern. Jhonny Peralta proved with his contract that the Biogenesis suspension would not diminish player’s values in the free agent market. Cruz is 33 and is probably looking to cash in a final time, and if a bidding war breaks out between the Rangers, Mariners, and Mets, his price tag could exceed the Mets interests.

5. Curtis Granderson

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    Curtis Granderson's speed, power and ability to handle the New York media should be appealing to the Mets
    Curtis Granderson's speed, power and ability to handle the New York media should be appealing to the MetsJared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Why He Makes Sense

    Another power hitting outfield option for a team desperate for power and outfielders, Curtis Granderson makes a lot of sense on paper for the Mets.

    Granderson has proven he can handle the New York media, an underrated part of any Mets free agent target, and has been a prolific power hitter with speed since joining the New York Yankees.

    In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Granderson hit over 40 home runs and drove in over 100 runs, something no Met has done since Carlos Beltran in 2006.

    He also still covers significant ground in the outfield, with experience in center field. If the Mets started an outfield of Juan Lagares, Chris Young and Granderson, the Mets pitching staff would be ecstatic.

     

    Why He Doesn’t

    With power being a premium on the market, Granderson’s asking price would likely cost the Mets more than he’s worth. There are several major questions that surround his production, therefore making Granderson a risky signing. 

    One of the biggest questions about Granderson is whether or not the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field helped his power significantly. Before becoming a Yankee, Granderson’s career high in home runs was 30 in 2009 for the Detroit Tigers. A jump to over 40 home runs would indicate that Granderson’s numbers received a boost due to Yankee Stadium’s friendly confines.

    Granderson is also a one-dimensional hitter, hitting for power while sacrificing average and on-base percentage. Once he reached the 30 home run total in 2009, it became clear that Granderson began sacrificing average for power. Since 2009, he has posted a batting average of .246, while batting just .232 and .229 in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

    With the question of whether Granderson’s power was a product of his environment combined with the questions about his completeness as a hitter, he is a player the Mets should avoid spending a significant amount of money on.

6. Kendrys Morales

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    Why He Makes Sense

    The slugging Cuban first baseman brings a lot to the table as a potentially less expensive option than other free agents.

    In 2009 Kendrys Morales displayed his ability as one of the most complete hitters in the league for the Angels. Along with an impressive .306/.355/.569 line in over 600 plate appearances, he also hit 34 home runs and drove in 108 RBIs.

    Unfortunately for Morales, a freak injury celebrating a walk-off home run halted the Cuban slugger’s career just as he was entering his prime. He missed all of 2011, and for the past two years has been the epitome of consistency as a low-risk signing, hitting .273 and .277 in 2012 and 2013 respectively along with 45 home runs total.

    While Morales has been a consistent force at first base, Mets fans have had to deal with Ike Davis. With the Mets looking to deal one of Davis and Lucas Duda with his .223 2013 batting average, Morales is a superior option than either player.

    At just 30 years old, Morales presents a solid option at first base for the Mets if his price tag doesn’t get too high.

     

    Why He Doesn’t 

    The Mets have a lot of holes, and while Davis and Duda are far from perfect options at first base, the Mets may want to focus their efforts elsewhere. Unless Alderson feels the cost of Morales was low enough so that he had the ability to fill other holes on the team, the Cuban switch-hitter makes less sense considering the other viable options.

7. James Loney

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    James Loney's consistency could bring relief to many Mets fans
    James Loney's consistency could bring relief to many Mets fansMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Why He Makes Sense 

    Loney has always been a personal favorite of mine. He’s a slick-fielding first baseman who is a completely different hitter than Ike Davis.

    While Mets fans have watched Davis swing for the fences his whole career, sometimes connecting his hitch-filled swing for epic home runs, Loney has an under control swing that has maxed out at 15 home runs.

    Some fans will always cling to the idea of Davis as an elite power hitter, but replacing him with a more consistent hitter in the lineup everyday would be beneficial to the team. Compared to the uncertainty that comes with Davis entering the season, Loney sports a career batting average of .285, and after a disappointing season in 2012, he came back and had a very solid season for Tampa. 

    Loney makes sense for the Mets because he would be a potentially inexpensive option that would give New York much needed stability in their lineup.

     

    Why He Doesn’t

    The combination of the Mets current depth at first base along with Alderson’s value of power makes Loney a less likely target.

    The Mets have plenty of needs and while a player like Loney would fit in an ideal world, considering the Mets budget, the team would be better off allocating its funds elsewhere and taking a chance on Duda or Davis.

8. Corey Hart

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    Corey Hart could supply offensive firepower for the Mets coming off knee surgeries
    Corey Hart could supply offensive firepower for the Mets coming off knee surgeriesRich Pilling/Getty Images

    Why He Makes Sense

    Hart has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball throughout his career. Since his rookie season, he has never hit below .260. Also, he provides both the power and patience Sandy Alderson covets, exhibited by his .857 OPS over his last three active seasons.

    He missed all of 2013 with knee injuries, which relegates him out of the outfield to first base. but should also lower his asking price on the free agent market.

    If Hart can provide the same offense he has throughout his career while playing a serviceable first base, he becomes a much better option than either Duda or Davis. For a team desperate for offense like the Mets, Hart would provide a potential game-changing bat to the lineup.

     

    Why He Doesn’t 

    If there’s one thing that can be said about the Mets approach towards free agency in the Sandy Alderson era, it’s that they are overly cautious and give out low-cost contracts.

    If the free agent market picks up at all around Hart, and his price tag goes up, it would be unlike this regime to offer anything significant for a player as high risk as Hart is.

    Hart missed all of 2013 due to surgeries on both knees. Players coming off knee surgery often lose power, and coming off surgeries on both knees makes Hart a very high-risk target unless he can be had for a low price.

9. Jason Hammel

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    Jason Hammel could be a cheap option for the Mets to act as a placeholder for the team's young pitching
    Jason Hammel could be a cheap option for the Mets to act as a placeholder for the team's young pitchingJoy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

    Why He Makes Sense 

    Under the Sandy Alderson regime, the Mets have been able to collect high-level pitching talent. With Matt Harvey sitting out the year and Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard still needing some minor league seasoning, the Mets need some stable and inexpensive arms to give the rotation options superior to Daisuke Matsuzaka.

    Names like Phil Hughes and Bronson Arroyo have been tossed around, and pitchers like Matt Garza are well out of the Mets price range.

    Jason Hammel is the perfect combination of cheap and low-risk option the Mets should be targeting.

    The tall South Carolina native is coming off a rough 2013 during which he gave up a career-high 22 home runs in just 139.1 innings.

    Hammel’s 2013 performance should allow him to sign for cheap, and the Mets can hope that he reverts to his strong 2012 form and act as a placeholder for Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero at the back of the rotation.

     

    Why He Doesn’t

    As ESPN’s Keith Law noted, Hammel’s struggles in 2013 can largely be attributed to elbow troubles, causing diminished velocity. Signing a pitcher with elbow issues, even to a cheap contract, is a risk not always worth taking.

    However, because of how cheap Hammel’s could be, there is little reason to not sign him. If his velocity doesn’t return, the Mets could place him in the bullpen and see if it picks up, or worst case they could cut him.