The 2012 New York Mets are a few key free agents short of a winning season
Once considered one of the highest spending franchises in Major League Baseball, the New York Mets are now broke and their financial information has gone public. After losing an astonishing $70 million in 2011, GM Sandy Alderson said the team plans to spend less than $100 million in 2012, a $20 million drop-off from last season. In addition, the Mets front office does not plan on signing any more free agents until January.
Thus far this offseason, the Mets have strengthened their bullpen with veterans Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez, as well as swapping center fielder Angel Pagan for Andres Torres of San Francisco, leaving approximately $5 million to spend on other eligible free agents.
With question marks in the middle infield, behind the plate, in the outfield and in the starting rotation, the Mets have many spots to fill with a small amount of cash. After watching Jose Reyes leave for the Marlins, the Mets will need to spend their money wisely on veterans who can last throughout the season.
This list, lacking the superstar names that New York fans expect on a typical free agent radar, are realistic, cost-efficient players that could make an immediate impact on the 2012 Mets. The days of spending $20 million on a player are gone for now; that money now has to last an entire offseason.
Signing Rollins would certainly rattle the NL East
Rollins is probably out of the Mets' price range, but what a media frenzy his signing would create. The Mets have been irrelevant in the NL East while the Phillies, led by Rollins, have dominated. Signing a former cornerstone of Philadelphia's franchise could be the revenge New York fans have been waiting for.
This move would not only spite the hated Phillies, though. With Jose Reyes gone, the Mets have a void at shortstop that Ruben Tejada may not be able to fill. Rollins is the speed threat and experienced lead-off hitter the Amazins could use in their lineup, plus he could take some of the pressure off of David Wright on the left side of the infield.
Rollins is a proven winner, and hopefully his playoff experience and desire to win could become contagious in the locker room.
Chavez's catch in the NLCS made him a New York legend
With hardly any money left to spend this offseason, the Mets could find a way to still create excitement amongst the fans at a low price.
Endy Chavez, a New York hero for his incredible catch at the wall in the 2007 NLCS, would be a tremendous addition to the Amazins as a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement in the late innings.
In Texas last season, Chavez was the perfect bench player. Appearing in 83 games, Chavez hit .301 and only made one error in 587 innings played.
By bringing back Endy, Mets fans may gain hope that the magic and energy Chavez brought New York years ago could be revived in a glorious reunion that would be ideal for both sides.
Pudge is one of the greatest catchers in MLB history
‘Pudge,’ a potential Hall of Fame catcher, is closing in on the end of his legendary career. No longer an every day player (he appeared in just 44 games in Washington last season), he still shows some flashes of talent that made him an MVP in 1999.
Along with his incredible defensive skills and his ability to put the ball in play, Rodriguez would be an ideal mentor for Thole. Thole has had his share of defensive struggles over the past few seasons and is vulnerable batting, but remains the Mets hope behind the plate to catch a majority of the games.
Mets GM Alderson has already expressed his desire to have a veteran catcher play about 40 percent of the games, which Rodriguez is fully capable of.
Wilson is one of the best fielders in the MLB
Wilson, the journeyman infielder, would be an ideal signing for the Mets. With a young, inexperienced middle defense consisting of three major parts, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, Wilson could provide stability and leadership to an otherwise vulnerable infield.
Although his offensive numbers are unimpressive (he didn’t hit any home runs in 2011), he could play every day if needed to. Also, coming off a two-year, $10 million contract, Wilson should not be due to make more than $3 million this season. With the Mets in financial trouble, a cheap addition like Wilson could be a perfect fit.
Duke could be a back-end starter in the Mets' rotation
Zach Duke will likely never pitch as well as he did in his first couple of months in the bigs (8-2, 1.81 ERA as a rookie), but he still could be a valuable asset to any pitching staff. The 28-year-old left-hander primarily came out of the bullpen last season for Arizona, but has logged 200-plus innings as a starter on two separate occasions as well.
With Chris Capuano leaving for Los Angeles, the Mets have a southpaw vacancy in their rotation that Duke could fill perfectly. He only made $3.5 million last season, and his 3-4 record with a 5-plus ERA means his price will certainly not go up. If the Mets can sign Duke to a cheap deal, they could also search the market for a fourth outfielder.
DeRosa is a versatile player that could still hit the long ball
DeRosa, a New Jersey native, has already voiced his opinion about how he would like to return to the East Coast to finish his career. His Ivy League pedigree also fits the recent front-office mindset of signing smart players that could mentor younger guys and make the right decisions on the field (i.e. Chris Young-Princeton, Chris Capuano-Duke).
DeRosa is another utility player that has played an impressive six positions over the course of his career. With the Mets track record of injuries, DeRosa would be useful because of his ability to play both the infield and outfield, but he has only appeared in 73 games himself over the past two seasons.
Cabrera could fill in at either shortstop or second base for the Mets
Orlando Cabrera, the 14-year veteran, has won two Gold Gloves and appeared in six different playoffs. Although his offensive numbers typically provide a batting average around .270 and less than 10 home runs, Cabrera could play either shortstop or second base, which could be invaluable to the Mets given their injury history and inexperience up the middle.
Having only earned $1 million last year, Cabrera is very affordable and hardly a commodity on the market with the great number of utility players available as free agents. The Mets could easily swoop in on Cabrera and have a solid middle infielder available off the bench.
The idea of two knuckleballers in the same rotation may just be crazy enough to work
Although highly unlikely, the Mets could be the first Major League franchise to ever feature two knuckle ball pitchers in the same starting rotation. Wakefield, who throws a slower knuckle ball than Dickey, is a free agent after an improbably successful career for the Boston Red Sox who no longer have a vacancy for him in their rotation.
Wakefield is old (he turns 46 in August), but his famous dancing pitch puts little stress on his arm and allows him to eat innings at the same rate as some of the premiere starters in the game. Pitching at Citi Field would also be beneficial to him because knuckle balls are prone to being hit in the air. But in a gigantic park where few home runs are hit, there is potential that some of the balls that he gave up for homers at Fenway could easily turn into fly outs in New York.
Ross has had success against the Phillies before. He could do it again in New York
Ross had an unsuccessful, injury plagued 2011 campaign which should significantly drop his price from $6 million in 2011. The former San Francisco Giant and Florida Marlin has experience in the NL East and can play either corner outfield position, a useful sales pitch to potential suitors.
Philadelphia fans remember Ross as the one-man wrecking crew in the 2010 playoffs that single-handedly eliminated the Phils en route to a San Francisco title. He’s experienced, affordable, flexible and healthy.
Additionally, Ross has already patrolled the same outfield as new center fielder Andres Torres, who could persuade Ross to reunite with him in New York. At a relatively low cost, it would be foolish for the Mets to not inquire about Ross.
Marquis could log quality innings in the Mets' rotation
The Mets nearly signed Jason Marquis two years ago before his $15 million contract with the Washington Nationals, and they’re probably happy they didn’t. Marquis did not survive the full two years in Washington, as he was traded to Arizona at the 2011 trade deadline. Since his big payday, he has been 10-15 with a 5-plus ERA.
However, at the age of 32, Marquis still has a few quality years left in his arm and seems to be a safe bet to pitch 180 innings or more. Given Niese and Santana’s recent injuries, a back-end starter with NL East experience who could eat innings is exactly what the Mets need.