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 Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson – were given the $14.1 million offer.
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.