Nov 10

Mets’ GM Alderson Goes To GM Meetings With Many Needs But Few Options

There is normally little action at the GM meetings, which begin Monday for New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson in Orlando, the same city in which the winter meetings will take place a month later.

Alderson is open to discuss trades and signing free agents, but realistically the Mets have little trading pieces on the major league level, and the most coveted prospects on the minor league level he wants to protect.

Alderson knows he must protect his young pitching assets while Matt Harvey mends from Tommy John surgery.

The free agent market will be flooded Monday when those players given qualifying offers are expected to reject them to test the market.

Let’s face it, the Mets won’t be serious bidders for Jacoby Ellsbury, are expected to lose out on Shin-Soo Choo, and will likely be outbid for Stephen Drew. This leaves the Mets still with holes in the outfield and shortstop.

The Mets also have need for two starters at the back end of the rotation, a back-up catcher for Travis d’Arnaud, depth in the bullpen and a decision to make at first base between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Alderson has a lot of work to do, and despite saying he has the latitude to make a $100-million package, but Ellsbury and Choo what more than that and more than four years.

So, Alderson will be in Orlando to meet with general managers and agents and must be creative.

 

Nov 05

Only One Player Given Qualifying Offer Interests Mets, Who Should Be Wary Of Shin-Soo Choo

Early speculation of whom the New York Mets might consider in the free-agent market could turn out to be pricey as 13 free agents received qualifying offers from their respective teams. Not surprisingly, no Met free agent was given a qualifying offer, but three Yankees – Robinson CanoHiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson – were given the $14.1 million offer.

CHOO: Mets Should Be Cautious.

CHOO: Mets Should Be Cautious.

That figure was derived at averaging the top 125 salaries from 2013, and each player offered that amount regardless of his salary last season.

The list includes Carlos Beltran, Cano, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Granderson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kuroda, Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Ervin Santana.

Numerous media outlets at one time had linked Beltran, Choo, Cruz, Drew, Ellsbury, Granderson and Napoli to the Mets, but only in speculative terms.

The players have until 5 p.m., next Monday to accept the qualifying offer, and if they do will have agreed to a one-year, $14.1 million contract. If the player rejects the offer his former team will be awarded either a first or second-round draft pick as compensation.

The Mets’ first-round pick – tenth overall in the draft – is protected and determined on their 2013 record of 74-88, but general manager Sandy Alderson said losing a second-round pick would not be a deterrent.

You’ll recall the compensation issue is why the Mets did not go after outfielder Michael Bourn last season. Bourn eventually signed with Cleveland and the Mets eventually settled on minor leaguer Juan Lagares in center fielder.

Of the players on the list, the Mets appear to be the most serious about the 31-year-old Choo, but reportedly won’t go beyond four years. The Mets’ needs at shortstop and outfield had them thinking about Drew and Ellsbury, but $14.1 million would be too high for Drew, but palatable for Ellsbury.

However, in many cases with qualifying offers, the team signing them does so as a mechanism to buy negotiating time to work out a multi-year deal.

The Mets are expected to swim in the middle depths of the free-agent pool, which is what Boston did last year in building its championship team with the signings of Drew, Napoli and Shane Victorino.

Choo fits into that category, but he’s not one to build around. He has averaged 20 homers and 81 RBI during his nine-year career with Seattle, Cleveland and Cincinnati. However, those are hitters parks and he was surrounded by better line-ups than what he’d have with the Mets in Citi Field.

Choo hit .285 last year – 24 points below his career-high of .309 in 2009, but drew 112 walks in compiling a .423 on-base percentage, his most important statistic.

If signed, Choo would slot into center leading to a competition in right between Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Red flags for Choo are 133 strikeouts and only 54 RBI for his 21 homers (conceding he hit at the top of the order). He averages 146 strikeouts a season during his career, something the Mets have had far too much of those. Frankly, his production doesn’t warrant the strikeouts.

Choo made $7.3 million last year from the Reds, and during his career earned a total of $17.5 million, so the qualifying offer represents a huge raise for him. However, the market doesn’t work where the Mets can make a take-it-or-leave it offer. Especially, with his agent being Scott Boras, known to not leave money on the table. It is highly likely the qualifying offer will be rejected and Choo will enter the market.

Considering he has played in 150 games only four times during his career, his career .288 average doesn’t seem like much to warrant giving four years. If I am giving four years on a player with a qualifying offer, I’d overpay for Ellsbury and know I would be getting a star. I would also rather bring back Beltran for a couple of seasons.

The most I’d give Choo is two years for $28.2 million (two years of the qualifying offer) plus an option. Anything more would be excessive considering the Mets’ other needs.

 

Oct 31

Potential Free Agents From World Series Teams And Possible Mets’ Interest

The champagne on the carpet Boston Red Sox clubhouse isn’t even dry and there’s wonder which players from both World Series teams will be back, and if not, might the Mets be interested, or more to the point, will they have a chance?

Here are the most intriguing names:

Jon Lester: Don’t even think about it. Lester, who beat the Cardinals twice and arguably, could have been the Series MVP, just competed the final season of a five-year, $30-million contract with an option for 2014. His yearly salary numbers are reasonable by Mets’ standards, but the Red Sox have said they’ll resume negotiations. If they fail to reach an agreement, they can always pick up the $13 million option and try again later.

ELLSBURY: Could be too pricey for Mets.

ELLSBURY: Could be too pricey for Mets.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Reportedly, after the 2011 season the Red Sox offered him a $100-million package, which was rejected by agent Scott Boras, who countered with $130 million. The following season, despite injuries limiting him to 74 games, the Red Sox made another offer of $75.25-million deal over five years, which was again turned down. Ellsbury improved this year, and Boras already planted the seeds saying 11 teams are interested. Although Sandy Alderson said the team has the resources to offer a $100,000-million deal, it won’t be spent on a hitter who isn’t a middle-of-the-order force.

Stephen Drew: The Red Sox said they’ll tender a contract to the shortstop, despite Xander Bogaerts the heir apparent for the job. Shortstop is a necessity for the Mets because they can’t rely on Ruben Tejada, but would they go over $10 million – which Drew made – to fill the position or will they hope for the best with Tejada? Teams are built on defense up the middle, but Tejada regressed in that area.

Mike Napoli: Initially the Red Sox offered Napoli a three-year, $39-million contract, but took it off the table and gave him $5 million when a physical revealed a degenerative hip condition. Napoli proved he was healthy as he played in 139 games and drove in 92 runs. Trouble is, he did it at first base, where the Mets have a glut of unproven and underachieving options.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: The $4.5 million he made this season fits into the Mets’ budget and there’s a need for a veteran presence to back up Travis d’Arnaud. There are other options, including bringing back John Buck.

Carlos Beltran: Reportedly, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon reached out to Beltran at the All-Star Game and the club and veteran outfielder made amends. During his stay with the Mets, Beltran gave them everything he had and was under appreciated. Beltran made $13 million this season and hit .296 with 24 homers and 84 RBI. He’ll be 37 next year.

Chris Carpenter: A shoulder injury prevented Carpenter from pitching this year, in which he made $10.5 million. There have been reports he will retire this winter. If he’d like to pitch another year, it might not be possible with all the Cardinals’ young arms.

Rafael Furcal: The Mets said they will eschew injury reclamation projects, which will probably exclude Furcal, who did not play this season because of torn ligament in his elbow. However, they are faced with their own shortstop, Tejada, recovering from a broken leg. Furcal made $7 million this year, and at 37, won’t get near that, from the Mets or anybody else.

Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.