Teams deciding to whom they offer arbitration was the kindling for this winter’s Hot Stove, and already the dominoes are falling.
Since 24 players were offered arbitration on Monday, teams have been racing to sign free agents and make deals — and the winter meetings are still a week away.
The first free agents to sign are the lesser ones — particularly, the nondescript middle relievers (Doug Brocail), guys on the comeback trail (Mike Hampton), and the non-roster guys with spring training invites (Billy Traber). My guess is the first “big name” free agent to sign will be a shortstop — probably either Edgar Renteria or Rafael Furcal, who startlingly was not offered arbitration by the Dodgers. I understand they’re looking for a new shortstop, but based on all the rumors, it appears that Furcal is banking on a multi-year deal, so it’s surprising that LA would pass on the potential draft pick. Even if Furcal accepted, would it have been so terrible to have Furcal back, possibly as a second baseman (where the Dodgers have another hole)? Guess so.
So how will the dominoes fall for the Mets? We’re hearing that Trevor Hoffman wants to talk to the Mets, and it’s not a bad idea for Omar Minaya to open discussions — for no reason other than to get K-Rod and Brian Fuentes to think again about their outrageous demands. When it’s all said and done, I see the Mets signing K-Rod or trading for Bobby Jenks. To me, J.J. Putz and Brian Fuentes are not fabulous long-term solutions — if the Mets want short-term, then they should sign Hoffman for a year to a.) close in ’09 and b.) teach someone such as Aaron Heilman, Eddie Kunz, Joe Smith, etc., how to close in the future. But I’m not seeing the Mets as getting serious about Hoffman.
My guess is that the first free-agent the Mets sign will be Chad Cordero — as a minor leaguer with an invite to spring training. If they don’t make the announcement this week, one definitely will be made at the winter meetings.
Also, if the Mets are serious about making a major, impact trade, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Ryan Church, Fernando Martinez, and one of their pitching prospects (Bobby Parnell, Jon Niese, Eddie Kunz) will be dealt. Church’s stock may not get higher, and I’m hearing rumblings that he’s not a favorite in the clubhouse. Further, as much as I discount Mike Francesa’s inane comments, I think New York is not the best place for Church. But most importantly, Church is currently cheap, a good all-around player, young, and the only legit MLB position player of value that the Mets are willing to part with. After all, the Mets are not trading David Wright, Jose Reyes, or Carlos Beltran, probably not trading Carlos Delgado, and will get little in return for Brian Schneider. Dan Murphy’s greatest value is to the Mets, not another organization, at this point. Same goes for Endy Chavez. Church, however, has value to many teams — particularly those looking to cut payroll — and can be very easily replaced with a free agent, as there is a glut of lefthanded hitting outfielders available. The prospect of trading Church is the only thing — to me — that makes sense in regard to the Mets’ inquiries on people like Raul Ibanez.
A flurry of moves will be made starting today and going through the next two weeks. Expect to see at least a few dominoes falling into the Mets’ lap shortly.