Free Agents Still Out There

We have Johan Santana in orange and blue, but there are still some fairly prominent pitchers (or at least, prominent names) out there ready for the taking.

In particular:

– Livan Hernandez
– Kyle Lohse
– Freddy Garcia
– Bartolo Colon
– Shawn Chacon
– Byung-Hyun Kim
– Ron Villone
– Odalis Perez

Livan looks to be headed to the Nats, so he’ll have to wait at least another year to re-unite with half-brother Orlando. Lohse could be a nice fit as a reliever, but he’s holding out for starter status. Chacon might not be worth signing to an MLB contract, since we’re not sure he’ll be better than, say, Joe Smith or Matt Wise. Still, there’s that Aaron Sele / Darren Oliver role that may or may not be filled by Jorge Sosa. Villone, Kim, and Perez could all be brought in on minor league deals. I still like the idea of signing Garcia for end of the year / 2009 insurance.

In addition, these veteran bats are still out there:

– Ryan Klesko
– Kevin Mench
– Mike Piazza
– Reggie Sanders
– Preston Wilson
– Mike Sweeney
– Kenny Lofton
– Shawn Green
– Tony Clark

Sweeney would be a sweet pickup if he doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to Carlos Delgado. It likely will never happen, but a Sweeney/Delgado platoon would be pretty impressive. Plus, Sweeney can don the catcher’s gear in a pinch. Other than my Mike Sweeney fantasy, Mench appears to be an ideal fit, as has been stated by many of you here. Clark or Sanders might be good choices, though with so little roster room we don’t want to get caught into another Julio Franco situation.

While Omar Minaya has stated that the Mets are set to go into spring training — presumably meaning no more acquisitions will be made before pitchers and catchers report next week — let’s pretend he’s still open to signing a veteran or two, either to a minor or major league deal. Who do you think could help, from the lot that is still available? (BTW, the above list is incomplete, so feel free to add on.)

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 February 8, 2008 at 12:56 pm
    As much as I’d like to explore the possibility of Kevin Mench — I think he’d prefer to stick with the AL, where he’s most familiar. And at that rate, he might pick himself up a guaranteed 1-year deal in the process.

    From that list, I see one glaring omission, and I’ve mentioned him at various points during the winter….and even dating back to the winter of 2005, before Julio Franco was added to Metville.

    Craig Wilson.

    1. It’d be a non-guaranteed contract.

    2. The only way we’d likely bring anyone in right now (with the current construction of the roster) is via a Minor League deal or ST Invite, and Wilson would probably accept it at this point — especially if he’s considering going back to the Pirates.

    3. Given the choices, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a free (at this point), very cheap overall — versatile bench option (who’s stated to the media that he’s open to the idea of being a role-player).

    My opinion:

    Mench (will either get 1 year deal, or stick in the AL where he belongs)
    Reggie Sanders — ancient and always hurt
    Preston Wilson — not as ancient as RS, but is always hurt
    Rondell White — see Preston Wilson
    Mike Sweeney — would probably demand a Major League deal and is much less versatile in what he can provide.

    Who’s left — factoring in the possible catching/right handed PH angle we have with Wilson?

    Dude plays 1B, LF, RF, can Catch in a pinch — and his presence as such would allow for some leeway in giving Castro some worry-free PH ab’s.

    Forget who’s left….who would even be a better fit?

    Certainly not any guys out there with a golden-blonde mullet! — alright, he cut that off….but he could always grow it back!

    I’m a fan of Craig Wilson, and hopefully Omar is too.

  2. joe February 9, 2008 at 3:01 am
    Thanks for bringing up Wilson — definitely an oversight and not sure how I missed him.

    I’ve been a fan of Craig Wilson since he first came up (again, my soft spot for backstops). But, you have to admit his performance since leaving Pittsburgh is downright frightening.

    My hope is that his previous performance had nothing to do with PEDs, his .222 with the Yanks was due to a change to the AL, and his .172 in 58 ABs with Atlanta was simply a slump. I wouldn’t think twice about giving him an ST invite — he’s a no brainer.

  3. Walnutz15 February 9, 2008 at 10:34 am
    Well, I’m more of the belief that Wilson’s recent stats stem directly from his health-issues. Wilson’s had a balky right shoulder for a few years now, let it go, and finally had surgery on it last fall.

    By all reports, he’s healthy and swinging pain-free right now.

    Only hang-up might be that he “never wanted to leave Pittsburgh” in the first place….and where was he traded? New York.

    If there’s not mutual interest, I wouldn’t be shocked. I would be, however, if the Mets don’t at least contact his agent.

    Yahoo article, from October after his season-ending surgery:

    “I know at this stage of my career, I’m not going to get a contract to be an everyday player, but I’d love to come back here and play off the bench,” said Wilson, who tied a major league record by hitting seven pinch-hit homers in 2001. “I always liked it in Pittsburgh and never wanted to leave here.”

    Additionally — “The shoulder injury took away much of Wilson’s power, but he said Friday he feels fine and is swinging the bat freely and without pain.”…-pirates-wilson

    Take a look-see……can’t hurt.

  4. isuzudude February 9, 2008 at 10:54 am
    Perhaps Wilson’s dreadful performance in Atlanta can be attributed to a slump, but what catches my eye was that he still only hit .180 in 61 at-bats for the White Sox’ AAA team after his stint with the Braves, striking out 28 times (once every 2.17 at-bats, yikes!) with just 3 extra base hits. Personally, I think Wilson’s a bum and a has-been who’s really a never-was. He had one season with 29 HR, but still struck out 169 times. Also, in 107 career at-bats as a pinch hitter, he’s hit .206. Aside from the fact that he can play positions in which we could use a back-up, there’s nothing about Wilson that’s attractive. If you want to invite him to spring training, fine. But I wouldn’t expect Wilson to make it past the first round of cuts.

    Walnutz – you may be right that Mench is destined to head back to the AL. The latest whispers have the Royals interested in him. However, I still think he makes the most sense, if the Mets were to sign any other position players to their 25-man roster. No, he doesn’t play 1B, but Damion Easley can, and with Mench’s presense, it would allow Easley to spell Delgado and Mench to spell Church against tough LHPs. I’m not quite sure familiararity is a big concern for Mench, as he has spent the last year and a half in the NL with a .267 average and 8 home runs in 288 at-bats last season. It doesn’t look like he embarassed himself to me. However, it’s probably going to boil down to which team offers him the most money and/or the opportunity to start, and in all likelihood that team will not be the Mets.

  5. Walnutz15 February 9, 2008 at 11:20 am
    “Perhaps Wilson’s dreadful performance in Atlanta can be attributed to a slump, but what catches my eye was that he still only hit .180 in 61 at-bats for the White Sox’ AAA team after his stint with the Braves, striking out 28 times (once every 2.17 at-bats, yikes!) with just 3 extra base hits.”

    Wilson’s had a nagging shoulder injury that he finally went in for surgery on — there are obvious flaws to his game, in that he’ll never be a .300 hitter or even likely approach 25+ homers (he’d never get that chance to play everyday anyway).

    However, as a utility guy off the bench — on a team that needs a versatile RH swingman with pop….I don’t see how Wilson couldn’t be attractive if he proves he can still swing.


    To me, that’s a no-brainer — especially when we’re inviting ancient, injury-bugged players back on guaranteed contracts (Easley) and minor league contracts (Valentin) respectively.

    Neither are as versatile as Wilson — though it could be argued that a healthy Valentin provides just as much…but couldn’t catch if necessary.

    Bringing in a (healthy) Wilson, also gives Willie the option of hitting Castro late in a game for Schneider….something he’ll likely never do, for fear of losing his backup catcher late in a game/extra innings.

    Of all the other options, I see Craig Wilson as the best out there…especially since it won’t cost us in terms of giving up a player.

  6. joe February 9, 2008 at 12:57 pm
    Walnutz, have to agree with you 100% on this one — Wilson appears to be a no-brainer. The problem however might be more about Wilson being interested in returning to NY than anything else.

    Although, the fact that Easley and Valentin are around could have something to do with it as well, based on Omar and Willie’s loyalty to “their guys”.

    One issue, though, that you pointed out — the Schneider issue. Unless Brian Schneider suddenly reverts to his 2004-2005 performance levels, there will effectively be two pinch-hit candidates at the bottom of the lineup instead of one. That said it would seem to be a priority to find someone who can catch a little bit and hit a bit to create flexibility. Hmm … maybe I’ll write a post about it.

  7. isuzudude February 9, 2008 at 5:01 pm
    Talk about timing: Wilson chose to sign a minor league contract with the Reds today. I guess Cincinnati thought they needed more depth behind Joey Votto, Scott Hatteberg, Jeff Keppinger, and Andy Phillips at 1B.

    I agree Wilson would have been worth a look at by the Mets, and perhaps a spot on the 25 man roster if he proved he could hit again in spring training. But personally, I’m not hot on the guy. Even before his shoulder woes he struck out too much and wasn’t a great pinch hitter (despite his 2001 season). Additionally, he may say he’s healthy and feelin’ good, but seriously, what do you expect him to say while he’s looking for a team to sign him? That he feels cruddy and that his swing is likely never to return? Educated guess: Wilson spends 2008 at AAA for Cincinnati, and he’s back at square one this time next offseason. And now that Wilson’s off the market, can we be in agreement that Mench is the best fit left available?

    Also: please don’t blame Omar for failing to bring Wilson in to camp. For all we know (as we’ve been speculating), Wilson may not be interested in coming back to a NY team.

  8. fafhrd316 February 9, 2008 at 6:28 pm
    I’d go for Wilson if I can’t get Mike Sweeney. He’ll play alot more than you think, what with Delgado having on and off again injuries. Plus, after this season, the Mets could stick with Sweeney at first as a starter, if they don’t want Delgado or trade/sign Adam Dunn in the offseason.
  9. Walnutz15 February 9, 2008 at 6:31 pm
    Interesting — I guess he had no interest in coming here to begin with.

    The whole Pittsburgh angle, to me, was him putting feelers out there after his surgery so that he’d at least have a job. Pittsburgh would’ve taken him back…in all likelihood.

    To me, this says the Reds are gonna go out and try to package Votto up in a deal for Blanton.

    If that happens — and Wilson can swing it come ST, then he’ll be a RH platoon-mate at 1bag with Scott Hatteberg.

    This will be a player I’ll follow in the early goings….but chances are, if the Reds clued Wilson in on what their plans are — he was never coming here anyway.

  10. joe February 9, 2008 at 7:03 pm
    I don’t think anyone disagrees that Mench would be a good fit (despite his abnormally large head and size 13 feet). However it appears that the Mets are set with Church as the regular, and Mench might not be interested in what would appear to be a part-time role — as has been mentioned he’s a better fit in the AL where he can get more ABs.

    Wilson would have been nice for all the reasons outlined by Walnutz — cheap, minor league deal, no commitment, the ability to play OF, 1B, and C, and the possibility that he might regain his power stroke. If he hit .280 last year, he wouldn’t have been available on a no-risk deal. Look at how we view Sweeney — a guy who is probably too good to give merely an ST invite to, and would prefer a starting job. The good ones are too expensive, too risky, or already snapped up, so we have to muddle through the crap at the bottom of the barrel and try to find potentially useful players who fit the Mets needs — which I still think should include an emergency backstop. And for the record, I’m not hot on incumbent utilityman Damion Easley — though I hope he proves me wrong.

  11. Walnutz15 February 11, 2008 at 7:25 am
    From Rotoworld:

    A’s agreed to terms with first baseman Mike Sweeney on a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    Sweeney spent 13 seasons in Kansas City, making $11 million in each of the past five years, but apparently couldn’t get a major league deal on the open market after two straight injury wrecked seasons. He’ll likely have to settle for platooning against left-handed pitching in Oakland, but between Daric Barton, Jack Cust and Dan Johnson there should be plenty of chances for Sweeney to get into the lineup against southpaws.

  12. Walnutz15 February 11, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Padres agree to deal with veteran Clark
    First baseman signed to add strength to San Diego bench

    Clark has agreed to a one-year contract worth $900,000 to play for the Padres. An official announcement could come as soon as Monday.

    Clark will give the Padres a bat with some pop off the bench and someone who can spell Adrian Gonzalez at first base on occasion. And Clark might even see time in the outfield as he’s been taking fly balls during the offseason. He hasn’t play the outfield since 2003, and that was just for one game.…7&fext=.jsp

  13. Walnutz15 February 11, 2008 at 7:55 am
    And finally…..

    In a report for, Ken Rosenthal writes…

    “The Mets do not believe Shannon Stewart or Kevin Mench would provide adequate insurance if Moises Alou were injured – Stewart has a below-average arm and Mench is a below-average defender.”

  14. joe February 11, 2008 at 11:05 am
    geez …. guess I should round up all this news and post it
  15. Walnutz15 February 11, 2008 at 11:17 am
    Lookin’ forward to it, slacker….j/k — love ya, mo.

    It’s interesting to see just how many dominoes are falling as we get closer to reporting. Doesn’t look like we’ll be inviting many more to ST — guess we’ll be looking at the Michel Abreu’s, Fernando Tatis’, and Mike Carp’s of the world…..

    Would’ve been nice to have kept Brett Harper — I’ll say that much!

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