As we learned last week, there’s little transparency when it comes to the Mets’ payroll budget. Is GM Sandy Alderson just shrewdly waiting out the market or are his hands fiscally tied by ownership? If we consider the later scenario, then top free agents like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez and the three hitters from Kansas City are all a pipe dream. But the Mets still have roster holes to fill, so let’s take a look at some potential bargains, shall we?
Coming off a great year and with age and Scott Boras on his side, Eric Hosmer is looking for something in the neighborhood of a 6 or 7-year contract north of $120 million. That’s not a neighborhood the Mets are likely to visit this off-season. So far Carlos Santana (3/$60mm), Yonder Alonso (2/$15mm), Mitch Moreland (2/$13mm) and backup Matt Adams (1/$4mm) are off the board. Still left are a number of solid, if not All-Star caliber options, including ancient players like Adrian Gonzalez, Adam Lind, Mark Reynolds and Mike Napoli, human strikeout machine Chris Carter, and our old friend Lucas Duda. The one name that seems like he could be a reasonable get is Logan Morrison. He’s 30, coming off a very strong season and can play some corner outfield as well as first base. Problem is, how much will it take and is this a high enough priority with Dominic Smith on board and other more glaring needs to address?
If the Mets want a one year stop gap there are plenty of options available both via free agency and trade. Guys like Brandon Phillips and Howie Kendrick come to mind. However, as the Mets already have Asdrubal Cabrera penciled in as a one year stop gap with no one waiting in the wings, wouldn’t it make more sense to fill the keystone with someone with a little more staying power? Free agency features mostly guys who are old or not that good. Everyone loves Neil Walker, but he’s 32, has missed time with back injuries and looking for a multi-year contract. No thank you. Better options are on the trade market and that’s why Alderson has been working the phone lines to see what it will take to get Jason Kipnis or Cesar Hernandez.
Mike Moustakas is the big fish here, and word is, with the Angels and Giants now out of consideration, his asking price might drop. Despite coming off a 38-home run season, interest in Moose has been tepid and with good reason. Take a closer look at the back of his baseball card. In seven big league seasons he holds a lifetime slash line of .251/.305/.425. Sure, 38 home runs sounds great, but consider that his second highest season total was 22. Is he an upgrade over the Wilmer Flores/Jose Reyes/T.J.Rivera trifecta we trotted out last year? Sure he is. But he’s clearly not worth near the 5-year/$90 million contract that some outlets have projected he’ll command. Unless that number drops to like 3/$48, the Mets should steer clear of the Moose. NJ native Todd Frazier is still available. On the plus side, he’s a good fielder by every metric, a great clubhouse guy and can hit some home runs. He can also play first base if needed. There’s a lot to like. But, consider that he’ll be 32 when the season starts and his batting average has dropped four consecutive years. Other free agent options are mostly hasbeens who would have been great pick ups three or four years ago and Trevor Plouffe who’s still relatively young but seems to be in free fall. On the busy trade market, Evan Longoria is already off the market and it would take a haul of top prospects that we don’t possess to even enter a discussion about two stars not worth mentioning here.
There are a few free agent outfielders who’d make a lot of sense for the Mets. A return of Jay Bruce would give us an outfielder/first baseman and middle of the order hitter. Lorenzo Cain would give us an every day centerfielder and lead off hitter. However, both are looking for four year deals and, unless Alderson surprises us, we’re not likely to see either in Queens this summer. The good news is that there are a lot of good depth guys available if the Mets seem intent on giving Juan Lagares one last shot at owning centerfield. Guys like Jon Jay, Austin Jackson, Jarrod Dyson, Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere and others are there for the taking and won’t cost much. There are also some veteran guys looking to reestablish value like the two Cargos – Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez.
Forget Darvish and Arrieta and Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb will probably be out of our price range as well. A number of other options are already off the board, but free agency still includes a few interesting depth guys like Andrew Cashner, Jaime Garcia, Francisco Liriano, and Chris Tillman. Edinson Volquez is coming off Tommy John surgery and won’t be able to pitch until late in the season, but maybe the Mets could offer him the type of deal that Minnesota gave Michael Pineda? That way we’d have a bulldog ready to go in 2019 when Matt Harvey is likely to be gone.
Just spit balling here of course, but for a franchise with a lot of holes, no top prospects to trade, little money to spend, and no appetite to rebuild, it’s going to take some ingenuity to be competitive again. In the meantime, it’s the holiday season so, what better time is there to wish for a pleasant surprise? I’ve asked Santa Claus for Lorenzo Cain and Jake Arrieta, but something tells me there’s a better chance of waking up Christmas morning to a Maserati in my driveway with a big red bow on it.