The Smartest and Dumbest Moves of Mets Offseason to Date
So far this offseason, the New York Mets have yet to make any big headlines with both the free-agent market and on the trading front. Will something big happen during the Winter Meetings later in December? Or could it happen in 2014? Sandy Alderson will be testing either his aggressiveness or his patience in the coming months.
The Mets have made a few personnel decisions already though, albeit five important, notable transactions. Here is how these decisions rank in how beneficial they were to the Mets.
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.
5. Letting Robert Carson Get Claimed Through Waivers by the Angels
2013 was a lost year for Robert Carson. In 14 appearances, he had an 8.24 ERA and allowed 18 earned runs and 21 hits in 19.2 innings pitched. Nine of those earned runs were from home runs.
Carson was originally called up in late April, but his struggles became too much, which led to the Mets demoting him back down to the minor leagues in the middle of June, where he finished out the season.
A few weeks after the regular season ended, the Angels claimed Carson off waivers. He will now compete for a spot in the Angels' bullpen. Whether he will have a good chance to be in it or not has yet to be determined.
The reason Carson is the lowest on the list has more to do with left-handed relievers being valuable, generally speaking, than the Mets actually losing him. Carson did not have many opportunities to show his potential in parts of two seasons with the Mets, but it's quite possible that he could do better with a change of scenery.
4. Letting Mike Baxter Get Claimed off Waivers by the Dodgers
After hitting .263, with three home runs and 17 RBI as one of the Mets' top pinch-hitters in 2012, Baxter did not do as well in 2013. He hit just .189 with four RBI this past season. Baxter spent most of the season on the major league roster but did get demoted in June before getting recalled in August.
Baxter's loss is not particularly significant to the Mets. He has never really profiled as a starting outfielder in the major leagues. He is not the most consistent hitter and does not possess much power. Defensively, Baxter does not have the best range in the outfield. Baxter was mostly used by the Mets as a pinch-hitter and fourth or fifth outfielder. With that being said, the Mets should be able to move on without Baxter being on the team.
3. Not Re-Signing Greg Burke
The sidearming reliever did not pitch particularly well this past season. In 32 appearances, Burke had three losses and a 5.68 ERA. He also allowed 20 earned runs, 43 hits and 15 walks in 31.2 innings pitched.
Due to his inconsistent performance, Burke was the one pitcher who kept getting sent back and forth to the minor leagues. In fact, Burke was demoted and promoted five times each through the course of the season. As a result, the fact that Burke had to endure all the extra traveling and chose to not return to the Mets next season should not be too surprising.
Burke did not pitch well enough to help the Mets become a better team. Because of this, his loss should not be too significant for the Mets going forward.
2. Signing Chris Young
No, not that Chris Young! This is not the same 6'10" pitcher the Mets had in 2011 and 2012. This is the former Diamondbacks and A's outfielder who was a one-time All-Star in 2010.
In November, Young and the Mets agreed to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million. It may sound like a lot for a player who hit .200 last season and has averaged 148 strikeouts per season. However, Marlon Byrd, the Mets' starting right fielder for most of last season, was able to revive his career as a Met. The Mets could be looking to do the same with Young next season.
The big question though is how much of a significant role Young will have with the Mets next season. He has been a center fielder for the vast majority of his career, but due to the defensive presence of Juan Lagares, Young may be finding time in left field or right field next season. Young could either be a candidate to play every day, or he might be a platoon outfielder, alongside a left-handed hitting outfielder such as Matt den Dekker.
Ideally, a projected outfield of Eric Young Jr., Lagares, den Dekker and Young would not be a big upgrade for the Mets altogether, so hopefully, they will be able to make at least one significant signing or trade. After that, there should still be some sort of role for Young to be in.
What is particularly surprising about the Young signing is that Young is not a high-average hitter and strikes out a lot, which has been a similar trend to the Mets' offense in recent years. The Mets hitters in 2013 were tied with the Braves in having the most strikeouts, which is not good at all.
The only American League teams with more strikeouts were the Astros and Twins. It would make more sense to bring in a hitter that gets on base more and does not strike out much, but maybe Young isn't here to be the significant outfield upgrade the Mets were really hoping to make.
All in all, signing Young to a one-year, $7.25 million contract may not have been Sandy Alderson's wisest decision, but if Young is able to bounce back and hit like he did in 2010 with the Diamondbacks (27 home runs, 91 RBI), the Mets could get a lot out of him, which will probably still be more than any other current Mets outfielder.
1. Declining Johan Santana's Option
The Mets' smartest decision of the offseason occurred when they decided to not give Johan Santana his $25 million option for 2014. Instead, the Mets paid him $5.5 million to become a free agent for the first time in his career.
This was a very easy decision for the Mets to make. Santana will be 35 by Opening Day and missed all of 2013 with the second surgery he had on his left shoulder. By doing so, Santana does not seem ready to retire and will now try to find another team that will take a chance on him. Being that he could certainly be an injury risk, Santana might not get more than a minor league contract this offseason.
The Johan Santana era for the Mets is now over. It included some very good pitching and three great seasons from 2008-2010 but also a lot of injuries and two completely missed seasons in 2011 and 2013. Furthermore, the Mets now have more payroll flexibility with Santana's contract with the team ended. This was a moment to wait for, and hopefully, the Mets can take advantage of the extra payroll space to make the team better.
There is a slight chance that Santana could return to the Mets on a very low-cost deal, but don't count on it to happen for sure. The Mets would probably only consider this is if no, or very few, other teams end up pursuing Santana.
The Mets have yet to make any big signings or blockbuster trades, but cutting ties with Santana has helped make this opportunity all possible, with an extra $25 million to work with. This has been by far the Mets' smartest decision thus far in the offseason. Hopefully, they can make a wonderful signing or trade that could be even better than declining Santana's option.