New York Mets: 10 Players Their Financial Unrest May Stop Them From Signing
At this point, it's no secret the involvement of New York Mets owners Jeff and Fred Wilpon in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme will have a deep impact on the nature of the ball club. The club has already received a $20 million loan from Major League Baseball.
And although they have roughly $50 million coming off the books after the 2011 season, financial uncertainty has the entire Mets franchise in a state of worry, if not panic.
But just how deep are we talking? Rumors and reports are swirling that the Mets will be unable to sign any of the impending big-name free agents after the 2011 season is over.
Yet, the team's chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon told reporters at the Mets' spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, that new general manager Sandy Alderson "will retain full freedom to run the team without unreasonable fiscal limitations—including signing pending free agent Jose Reyes to a contract extension if that is what he deems prudent," according to MLB.com.
So what does it all mean? Will the Mets be able to afford to re-sign Jose Reyes? Will they go after any potential top free agents in the offseason? Let's take a look at some other free agents the Mets may have trouble signing due to the Madoff scheme.
Mets fans everywhere undoubtedly will start drooling when the offseason begins, and with it the Albert Pujols sweepstakes. Just imagine...arguably the greatest player in the game today manning first base for the New York Mets.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but don't expect to see Pujols playing in Flushing in 2012. First of all, the Mets have Ike Davis at first base, and they are way too high on their prized prospect to deal him away.
Additionally, Pujols already turned down a contract extension from the St. Louis Cardinals worth just under $300 million. It appears it will take a record-breaking deal for Pujols to sign anywhere after the 2011 season. And with the current state of the Mets' finances, it seems highly unlikely they will be able to afford King Albert.
Left-hander Mike Gonzalez may not be the dominant closer he seemed destined for earlier in his career. Since saving 24 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006, he has a total of 27 while pitching for the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles.
Gonzalez has been the victim of arm injuries during his career, and has seemingly lost his closer job in Baltimore. But despite all this, he is still left-handed. And that alone is a valuable commodity—one the Mets are lacking heading into 2011.
The Mets lost their left-handed specialist, Pedro Feliciano, to free agency. That currently leaves Oliver Perez and Pat Misch as the two left-handers in their bullpen, according to their depth chart on MLB.com (newcomer Chris Capuano could see time in the bullpen once Johan Santana returns to the rotation).
Bottom line is, in a division that includes teams that feature the likes of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jason Heyward and Adam LaRoche, having that left-handed specialist in the bullpen could be a huge asset—one the Mets currently do not have. Gonzalez could be a target for the Mets, if finances allow it.
Despite some recent injuries that have lead to ineffectiveness, Jose Reyes is still beloved in the Big Apple. He is the Mets' star shortstop and brings a level of enthusiasm and excitement that the franchise hasn't had in quite some time.
Reyes' contract expires at the end of the 2011 season, and should be looking to land a big-time contract in his first taste of free agency. And although Jeff Wilpon has stated the team will not be handcuffed financially by the Madoff scheme, Sandy Alderson may have a tough time trying to re-sign Reyes—unless Reyes decides to give a home-team discount.
But can the Mets afford not to re-sign him? He is the heart and soul of the organization. He and David Wright make up a nucleus that is very tough (if not impossible) to replace. It will be an intriguing offseason for the Mets as they will have to decide which direction to go.
Roy Oswalt/Chris Carpenter
Pitching is the name of the game, for the most part, in baseball. And two of the game's best could become free agents at season's end.
Chris Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals) and Roy Oswalt (Philadelphia Phillies) each have club options for 2012 built into their respective contracts that expire after the 2011 season. Both are former 20-game winners and both will be highly sought after if they hit the market.
And while both are heading past their primes, they should still wind up getting a decent contract. You can be sure the Mets would at least kick the tires on one if not both of them, even more so if they wind up dealing ace Johan Santana during the 2011 season.
That is, if this ordeal with the Madoff scheme doesn't prohibit them from doing so. What a nice addition either (or both) of these fine arms would be to a Mets rotation that is desperately seeking some stability and recognition.
In case anyone forgot, Francisco Rodriguez is the all-time, single-season leader in saves. And, in case anyone forgot, K-Rod also punched his ex-girlfriend's father after a game in August. It has to make one wonder, which fireballer will show up in 2011?
Rodriguez' contract includes a vesting option for 2012. If he finishes at least 55 games in 2011, the $17.5 million option becomes guaranteed. That's a lot of money for a closer that has shown signs of wear over the last couple of years. And it's a lot of money for a team with financial insecurities and question marks.
Yet, if he can be the K-Rod that saved 62 games in 2008, the Mets would have themselves a bona fide closer at the back of their rotation, already signed, sealed and delivered.
The Mets need another media blunder like they need a pitcher undergoing Tommy John surgery. And if the issues regarding K-Rod and his ex-girlfriend are not settled soon, this could become a lingering matter; one that could cause the Mets to ensure that Rodriguez does not finish the required games for his option to vest.
Sure he hasn't pitched a full season since his 2006 rookie campaign. Sure he missed the final three months of 2010 after fracturing his right elbow while delivering a pitch in late June. But Joel Zumaya is still just 26 years old and has a whole future ahead of him.
Free agency is also ahead of him, as he will be a first-timer following the 2011 season. With the Detroit Tigers inking fellow reliever Joaquin Benoit to a three-year contract, Zumaya's services in Detroit's bullpen may have expired. And anyone who has the ability of throwing near 100mph can certainly be an asset to any team's relief core.
It remains to be seen just how much Zumaya will demand. But if he has a true rebound season in 2011, you can look for him to get a multi-year contract. As this offseason will show, middle relievers have been recipients of long-term deals. Benoit, Jesse Crain, Scott Downs and Matt Guerrier all received three-year deals from their new teams. It's a trend, one that Zumaya may look to be a part of after the 2011 campaign.
Though David Wright's contract isn't up until after the 2012 season, Mets fans and brass have to be at least starting to think about an extension (the team holds a $16 million club option for 2013).
Wright, the team's star third baseman, has become a fan favorite and the face of the franchise. Keeping him in Queens is just as, if not more important than, keeping Reyes where he is.
In 2007, the Mets signed Wright to a six-year, $55 million contract. It is certainly conceivable that the 28-year-old could be in line for quite an increase to that figure once his contract expires. The 2011 season may dictate just how big that raise will be, and whether or not the Mets will have the financial resources to keep him in their fold.
Reports have indicated that Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips would like to stay in Cincinnati once his current contract expires at the end of the 2011 season. The Reds do hold a $12 million option for 2012, but it may be that the team will not be able to afford to keep their star second baseman.
Phillips, if he reaches the free agent market, will likely be looking for Dan Uggla-type dollars. After being traded to the Braves, Uggla signed a five-year extension worth $62 million. And he would deserve it. Phillips is a solid glove up the middle, and has extraordinary power for a second baseman.
And both of those assets are something the Mets could use in their roster. Right now, their second base position is being filled by some combination of Luis Castillo, Daniel Murphy and Brad Emaus. Castillo is an aging veteran who is being paid far too much by the Mets. Murphy has never played a Major League game at second base. And Emaus has never played a Major League game.
So a free agent like Phillips could be very appetizing to the Mets and their fans. But of course the question remains, would they be able to afford him? After all, it's not everyday you dish out $60 million to a second baseman.
There's no telling how far down the line the ramifications of these financial burdens will go. But pitcher Mike Pelfrey is due to become a free agent for the first time following the 2013 season. At that point, he will be almost 30 years old and should be well into his prime.
It could be prudent of the team to try and lock him up long term while they still have him under their control. His numbers have gotten progressively better the last couple of seasons, and had a breakout season in 2010. He finished 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA, despite a rocky start to the season.
The 2011 season will be a true testament of his value, however (at least the first half). With Johan Santana expected to be out until the All-Star break, Pelfrey becomes the leader of the rotation and will be asked to carry a heavy load on his shoulders. If he is able to handle that, then the Mets may truly feel the necessity of signing big Pelf to a long-term extension.
It is almost a certain guarantee that Carlos Beltran will not be wearing a New York Mets uniform at this time next year. In fact, he may be wearing a new uniform before the 2011 season ends. And though right now the Mets will be playing Beltran in right field and Angel Pagan in center field, the club will be searching for a replacement for Beltran.
Even though he's only played just over 130 games over the last two seasons due to various injuries, Grady Sizemore could be a top candidate. The Cleveland Indians hold an $8.5 million option for 2012, but could look to deal him during the season to free up payroll.
He'll be only 29 in August, and has had an impressive career so far. He underwent a microfracture operation on his left knee to repair an injury sustained in April, and likely will not be ready for Opening Day. But if his woes are healed by the offseason, and if the Mets can dish out the dollar bills, Sizemore's talents would be a solid replacement for Beltran.