Beltran. Rodriguez. Castillo. Perez.
These names have become synonymous with larger-than-life contracts, yet minimal production. In a sense, they define the Omar Minaya era for the New York Mets, a time period that continues to haunt the Amazins’ in their first off-season under new management. Sandy Alderson was financially handcuffed this winter due to the financial burden that these contracts casted on the Mets’ payroll, but you could bet the winter of 2012 will not be one of discontent.
With the contracts of Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Louis Castillo, and Oliver Perez all set to come off the books after the final pitch of 2011, the Mets can once again become players in the free agent market in the winter of 2012.
Given their impending financial flexibility, here are 10 players the Mets could target next winter.
It’s no secret that second base is an area of concern for the Mets. Don’t expect anyone in a Mets uniform to come along and solidify the position in 2011, given the uncertainty surrounding Louis Castillo, Daniel Murphy, Josh Turner, Ruben Tejada, etc.
Instead, the Mets would be wise to go into 2011 with the options they have, and re-evaluate after the sesaon.
Luckily for the Amazin’s, Brandon Phillips will be a free agent next winter.
Phillips is one of the most feared offensive second basemen in baseball, and he’s no slouch with the glove either. He doesn’t hit for much of an average, but has hit at least 17 home runs every season since 2006.
Brandon would give the Mets the sort of offensive production at second base that they haven’t benefited from since the days of Edgardo Alfonzo.
Throwing Phillips into an already potent lineup featuring David Wright, Jason Bay, and a more mature Ike Davis, could make Citi Field look quite small come the 2012 season.
Yes, Grady Sizemore.
Sure, he played in only 33 games in 2010, and missed the final month of an underwhelming season in 2009 due to surgery on his knee and lower abdomen.
However, if Grady Sizemore can show signs of his former self, you can bet the Mets will be hot on his trail come free agency next winter.
Sizemore hit 20 or more home runs every year since his first full season in the big leagues in 2005. He also brings with him a great defensive reputation, making regular appearances on Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems segment when he’s healthy.
The bottom line is, if Sizemore comes back this season injury-free and shows he’s able to produce like he did pre-2009, there’s little to no chance that Cleveland will be able to re-sign him. That will open the door for the larger market clubs, and given the financial freedom the Mets should enjoy next winter, that group includes them.
At 29 years old, he’s still young, and if he proves he’s healthy in 2011, there’s no reason he can’t be Carlos Beltran’s replacement in center field.
The Mets would be losing a ton of power by acquiring DeJesus, but it’s the other aspects of Davids’ game that makes this signing so tempting.
He’s a table setter at the top of the lineup, as he consistently puts the ball in play (see his 47 strikeouts in 2010). DeJesus is the ideal two hitter in the lineup, as he has the ability to move runners into scoring position for the big boys in the middle of the order.
He also exhibits outstanding range in center field, which is something the Mets will need in 2012 with an aging Jason Bay in left field. With DeJesus, the Mets might be able to cover up Bay’s inadequacy, while solidifying their defense up the middle.
A complete 180 from David DeJesus, but the 32 year old is most definitely a serviceable corner outfielder.
If the Mets feel they should go the power route and acquire a big bopper for the middle of their lineup, Willingahm could be their man.
Acquiring Willingham would allow the Mets to move Angel Pagan to his more natural position in center field, while following baseball’s age old adage that corner positions should be manned by power hitters (David Wright, Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Josh Willingam).
Willingham is coming off of injury in 2010, but if he can prove to be healthy, he’d be a much cheaper option than Grady Sizemore. However, Willingham doesn’t quite possess the glove that both Sizemore and DeJesus have, which could diminish his value in the Mets’ eyes.
Despite his shortcomings defensively, he’s reached the 20 home run mark in three of the past five seasons, and currently boasts a .265 career average, a solid figure for a power hitter. He’s a run producer, and should at least garner a look from the Mets next winter.
The former Mets reliever was traded to San Diego in November of 2006, and has flourished into one of the league’s premier closers since then.
With an aging and declining Francisco Rodriguez coming off the books next winter, the Mets would be hard pressed not to pursue Bell. He’s a younger and more attractive option, and has already stated that he’d be open to the idea of playing in Queens again.
Since stepping into the Padres’ closer role, he’s recorded back- to- back seasons of 40+ saves, posting 42 and 47 in 2009 and 2010, respectively. His 2009 mark was good enough for first among National League closers.
The Mets have a chance to correct the mistakes of the Minaya administration, and they’d certainly love to cash in on that with the signing of Heath Bell.
If the Mets strikeout on Heath Bell, another viable closer option could be Matt Capps.
Capps was dealt from Washington to Minnesota last season, taking over the Twins’ role as closer for the injured Joe Nathan.
He recorded 42 saves last season between both clubs, and at 27 years of age, he seems ready to become a high-end big league closer.
Unfortunately for Capps, Joe Nathan is standing in his way.
With that in mind, you can be sure that Capps will test the free agent market next winter, and the Mets would be wise to gauge his interest level in becoming the premier closer in Queens.
Garland enjoyed a revival of sorts in San Diego this past year, recording double digit wins for the first time since 2008.
He’s never posted great ERA’s throughout his career, but he’s known as an innings eater, pitching in at least 200 innings in all but three seasons since 2004.
He’d fit nicely in the back end of the Mets rotation, giving them a veteran presence in the four or five slots.
Garland will be just 32 come next winter’s free agency, and if last year was any indication, the former all-star is back on the right track with his best years still ahead of him.
Injury to Webb’s right shoulder and the resulting surgery caused him to miss all but one game throughout the past two seasons.
He recently signed a one year contract with Texas, and he’ll be out to prove he’s still the elite pitcher he was once upon a time. During his run of success, Webb posted four consecutive seasons (2005-2008) with 14 or more wins, while recording at least 172 strikeouts in all four.
If he can regain his old form, he’ll be demanding big money on the open market. However, the Mets will have the financial freedom to reach deep into their pockets, and a healthy Webb might be worth every penny he demands.
A healthy Santana and Webb at the top of the rotation will certainly give the Mets the pitching they need to compete with the Phillies in the NL East.
The former Yankees star has battled shoulder injuries for the better part of the past year and a half. He sat out all of 2010 after signing a one year deal with the Nationals, but did re-up with them for the 2011 season on a similar one year, incentive laden contract.
If Wang can regain his 2006-2007 form in which he won 38 games in two seasons, the Mets would be wise to court him.
Wilson will be 31 by the time he hits the free agent market, but he’s first bursting onto the national scene after a stellar 2010 campaign with Texas.
Wilson broke into the big leagues in 2005 with the Rangers, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he became a full time starter, and he justified his clubs’ decision by posting a record of 15-8 to go along with a sound 3.35 ERA.
After his breakout season of 2010, C.J. appears to be on the cusp of becoming a premier big league pitcher, and if he chooses to test the free agent market next winter, the Mets will be waiting for him with opened arms, no matter what his price tag says.
Because hey, after all, the Mets will finally have some money to spend once again.