Curb Your Enthusiasm: 10 Free Agents Who Aren’t Coming to The Mets (and Two Who Are)

Quite a comedown since November 1, huh? Despite the somewhat unseasonal warmth we’ve had here in the northeast, the baseball winter has begun.

Since there are no games being played, baseball-related sites will depend on trade rumors and free agent signing speculation  to generate clicks. This will further elevate the expectations for Mets GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpon family to add a few big ticket items this offseason as the team attempts to take the final step.

I think the period from say, July 24  when they traded for Juan Uribe and the August 30 deal for Addison Reed will prove to be the exception and that the Mets will soon return to semi-hibernation as Alderson’s excruciatingly methodical plodding, coupled with the Wilpon’s financial insecurity, will limit the action. That hasn’t stopped every other site on the blogosphere from full-speed speculation. As we have seen in previous winters, this quickly goes over the top and leaves the fan base frustrated and feeling like they somehow have been cheated when nothing happens.

Now, it’s our turn. But in typical Mets Today fashion, we’d rather follow the road less traveled. Below is who we think the Mets won’t be getting. And just remember, the author of this column also correctly predicted the 2015 NL East winner and the outcome of the 2015 World Series!

For obvious reasons, we won’t include a single starting pitcher on this list. Also, there are more than likely going to be even more free agents shortly when the non-tender list is published. But since our millions of readers can’t wait, here we go…

  • Yoenis Cespedes: If 2015 turns out to be a blip on the radar and the next few Mets seasons are mediocre again, then Cespedes’ stature as a Met will grow to mythical proportions. If however, they are able to put together a run of sustained post season success, his scorching hot five weeks in 2015 will fade from memory. It was the right move at the right time to get him last July 31. His September 9th homer off Drew Storen finished both Storen’s and the Nationals 2015 season. Then he got hurt and crashed to earth. His last and perhaps most lasting impression will be the crumpled form at home plate in Game Five. I’d like to keep him, but I doubt the Mets do.
  • Ben Zobrist and Darren O’Day: The competition for these two is going to be fierce, which will drive the cost to acquire one or both of them into the upper stratosphere. Either would be very useful to the Mets, Zobrist to serve as the caddy for the still-developing Dilson Herrera at second and Michael Conforto in left, while providing great defense and a veteran presence. O’Day is probably the best reliever out on the market right now and would be the perfect bridge to the closer. I suspect as many as a dozen teams will be in on both, including the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox. There is no way the Mets win a bidding war against any of those financial giants.
  • Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon: Much like their stubborn (and in retrospect correct) insistence on holding on to their young arms, the Mets aren’t going to move Conforto. Since all three of these guys profile as corner outfielders, you can see the problem. Alderson has attempted to pry Upton from both Arizona and San Diego several times, most recently being last July. Upton and Heyward are on the right side of thirty and would help the Mets, but the presence of a cheaper and potentially just as effective Conforto makes their additions unlikely.
  • Dexter Fowler, Denard Span, Geraldo Parra: These are the second tier of outfielder free agents, but their value is somewhat improved  because they can play center field and are nominally at least, lead off material.  I used to like Fowler, but advanced stats indicate a player in decline. Span’s hip condition worries me, as does Parra’s performance after being traded to Baltimore. I would be interested in either of the latter two on a short-term deal, say a year with an option. I’ll bet each gets much more from some second division team trying to do something to appease their fan base.
  • Ian Desmond: I am certain the Mets won’t sign any of the previous nine.  I am less certain that they don’t sign Desmond, who had a terrible 2015, including the Opening Day error-fest against the Mets. Another reason for passing on Desmond is that our team already rosters a cheaper version of him in Wilmer Flores. They might view Desmond as a fall back in the event they don’t re-sign Cespedes or fail to land Zobrist or O’Day. If the Mets really want a Washington shortstop, they should try to get Trea Turner. Yeah, right.

I think the master plan is to mirror 2015 as closely as possible: stay close, ride the young guns until the All-Star break and then add a bat at the deadline.  This offseason,  the plan will be to strengthen the bullpen and the bench. Here’s how they will do it:

  • Bartolo Colon: I get it, being a big league baseball player is probably the coolest job on earth. The salary is enough to provide for the  next several generations and the other perks are just as fantastic.  I don’t blame Bartolo for wanting to continue this ride for as long as he can. Might he be willing to come back in a bullpen role for say a one-year, $10M deal? Alderson’s main task this year will be to build a strong bridge to Jeurys Familia. Resigning Colon and going to arbitration with Reed are part of this process. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them bring back Jerry Blevins as well, although in Blevins’ case, he could quickly get too expensive, plus the Mets liked lefty Josh Smoker enough to add him to the 40-man. They’ve also got Hansel Robles and Eric Goeddel returning and they might get Josh Edgin back by mid-season. Another name to watch is knuckleballer Mickey Jannis, who they rescued from the Long Island Ducks in mid-summer and later sent the AFL for further seasoning. Still too many walks there, but if Jannis can harness the knuckler like another former Met pitcher did…
  • Daniel Murphy: You read it here first, Murphy will be a Met in 2016 (and beyond). I get the comparisons to Chase Headley, but Murphy is not Headley and his post-season heroics aside, no GM is going to go big money for Murphy. He doesn’t field well enough for an NL job and his slash line just doesn’t profile for a DH. Then there’s the draft pick impediment. The longer Murph goes unsigned, the more probable a reunion at say, three years $33M becomes. He becomes the poor-man’s version of Zobrist, filling in at first, second and third, where the Mets may be needing help during the long season. Plus he is younger than Zobrist.

Well, at least this offseason will be the shortest on record. Only 112 days between Game Five and 2016 pitchers and catchers!

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. DanB November 12, 2015 at 8:28 am
    I don’t think you should dismiss the idea of signing a starting pitcher so quickly. The Mets could use a veteran pitcher that can be relied on for 200+ innings with all these starters on inning limits. Plus it would allow them to package Wheeler and Niese.
    I also think the plan to add a bat at the trading deadline, like 2015, is a fool’s plan. The first 82 games count just like the last 82. It assumes the Nats come out of the gate slowly like 2015. That is not a given. It also assumes the Mets can get a bat. Don’t forget how close the Mets were to getting Bruce or Gomez for more than they got Cepedes for. What Cespedes did was an once in a decade thing.
    • Dan Capwell November 12, 2015 at 10:00 am
      didn’t say I agree with it, just saying what I think they’re thinking!
      • DanB November 12, 2015 at 11:16 am
        Yeah, that would be a $135 million strategy. I wonder how angry Met fans would be if they spend under $110 and start slowly again. Hopefully we will never know.
  2. DaveSchneck November 12, 2015 at 11:46 pm
    As usual, nice write-up.
    I tend to agree with your assessment of who the Mets won’t sign, and I also don’t think this is necessarily bad.
    The first matter of business is whether Murphy accepts the QO. Friday will resolve this.

    From my perspective, the Mets don’t need a big ticket FA or a big move. I see the priorities as 1. getting a lockdown guy in the 8th 2. having a legit backup for Wright 3. getting a quality LH CF to compliment Lagares and provide late inning defense and 4. improving the middle infield defense.

    I keep ALL our big 5 pitchers, but would consider dealing only Wheeler in the right package due to the uncertainly surrounding his return.
    I like Bartolo but he’ll likely find a role as a starter elsewhere.
    I keep Niese and he is worth more to the Mets than he can yield in a trade. His postseason bullpen peformance was quite interesting.
    I DO overpay for the 8th inning guy and DW backup, neither of which breaks the bank or costs a draft pick.

    I do not overpay for Cespedes, or Upton, or Span, Heyward, Gordon, Zobrist, or O’day. No thanks on Fowler. No thanks on Desmond.

    I think it makes much more sense this winter to preserve the pitching depth, avoid the lure of big ticket offense, but find high role players that prioritize depth and sound play over offense.

    • argonbunnies November 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm
      If you’re going to overpay for an 8th inning guy, who’s out there beyond O’Day? Or did you mean overpay in prospect talent, not dollars?
  3. Vilos November 13, 2015 at 10:38 pm
    What are the mets going to do this offseason?
    First they are going to try to get a shortstop like Rollins or Alexi Ramirez type. 1-2 years for 5 per year. Then they need a utility infielder who can hit like johnson/uribe for a 1 year deal at 4-6 for the year. Then they’ll spend 5-8 for a reliever. They’ll platoon kirk in center, and cuddyer will patoon with who ever is in a slump, and so forth.
    What should they do? Its pretty obvious to me. Continue to score runs and offer Cespedes 6 years at 15 a year.
    • Andy November 17, 2015 at 7:05 pm
      If 6/90 would do it I’m pretty sure the Mets would take that. Problem is that some club will probably offer Cespedes 6/100+.
  4. argonbunnies November 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm
    With the price of good relievers (even non-closers) rising and a glut of decent back-end starters available, the time has never been better to convert Jon Niese to relief. We can get someone like Jeremy Guthrie to give us a Niese-like #5 starter for peanuts, while using Niese in the 7th rather than giving $20 mil to O’Day or two good prospects like the M’s dealt for Benoit.

    If Colon can’t find a starting job he likes elsewhere, he’d make a great middle guy. With Colon and Niese in the ‘pen, both capable of going 3 innings on any given day, Collins could have as quick a hook as he wanted, and not have to worry about burning out his late-inning guys.

    • DaveSchneck November 19, 2015 at 8:49 pm
      First, to answer your question above, I would be in on Soria or Madson, whomever the player evaluators like more, and be sure to outbid the market. I want a guy behind Familia that still has good life in his arm and has closed at the MLB level. Reed meets this criteria as well but it is too risky slotting him into the 8th. He can be kept for depth.

      Second, Zobrist would be perfect for the Mets in 2016, age and cost aside. They need a legit MLB bat that can hit from the right side and that provides insurance on the infield for DW, and at 2B should Herrera get the job and falter. Murphy can be a back up plan but Zobrist’s RH hitting makes him preferred, despite age and price. This is a year the Mets can afford to overspend on those two acquisitions instead of a Cespedes-type big deal. Front=load the FA contracts if future payrolls are a concern.

      Third, I am all in on using Niese in the pen, although I would start him off as the #5 starter and only move him to the pen if/when Wheeler returned, and the other Fab 4 are healthy and performing better than Niese. I would not let this deter the acquisition of a legit 8th inning guy.

      Last, Colon on the pen would be nice but unlikely. His market would have to collapse, but that could happen. He savvy, experience, and popularity are major pluses.

      • argonbunnies November 20, 2015 at 8:01 am
        Ah, good call on Soria and Madson. Either would be a definite improvement, and it’s possible that the market won’t go crazy for one of them. If all three get big bucks, though, I’d prefer O’Day.

        I would love Zobrist, but someone’s going to pay him to play beyond when he’s still good, and that probably can’t be the Mets unless the Wilpons significantly open the purse strings to accommodate $15 mil of dead weight in 2020 or whenever.

        Why start Niese in the rotation? If we start him in the ‘pen, we can get a #5 starter just as good on the cheap, and have a much better bullpen.

        Agreed on not using internal options all the way up to Familia.

        • DaveSchneck November 20, 2015 at 4:50 pm
          Certainly would consider Niese in the pen right from the get go, based on availability of other possible #5s (Colon, Montero, Verrett, import).

          That would be a pricey bullpen with Familia around $4 mil, and import for the 8th around $9 mil, Reed around $6 mil, and Niese at $9 mil. Reed may become expendable in that equation, giving Robles the 7th and maybe bringing in Parnell and some others on non-roster incentive laden contracts. Mejia is a question mark, (affordable if they think he can be good without PEDs) but he can’t play until July regardless.

        • argonbunnies November 22, 2015 at 7:32 pm
          You’re right, it is an expensive way to build a bullpen, but I think now is the time to do that, while you have 3 cheap aces in the rotation.

          If we commit to Niese as a reliever, I doubt Colon would hesitate to sign on as 5th starter for a reasonable contract.

          Suppose we’re paying Niese and Madson either way; financially, would you rather sign up for one year of Colon, or 3 years of Soria? And if you choose “neither”, is a bullpen of Familia, Madson, Reed and Robles really good enough to help offset our position player weaknesses?

          The Mets probably need a good SS more than they need a deep bullpen, but I don’t know how they’d achieve the former. The altter at least seems doable.

  5. Dan Capwell November 19, 2015 at 4:53 pm
    When are you people going to believe me? I called the division, the series in five games and now this:

    • argonbunnies November 20, 2015 at 8:06 am
      Easy there, prophet. “The Mets are expected to bid on Murphy, but not be the highest bidder” (Rubin)? We don’t know anything more now than we did when you wrote that Murphy will re-sign.

      Hang your hat on the division and the series until Murphy actually returns.

      Personally, I am grateful for the happy Murph memories, but would prefer to see him go. I have been watching his shortcomings for 6 years and I’m sick of them. Time to bring on the next guy and a new set of shortcomings.

  6. argonbunnies November 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm
    So here’s a trade idea: Lucas Duda, Marcos Molina and Blake Taylor for Joey Votto and cash.

    Why the Mets would do it: Votto is the best OBP guy in the game, with an intelligent approach to hitting that gives him as good odds as anyone to age well.

    Why the Reds would do it: Salary dump. They are entering a rebuilding phase and would surely love to move Votto’s contract, a proposition once considered impossible before the Carl Crawford and Prince Fielder deals. Duda gives a more-than-adequate replacement, and Taylor and Molina have the draft and prospect ranking pedigrees to make a salary dump not look like a PURE salary dump.

  7. argonbunnies November 22, 2015 at 7:24 pm
    And here’s a signing idea: Denard Span for $12m for one year, plus a $16m team option for 2017.

    Why the Mets would do it: Span can fight off tough pitches and put up good ABs against good pitchers. A 1-2-3 of Grandy, Span and Votto would be exhausting for the opposition, and ensure the 4-5-6 guys always facing a pitcher in the stretch. Span is also an exciting player who will steal some bases and dive for anything he can get to in the OF. Sharing some time with Lagares might help keep him healthy. If he breaks down again, you’ve only wasted $12m once and are then done with him.

    Why Span would do it: A 1-year contract isn’t ideal for a 32-year-old, but $12m is good money for a guy who was injured. If you’re going to roll the dice on rebuilding your value for a better run at free agency later, who better to do it with than the defending NL champs? Plus, if the Mets want to keep you off the market for 2017, they have to pay you handsomely for the privilege. Either you’re on a good team that really wants you, or you’re hitting FA again after a (hopefully) healthy season.

  8. argonbunnies November 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm
    It sure would be nice to upgrade our SS defense, wouldn’t it? Here are our options at SS right now, as far as I can tell:

    – Play Flores there. At this stage in his career, he is basically replacement level. On a bad team, maybe you stick with the growing pains given the offensive upside, but the Mets have a chance to win now, and it’d be stupid to give away games fielding a AAA player.

    – Play Tejada there. It could be argued that Tejada’s average SS glove plus his ability to draw walks out of the #8 hole add more value to the Mets than Flores does. Still, this is setting the bar pretty low.

    – Trade for Erick Aybar. The Braves are punting the present, and should have no qualms dealing a non-impact player with 1 year on his contract in-division. Unless other suitors are lining up, any prospect with any sort of potential at all should do it. Aybar is basically Tejada with better speed, athleticism and defense, and an even more contact-oriented hitting approach. He’s 32, he doesn’t walk or hit HRs, and he does make some errors, so this is a distinctly limited player. Very good range, 15 steals, and very few strikeouts sound pretty nice right about now, though. Bonus: hustling, energetic player.

    – Sign Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera is basically Wilmer Flores with better hands. Cabrera will make some pretty plays at times, but the metrics thought his overall defense was awful in 2013, awful in 2014, and below SS average in 2015. At the plate, he’s a 15 HR guy who’s dangerous in stretches but doesn’t hit for a particularly good average or walk all that much. I really don’t see any point in acquire Cabrera as anything other than depth. If he can’t find a job, this would be a nice February get.

    – Trade for Hanley Ramirez. Depending on who you ask, the Red Sox may be looking to dump him and move on. Ramirez’s move off SS makes sense given that he was already mediocre there before he started aging, but really, he can probably give us what Wilmer does at the position, if not more. In 2013 he rated as an average defensive SS, and while I assume that’s a statistical fluke, the point is that if you actually consider Flores (and possibly Cabrera) playable there, then you have to consider Hanley playable there too. What Ramirez offers above everyone else on this list is short-term offensive upside. He has a .277/.341/.472 line over the last 4 years, and if he’s healthy, there’s a decent chance that not all of that past glory is behind him.

    Last year at this time, we here at Mets Today were arguing about whether Ramirez was the best use of the Mets’ limited FA budget. I preferred Andrew Miller and David Robertson. We all agreed, however, that if the Wilpons got NONE of the above, it was only due to being cheap. Hanley was certainly better than no Hanley.

    Well, now we have our chance — coming off a bad year, the guy can be had at a big discount. Do we get back beating that drum, or do we think a bad age 31 season was some sort of twist that changes everything?

    • argonbunnies November 30, 2015 at 11:13 pm
      There’s also Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. Two years after vying for the Seattle SS job, they’re now likely vying for the Tampa Bay SS job. Miller has a much more proven MLB bat: 101 OPS+ in >1000 ABs, while Franklin had one good half-season in 2013 and has been awful in ~350 ABs since. Ks are a big issue for Nick. On Franklin’s side, he’s a year and a half younger than Miller, has more raw power, and has twice posted .850 OPS numbers in AAA.

      On defense, it’s hard to know, but both guys have put up slightly below-average MLB SS numbers so far. I think the perception is that Miller has more range, but is also more erratic. I’d guess they’re probably both somewhere in between Flores and Aybar.

      I don’t know how much the Rays value Franklin for middle infield depth, but if there’s something else they want more, I’d be happy to take a shot that Nick turns into 2011-2012 Danny Espinosa. Probably not a good Plan A, though.

      • argonbunnies November 30, 2015 at 11:20 pm
        Speaking of Espinosa, given the way his 2015 ended (slumped, lost playing time, flipped out at Williams for failure to communicate playing time, and is now in line for big raise in arbitration), I wonder if the Nats are finally open to trading him for nothing much. He’s probably up there with Aybar as the best defenders on this list. Plus he has pop, more speed than Wilmer, and doesn’t turn 30 until 2017.