Will Mets Non-tender Andres Torres?

Before you get too attached to the Mets’ biggest position-player pickup of the offseason, you may want to brace yourself for the possibility that Andres Torres is non-tendered.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Mets made a trade for a player with the express purpose of non-tendering him; remember when the Mets traded Guillermo Mota to the Brewers for Johnny Estrada, then non-tendered Estrada a few weeks later? It was a stopgap insurance move to buy time while the Mets signed, then didn’t sign, Yorvit Torrealba (for ten good reasons), before eventually trading superstar prospect Lastings Milledge for Brian Schneider (and Ryan Church).

Could a similar strategy be in play here?

Think about it: Angel Pagan is in line for a raise via arbitration that will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 – $5M, and that’s WAY too much for Pagan in the grand scheme of the dead-broke Wilpon ownership (and considering Pagan’s frequent brain farts and regression in 2011, he’s likely not going to be worth that kind of salary). In return the Mets received a fairly inexpensive middling reliever (Ramon Ramirez) and a centerfielder who is similar to Pagan in that he likely will not be worth the salary he’s likely to be awarded via arbitration — which should be around $2.5M.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of money for most teams, but when you look at where the Mets are right now, financially, it’s a gaped, open-mouth price to pay for someone who is at best a fourth outfielder even on a last-place club. Think about what the Mets could do with an extra $2M or so (consider that that’s double what they’re paying Tim Byrdak in 2012, for example). Why in the world would the Mets pay $2.5M for a 34-year-old one-hit-wonder when they can pay the MLB minimum for someone like Kirk Nieuwenhuis to get similar (or possibly better) performance? Heck, even I would rather take my chances with Fernando Martinez in centerfield and hope for the best, rather than waste over $2M for Torres. No offense against Torres, but seriously — what do the Mets gain by putting a 34-year-old out there instead of trying out youngsters, in a season that is guaranteed to avoid the postseason? Especially when you consider the fact that most Mets fans will be more excited to see some kid from the farm patrolling the outfield pasture in Flushing rather than some nameless, never-was mercenary brought in from the Left Coast?

What do you think? Will the Mets offer Andres Torres arbitration? Should they? What would YOU do? Answer in the comments.

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. Ben_Yoel December 10, 2011 at 6:43 am
    Great post. A lot of good points here.

    I think the Mets will tender him a deal because of his defensive ability and Nieuwenhuis’s uncertainty coming off injury.

    Had Nieuwenhuis stayed healthy throughout 2011 you would have probably been dead one with this.

    • Izzy December 10, 2011 at 11:00 am
      How can you say a minor leaguer is a risk due to injury. In the world of lord sandy minor leaguers are all a guarantee. Its a trick, an illusion to fool all the other GMS. Sandy declares veteran contracts as a risk but never said anything about minor leaguers being a risk. Therefore Nwuwehuis and Mejia weren’t injured, just hidden away… for safety and for the Met PR machine.
  2. Tommy2cat December 10, 2011 at 8:20 am
    Joe –

    I agree with Ben. One of Torres’ strengths is his defensive skill as a centerfielder. As long as Duda will be grazing the grass in right field, we’ll need someone in center that can cover some serious ground.

    Capt. Kirk needs some time in AAA to get his legs back and I wouldn’t entrust centerfield to F-Mart, which rhymes with brainf–t. I thought we were trying to clear the air in center, eh?

    Nothing wrong with the experienced Torres holding down the fort until someone from the farm steps forward into a more prominent role in CF.

    Also, we lose a lot of team speed by subtracting Reyes and Pagan from our everyday line-up. Torres is a very capable baserunner, a quality not to be overlooked at a time like this.

    ‘Scuse the double-negative, but I wouldn’t non-tender Andres Torres.

    • Joe Janish December 10, 2011 at 9:55 am
      Tommy and Ben,

      If the Mets want Torres around because of his defense, why wouldn’t they have just kept Jason Pridie for the MLB minimum? Or, bring back Jeremy Reed or Cory Sullivan?

      I’m not being funny here, I’m serious; IMHO, $2.5M is too much to pay for a defensive specialist on a crappy team.

      And if the argument is that Torres has the potential to hit for a bounce back year, I’d answer that by suggesting Rick Ankiel — who is younger, has more power potential, similar defensively, and can be had for at least a million dollars less.

  3. Stan December 10, 2011 at 8:55 am
    I also think Torres will be the starting center fielder. He can at least play at a professional level, has good defensive skills, and may yet be able to put up some decent offensive numbers. If he falters, the minor league call up options are still there … limited as they may be. At this point, I’d certainly give Torres the benefit of the doubt.
  4. 86mets December 10, 2011 at 10:27 am
    The idea of non-tendering Torres has legimate merit if they have a plan in place to replace him with someone cheaper. For instance, if they trade Niese one of the pieces they get back could very well be a ML ready cost controllable young CF. In that case cutting lose of Torres makes a lot of sense. Even if you non tender Torres, getting Ramirez for Pagan has to be viewed as a win for the Mets. Monday will be interesting to see what the Mets do in this case.
  5. Gary S. December 10, 2011 at 10:38 am
    Is Don Bosch available?
    • Joe Janish December 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm
      I’d first put a call out to Don Hahn – he could at least hit in the clutch.

      Of course, if Claudell Washington made a comeback we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  6. Mike B December 10, 2011 at 11:20 am
    Its just to soon to care about something like this, If they want to use torres next year, thats fine. If they want to release Torres, well thats fine too. He is a good guy which is going to help when your team stinks and he has some speed, we did lose about 85 % of our sb with pagan and reyes gone. So whoever plays center better have some speed.

    Nice point Izzy, I couldnt agree more about the injury exuses.

  7. John December 10, 2011 at 11:43 am
    I think the plan is to move Bay to center and open up left for Murphy. Replacing bay late in games after 3 AB.
  8. gary s. December 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm
    murphy in left, bay in center and duda in right would be the worst defensive outfield in the history of baseball.Of course with the shortened fences if one of them could hit a 3 run homer or two early in the game, we could remove all three for defense after 2 ab’s.
    • Brian K December 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm
      Best comment AND most truthful to boot. His mere 2M comes off the books next year along with virtually all remaining LEGIT MLB contracts. If they plan on doing the same with Wright that they did with Jose this year they can not be allowed to operate and MLB should step in like it did with the Dodgers. While Jose was the spark plug and catalyst, Wright is the face of the franchise and is a top 10 overall player in MLB with his combination of glove at 3rd and his .300/30/130 potential with his INSANELY high SB % where he gets 30. So a 30/30 guy being traded for MORE minor leaguers wont fly, just like David Stern would let OK City give away CP3.
  9. Joe December 10, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    Possibly. Torres is either that or a short term solution.

    As to wasting money, a reasonable alternative would be to pay someone like Ankiel and some fraction of 2M. It really is not a big deal money-wise in that respect. Before, it is about wasting money on a Bay or Castillo like contract. Now, its spending a million or two more money partially for appearance sake. Improvement to me.

    As to playing time, Duda is a youngster, there still are one to two OF spots left and chances are Bay or someone else will get hurt. Plus, someone in the minors might actually play by mid-season. They might not be ready yet. And, part of the deal here was the reliever, admittedly “middling” to some people and getting something for Pagan and doing something. It’s not one, it’s everything.

    Anyway, yeah, sure, non-tendering could work.

  10. Jujo December 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm
    Torres is fine at 2.5 for a year. His defense yielded positive WAR and his OBA is respectable around .330. He is not a long term solution but we would have been paying Pagan twice this and we still don’t have a solid plan for CF yet (Kirk or other). He is actually one position I am less worried about. I think the Mets would do well to try to bring back Endy Chavez as a solid 4th OF. That would help with defense as well and fans some. We need a way to get more offense from 2B/SS/C. If Murphy can do the job at 2B, that helps. Tejada will be fine as SS but he is not an offensive force. The Mets need a RH banger at catcher to help with offense some. Of course they need starting pitching as well. Perhaps catch an injured pitcher (Webb or other on the cheap)?
  11. Paul December 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm
    I’m not sure where you expect to get a major league experienced centerfielder for substantially less than $2.5 million.

    There’s a good case for not handing the opening day job to a rookie fresh out of the minors (and coming off a season-ending injury) – the NY media. If Kirk N. gets off to a slow start, he’s not going to get a lot of patience. Better to wait until everyone stops paying attention and let him break in mid-year if he’s doing well in Triple-A.

    Don’t even suggest a guy with an arthritic knee who hasn’t ever played a full pro season as a viable option to be the starting centerfielder.

    • Joe Janish December 11, 2011 at 12:13 am
      “I’m not sure where you expect to get a major league experienced centerfielder for substantially less than $2.5 million.”

      What part of “Rick Ankiel” did you not understand?

      “There’s a good case for not handing the opening day job to a rookie fresh out of the minors (and coming off a season-ending injury) – the NY media.”

      That would be true in a year where the team in question has a shot at the postseason. The Mets will be lucky not to finish last in 2012, and everyone knows it. In my opinion, the situation will be quite the contrary: fans and writers will be clamoring for the Mets to give youth a chance rather than a middling player in his mid-30s. There won’t be any pressure in Flushing next spring and summer.

      “Don’t even suggest a guy with an arthritic knee who hasn’t ever played a full pro season as a viable option to be the starting centerfielder.”

      Why not? What is it that the Mets have to lose? They’ve been hyping and developing F-Mart for six years, and having him spend another year in AAA will do nothing to raise his value. Throw him out there, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. If it doesn’t work out they bring up Kirk and have another Cory Sullivan-type around as the backup / platoon plan. If F-Mart can’t make it through May, who the heck cares? At least you give a young kid with obvious talent a shot to be part of the future. What, pray tell, do the Mets gain if Torres hits .280 with 15 HR while they finish in last place? All that will do is turn him into a 35-year-old centerfielder who they can’t afford in 2013.

  12. Mike C December 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm
    Yeah, F-Mart is lucky if his knees hold up in left field some day, let alone thinking you could play him in centre on anything other than an emergency basis…
  13. argonbunnies December 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm
    Putting a priority on developing prospects does not mean promoting them to the bigs before they’re ready.

    Defense is valuable too. If Torres is as good as advertised, $2.5 mil is a decent deal. I don’t expect Ankiel to be a better deal. If he is, though, then sure, go for it.

    • Joe Janish December 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm
      Ankiel made $1.5M last year and had a poor year offensively. No one is knocking down his door this winter.
  14. gary s. December 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm
    Torres and Ankiel both stink and will play for cheap contracts.Sandy’s kind of players.They are perfect to replace last years 2 stiffs, Harris and Hairston.Imho a waste of money.Maybe Alderson can take his box of chocolates out and try and sign someone with a future.
  15. LongTimeFan December 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm
    Joe Janish –

    F-MART in CF? No way. He struggles in the corners with knee arthritis and bulky legs. He does not belong anywhere near CF.

    At this point, I think he’s better off converted to infield corner or traded to AL team for future DHing.

    As for Torres, I don’t see him non-tendered. At worse, Mets get a better CF and move Torres to bench. i think he starts for us, and Mets fans will really take to him the way Giants fans did for his hustle, work ethic, resiliency, and humble personality.

    As for Neiwenhuis, Alderson says he needs another half year in AAA. I think if he stays healthy, we’ll see him this year, a welcome infusion of athleticism and good all around tools.

    • Joe Janish December 11, 2011 at 12:00 am
      If F-Mart is a corner outfielder then he better start hitting 25-30+ HR in AAA if he’s going to be a prospect. I haven’t seen enough of him in CF to have a comment re: his knees and bulky legs. However I watched Andre Dawson play an excellent CF for many years with bad knees and bulky legs, so I’m not ready to write off F-Mart as a centerfielder.

      Alderson says Nieuwenhuis needs another half year so that his arbitration clock doesn’t start. Let’s be logical: baseball is baseball, what difference does it make if the experience comes at AAA or MLB?

      I can’t believe the Mets can afford to pay someone $2.5M to sit on the bench. They need to shed every dollar they can.

  16. Glenn December 11, 2011 at 12:07 am
    You do not not want to bring up a rookie until you know that rookie will stick because you don’t want to start their MLB service time clock before you have to. Neiwenhuis needs time in the minors and it’s more important he stay there and get more seasoning than save 2.5m. The Mets had problems defensively and so now they will have a strong SS and a strong CF which will greatly aid a pitching staff that lacks strikeout stuff. As for Pridie he is only a defensive specialist. Torres did have a good offensive 2010.

    This post shows a lack of understanding about finances. Alderson is not lowering payoff for just the present but also the future. The Mets can afford Torres, or even Reyes or Pujols if they so choose. What they cannot afford is dead money on bad players or one or two players eating a disproportionate amount of money. Torres is 2.5m 1yr commitment. The Mets are looking down the road when Davis, Duda, Niese will all hit arbitration hence they are lowering payroll lower than it need be to give them move to grow in the future.

    • Joe Janish December 11, 2011 at 1:09 am
      “You do not not want to bring up a rookie until you know that rookie will stick because you don’t want to start their MLB service time clock before you have to.”

      That is what small-market teams do because they are in small markets and have limited revenue opportunities. The Mets are in a big market and have unlimited revenue opps. This comment shows a lack of understanding of market size and market potential.

      “As for Pridie he is only a defensive specialist. Torres did have a good offensive 2010.”

      Pridie and Torres had very similar offensive output in 2011. They have had very similar offensive output throughout their minor league careers. They are very similar defensively, and very similar baserunners. Two main elements set the two players apart, in fact. One is the magical Cinderella season that Torres enjoyed in 2010. The other is the fact that Pridie is almost six years younger than Torres. Who’s to say Pridie couldn’t put up numbers similar to what Torres did in 2010, if given 600 plate appearances? Take a look at their minor league stats — the two players are startlingly similar.

      Finally, I don’t understand your argument re: looking down the road and saving finances for the future, since my argument is that the Mets should spend LESS than what they’ll be paying Torres. And yet I’m the one who does not understand finances. Huh.

  17. Henry Jasen December 11, 2011 at 11:38 am
    I wish Joe were right, but the Mets kept Harris and Hairston around all season for no particularly good reason.
  18. Rob December 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm
    I still don’t quite understand what all the savings will accomplish. The Mets apparently are not going to spend the money they’re saving now or in the immediate future. Does anyone think that next year they’ll be making a play for Cole Hamels or any of the other higher profile free agents that will be available? Heck no. They’re going to pocket the money. And if they’re pocketing all that money, then I hope that Joe is wrong, because I’m not about to root for a club that’s simply saving money for the sake of putting it in the owners’ pockets.
    • Joe Janish December 11, 2011 at 10:26 pm
      THANK YOU.
      • Rob December 11, 2011 at 10:43 pm
        YOU’RE WELCOME!!
  19. Rob December 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm
    I think you need to take a step back to actually look at the disparities between Torres and Pridie.

    First off, Torres has accumulated at least 2 WAR each of the last 3 seasons, 2 of which he played a combined 187 games, and the other being his 2010 campaign (6.8 WAR). Pridie hasn’t cracked 1 WAR. You could also say that has to do with a lack of playing time for Pridie, but why wouldn’t you take the more experienced of the two.

    Second, compared to what the team as a whole has been going through, 2.5 mil is nothing, and he has been worth much more than that during his time in the majors. Not to say Pridie isn’t a bargain, but Torres has been worth way more than 2.5 mil, even last season.

    Third, if you trust in UZR, they are not that comparable defensively. Again, there is a small sample size for Pridie, but from what has been seen, the only positive defensive stat is his range. UZR has him in the negative, but through less than 500 innings in the majors. Torres has been the opposite, saving at least 8 runs over the past three seasons.

    Torres is much older than Pridie, which means there probably will be a time sooner rather than later when Torres begins to really decline, but thats the beauty of a 1 year deal. If he does well, maybe they bring him back until someone in the minors is ready to come up. If he doesn’t they can say farewell. Unless they plan on signing someone better, Torres is probably their best option at the moment. Ankiel is interesting but he has trouble getting on base, something the front office has started to emphasize as we can see from last season.

    If you’re willing to give F-Mart a shot in center, someone with minimal major league experience, why not Torres?

    • Joe Janish December 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm
      First, WAR really doesn’t mean much to me. And if it did, 2 WAR isn’t enough to make me believe a 34-year-old defensive specialist outfielder is worth $2.5M.

      Second, no, I don’t believe in UZR, and particularly not in such a miniscule sample size as the MLB careers of Pridie vs. Torres. So I’m left to go with my eyes and what they’ve seen, and to me the difference is negligible — they’re both solid defenders.

      It’s true Ankiel has a low OBP, but Torres’ OBP isn’t exactly inspiring — it was .312 last year. I have a hard time believing that he’ll get back to his dream season of 2010, when he was, essentially, Jeff Duncan for his entire pro career. Would you pay Jeff Duncan $2.5M and write him into the starting lineup? (BTW, Duncan is two years younger than Torres; maybe he can be coaxed out of his coaching duties at Purdue and return to playing.)

      • Rob December 12, 2011 at 11:40 am
        You are right about the sample size. It could be a much different story after a few full seasons. But you can’t ignore what statistics we have. Even just 2 WAR is worth about $9 mil, not to say 2.5 mil isn’t a lot of money, but with a big market team, and the way contracts go these days, that contract is no way a problem area. And Jeff Duncan’s bat is nonexistent, no where close to Torres or Pridie.
  20. Jujo December 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm
    Joe-I can’t believe how much time you are giving the Torres situtation. As the earlier comments have shown, he has had a one really good year, he was a big part of the champion Giants and he is better offensively and defensively than Pridie or Ankiel. Sure he is a little older but in my book if he gives .280 and 15 hrs (like you mentioned) plus stellar defense, the Mets will have a 5 WAR player on their hands. He is a nice stop gap for 2012, that’s all. FMart and Kirk are not ready and will get hurt again. I say use whatever $ are left to sign a starting pitcher (Vazquez or other) for 2012 and offer cheap contracts and invites to Chris Young, Rick Harden and other past hurt pitchers. I think one pitcher who slid by quietly was Erik Bedard who signed with the Pirates for $4.5 mil. He would have been an intriguing pitcher to see with the Mets. The objective every year has to be the playoffs and I think the Mets will sneak up on teams if they stay in games with defense and a strong bullpen.
    • Joe Janish December 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm
      There isn’t much else worth giving time to. If you provide me a compelling subject I’ll gladly turn it into a blog post. It’s a dead winter.

      I didn’t suggest that Torres would hit .280 with 15 HRs; I referenced that he did that once in his life. I’m extremely pessimistic he can do that again, and am expecting another year like he had in 2011 — which is why I don’t believe he’s worth $2.5M.

  21. dave schneck December 11, 2011 at 9:53 pm
    Wasn’t Mookie going to get offered another position in the organization? He could hold it down until Captain Kirk gets his legs back.