MLB Free Agents 2012: Top 6 Players the New York Mets Should Target

Jason Lempert@MetsPride84Correspondent IOctober 14, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: Top 6 Players the New York Mets Should Target

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    Sandy Alderson's first year as Mets general manager was a strange one to say the least. His tenure started with hiring Terry Collins as the team's new manager. And then Alderson was given the keys and told to drive.

    But instead of blowing the bank on a top-notch starting pitcher or an All-Star second baseman, Alderson made small, quiet moves to fill holes in his new lineup. He brought in cheaper finds, like reliever D.J. Carrasco and starter Chris Capuano.

    This offseason, however, stands to be an even tougher challenge for Alderson. His star shortstop, Jose Reyes, is a free agent for the first time in his career. Reyes is considered a must-keep for the Mets, but could cost as much as $20 million a year to retain.

    Not to mention, the face of the franchise, David Wright, is a hot trade rumor already this fall. So, needless to say, Alderson has some big decisions to make.

    He will have some money (albeit not a lot) to play with this free agent season. Let's take a look at some of this year's free agents that Alderson and the Mets could (and should) be very interested in.

Jose Reyes

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    In my humble opinion, there may not be a more significant free agent for the Mets to sign than their very own shortstop, Jose Reyes. Despite some injuries, Reyes has been the Mets' catalyst in the lineup and a voice in the clubhouse for years.

    Not to mention, finding someone to replace the four-time All-Star at shortstop in the lineup and in the clubhouse will be a very tough challenge for GM Sandy Alderson and the Mets. After all, it's not easy to find a shortstop with a career .292 batting average and an average of 57 stolen bases per year. 

    It will cost a pretty penny to retain Reyes' services, but letting him walk could be an even bigger disaster.

Matt Capps

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    Last season, the Mets traded away their All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez in a midseason deal with the Brewers. The hope in Queens was that veteran Jason Isringhausen would be a solid mentor for young fireballer Bobby Parnell. 

    Unfortunately, however, Isringhausen and Parnell each suffered in the second half of the season, as did much of the Mets' bullpen.

    So with that experiment all but failed, the Mets are certainly in the market for a closer. And while names like Heath Bell and Jonathan Papelbon will be out there, the Mets may be looking for a cheaper option.

    Brad Lidge is a name that will be out there as well. But at 35 years old, Lidge has been victim to injuries over the last couple of seasons.

    Right-hander Matt Capps may be a better fit. He's 28 years old and could come rather cheap. He struggled last year with the Twins, but has saved 42 games in a season (2010) and would be a horse out of the bullpen. He's pitched in at least 50 innings since his sophomore season in 2006. 

Joel Pineiro

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    If the 2012 season started today, the Mets' pitching rotation would look something like this: Johan Santana (if healthy), Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey and Dillon Gee.

    Not a terrible rotation on paper, but an improvement is recommended.

    Pelfrey has not shown he is capable of being a No. 1-2 starter on a consistent basis. Santana's health is a concern, as he missed the entire 2011 season following shoulder surgery. Niese and Gee are still young and inconsistent. 

    Adding a steady, proven veteran into this rotation on a one or two-year contract would be wise. Joel Pineiro, in my opinion, fits the bill.

    Pineiro's numbers aren't flashy or eye-popping (5.13 ERA in 2011), but he's durable, reliable and could come relatively cheap. He could slide nicely in as the Mets' No. 2 starter in 2012.

Clint Barmes

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    Clint Barmes' power numbers tapered off after moving out of the thin air in Denver, but he did enjoy a rather successful 2011 campaign, his first with the Astros (after being traded by the Rockies in the offseason), despite starting the year with a hand injury.

    Barmes is now a free agent, and although he would like to return to Houston, the Mets should at least kick the tires on him.

    Currently, the Mets project to have either Justin Turner or Ruben Tejada as their second baseman. Granted, they both were positive signs in 2011 for the Mets, but they are light hitters and could be better off in a platoon/reserve situation.

Jerry Hairston Jr.

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    Jerry Hairston Jr. is not a power threat by any means (his single-season career high in home runs is 10), but Hairston is the type of player that will play more positions than home runs hit.

    Over his 14-year career, Hairston has played at least one game in all positions other than catcher and pitcher, and that can be just as valuable to club than a 32-homer slugger.

    At one point this year, the Mets had Jose Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis all on the disabled list at the same time. And shortly after Reyes returned, Daniel Murphy went down. For most of the year, manager Terry Collins was forced to patch a lineup together with players in unfamiliar positions.

    But Hairston is someone who can fill in at any position, at a moment's notice. He has a lot of experience, and still has the desire to play.

Javier Lopez

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    One piece to the puzzle the Mets lacked last season was a sold, late-inning, left-handed reliever. Granted, Tim Byrdak had a very impressive campaign in 2011, appearing in 72 games and finishing with a 47:19 strikeouts-to-walk ratio.

    But, when you're playing in the NL East, and you have to deal with guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Brian McCann and Adam LaRoche on a regular basis, it's rather wise to have more than one lefty setup man in the bullpen.

    Last year, Javier Lopez held left-handed batters to a minuscule .163 batting average. He is the premier lefty on the market this offseason, and will likely not come very cheap. But can the Mets really afford to open another season with just one southpaw in the bullpen?