Mets Free Agents: Who Would You Keep?

In case you missed it, the following 2012 Mets are now free agents: Scott Hairston, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Ronny Cedeno, Kelly Shoppach, Tim Byrdak and Chris Young. Which of these seven wonders would you bring back in 2013, if you were GM? Let’s take a look at each …

Scott Hairston
Hairston fulfilled his expectation of killing lefthanded pitchers, and then some. He had a career year, blasting a career-high 20 homeruns and posting a beastly .803 OPS. BTW, that OPS was all about the dingers; his OBP was a horrendous .299 — in line with his career average. After such a season, one would expect him to garner significant attention this winter; some are suggesting he’ll get a two-year offer from someone, in the neighborhood of $5M to $6M — which would be more than double his $1.1M 2013 salary. Will the Mets pony up that kind of dough for a guy who can hit only southpaws? If he doesn’t hit homeruns, he has very little value. My feeling is that 2012 was an anomaly, a mirage, and he won’t be that productive ever again. Considering the Mets have about $10M — if that — to spend on free agents this winter, I’m not sure it makes sense to give a third of it to a part-time corner outfielder. I’d rather see the Mets find another potential slugger from the reject pile and/or give a youngster a look-see.

Jon Rauch
Rauch pitched as well as one could expect, maybe a bit better, in 2012. And with that, he priced himself out of a 2013 Mets contract. With starting pitchers going 5-6 innings, all mildly effective relievers are gaining value and dollars. After appearing in 73 ballgames and posting a paltry 0.98 WHIP, Rauch earned himself at minimum a 2-year, $7M deal; he’s a legit setup man or a highly effective seventh-inning guy in a deep bullpen. The Mets could use such an asset but can’t afford it. Further, I’m fairly sure he won’t appear in half as many games in ’13; his mechanics suggest he has both a shoulder an elbow issue, and in my opinion, whoever signs him will be investing in his rehab rather than his on-field performance.

Ramon Ramirez
Someone may be able to do something with Ramirez’s raw talent and turn it into effectiveness, but that someone is not Dan Warthen and the Mets. I’ll pass on this 31-year-old middle (middling?) reliever and take my chances with a twenty-something youngster from the farm to fill sixth and seventh innings.

Ronny Cedeno
Cedeno wasn’t terrible, and he wasn’t spectacular; he was Ronny Cedeno. Do the Mets need to spend in excess of $1M on a utility infielder? Eh. Even though Justin Turner is at best below-average at shortstop, I’ll take my chances with him as my main utilityman at the MLB minimum. If something happens to Ruben Tejada, there’s always an Omar Quintanilla or Pete Orr hanging around to fill the gap for two weeks.

Kelly Shoppach
Around the Mets blogosphere and Mets beat writers, there is this general consensus that the Mets aren’t so sure whether or not they’ll bring back Shoppach, as they weren’t convinced he is the ideal foil to Josh Thole. I read crap like that and laugh so hard I nearly fall off my chair. First off, if I’m Kelly Shoppach, I’m not convinced the Mets are the best place to be at this point in my career. Secondly, it’s laughable to consider Thole as part of a regular rotation behind the plate for a Major League club. At best, he’s a backup. But this isn’t about Thole, it’s about Shoppach, who is the best all-around catcher the Mets have had under contract since Paul LoDuca. Of course, that’s not saying much, and don’t misconstrue it as me proclaiming Shoppach as Johnny Bench. Most likely, the Mets will not re-sign Shoppach, and that’s fine — personally, I’d prefer they find someone with a similar all-around skill set, but perhaps a little younger, and/or with fewer less-glaring holes. I’m not so sure such a backstop exists, and so I’d be find with them bringing back Shoppach, as I think an experienced catcher like him is important toward developing young pitchers such as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

Tim Byrdak
Byrdak’s career really exploded in a Mets uniform, as his K/9 rate soared into the double-digits. With his effectiveness, however, came overuse, and his season — and likely, his career as a Met — ended in early August. The 39-year-old underwent major shoulder surgery on a torn anterior capsule and likely won’t be back until late in 2013 at the earliest. That said, I don’t see any point in the Mets re-signing him.

Chris Young
Making 20 starts without breaking down for the first time since 2007, Young likely provided enough evidence for some clubs to believe he’ll be worth a few million for a one-year deal — maybe even a two-year deal. Color me pessimistic, as I find his mechanics incredibly dangerous and injury-inducing. Even if he does find a way to stay healthy, Young rarely pitches beyond the fifth inning. He’s a good choice for a seasoned club looking to fill out the back-end of their rotation, but on a rebuilding team like the Mets, I’m not seeing his value. As much as it pains me to see Chris Schwinden, Collin McHugh, or Jeremy Hefner take the mound, I’d much rather one of those under-30 youngsters take the ball than Chris Young at this point in the Mets’ rebuilding process. Give me 10 starts each by Darin Gorski, Mark Cohoon, and Zack Wheeler and let’s see what happens. I already know what Chris Young can do, and it won’t be enough to turn the Mets from a fourth- or fifth-place club into a playoff contender.

What’s your thought on the Mets free agents? Should any of them be brought back? Why or why not? Post your notes 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. Dan Capwell November 7, 2012 at 7:42 am
    None of them actually. Shoppach may be the only one with any real value to the Mets next year. IDK if this makes any sense, but Rauch and especially Hairston are more valuable as role players on a contender than they would in a more prominent role on the Mets.
  2. Steven November 7, 2012 at 9:32 am
    I never understood the basis for the Mets supposedly not liking Shoppach. He calls a good game and has occasional pop , which is more than Thole. The Mets poor catching corps is in my mind there biggest long term challenge as one can always find average outfielders. If the Mets miraculously woke up with an all star catcher we would have a clear road to contention in 2014
  3. TheDZA November 7, 2012 at 9:40 am
    I would say Shoppach is the only name here. The more concerning issue is, I can see the Mets bringing back nearly all of these guys – Young for instance I would not be surprised to see back: give the Mets proclivity for taking broken down/fresh off surgery players at a ‘bargain price’. Always late on when the good FA’s have been hoovered up.
  4. derek November 7, 2012 at 10:12 am
    None of them excite me. If anything take fliers on other high risk reward FA. or try and play some in house younger guys….i wouldnt overpay or go into multi yr deals for any of them this yr….
  5. DaveSchneck November 7, 2012 at 11:18 am
    Joe,
    They obviously can all be upgraded, but Hairston, Shoppach, and even Cedeno should be considered. However, the considerations would be plan Bs based on how the fulfilled needs. I think the priorities are a CF/leadoff hitter, a closer, a catcher, and some RH pop in the OF. If they fail on other fronts, I would go to $2.25 mil on Shoppach and 2yrs $5 mil on Hairston should they not acquire better players in those postions.
    • Joe Janish November 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm
      Agreed. I’m interested to see what kind of demand there is for Hairston.
  6. Joe November 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm
    I like Hairston but yeah his price went up, so that can be a problem. Cedeno seems like a cheap safe back-up and I would think about keeping him. Basically share the other opinions though don’t want to see Schwinden & don’t mind seeing Hefner as a spot starter. Hope McHugh improves .. well, there is always his tweets and blogs.
  7. Dan B November 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm
    I am afraid if they sign Hairston, they won’t have enough money left over to sign Josh Hamilton.
    • Joe Janish November 8, 2012 at 8:59 pm
      That’s a really good point.

      Since Hamilton passed on the Rangers’ one-year, qualifying offer of $13M, I wonder if the Mets can go to $13.1M and lock him up?

      ;-)

  8. Mike B November 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm
    I dont really want any of them back besides Shoppach, as r as thole, I dont even find him a servicable back up because I believe a good back up catcher should be above averager in offense(power) or defense. Thole is below average in both.
  9. fred figueroa November 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm
    you called it right get rid of the bunch as for thole take a look at his face when behind the plate hitting or catching i see that look on deers on route 80 just before they become road kill SCARED WHERE IS THE FIRE maybe the mets need a good bench clearing fight. but they may end up in the DL ha ha
    • Joe Janish November 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm
      I don’t love the roadkill image you put in my head but I agree with you on T-Hole’s body language.
  10. BklynCowpoke November 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm
    I think Shoppach is an improvement on all the other options the Mets presently have at the catcher position barring a trade. I also believe Byrdak, Rauch, and Hairston (if he can be re-signed for a reasonable price) should be brought back for another year.
  11. argonbunnies November 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm
    A red-hot Hairston posted a .299 OBP. Unless there’s no market for him and we get him at a bargain, pass.

    Rauch pitches to contact without fantastic stuff. He’ll give up too many hard hits for a late-inning reliever. Pass.

    Ramon Ramirez was a poor acquisition. For every good stat you can find on his baseball card, there’s one or more bad ones. 2012 may have been a down year, but it wasn’t a flukey outlier. Might be a good buy-low candidate, but I don’t see him as better than a 6th or 7th guy in the ‘pen, which ought to go to someone making league minimum. Pass.

    Ronny Cedeno is actually a good deal better than your typical emergency acquisition. If he can’t find suitors and there’s room in the budget for back-ups, I’d say keep him.

    Kelly Shoppach was a breath of fresh air for a catching-starved team… which caused him to be vastly over-rated. He’s not a good thrower, he regularly chases pitches he can’t hit (in and out of the strike zone), he can’t run, he mostly can’t hit righties, and his game-calling doesn’t seem to matter much when the pitcher wants to do something dumb. A few HRs and blocked pitches in the dirt, and the occasional willingness to call a pitch inside, do not make him all that valuable. I’d say pass, if there’s anyone better out there. If there isn’t, then okay, sure, keep him, I guess.

    Byrdak: I have no opinion. He’ll be rehabbing. if he wants to sign for peanuts in case we need him in August, okay, fine.

    Chris Young still provides a weird, unique opponent for hitters. But for whatever reason, a lot of his good pitches get fouled off instead of being Ks or fly outs. Which means shorter outings, and more opportunities to make mistakes. And when he makes mistakes, they get crushed. On a team with a good bullpen in a pitcher’s park, he might be a smart choice for a #5. For the Mets, I don’t see a fit, unless it’s as a very cheap stopgap for the purpose of not rushing Wheeler. Young should be able to get a better offer elsewhere, though, so I say pass.

    • Joe Janish November 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm
      All good points. Nice synopsis, bunny boy.
  12. taskmaster4450 November 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm
    None of them.

    Hairston is the only one I would take back but he is going to command too much for a 4th OF. The rest seem fairly easy to replace.

  13. Tom November 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm
    Hairston should only be re-signed if all other plans of finding a 5 or 6 hitting RF fail. Torii Hunter and Cody Ross could be at the top of that list. There are a number of trade possibilities. I don’t expect Hairston to be re-signed, because he’ll either want a 2 year deal.

    Andres Torres could make sense to bring back on a 1 year/1.5 mill type deal, because he’s a good fielder and a switch hitter who’s stronger from the right side, which is ideal for a 4th OF. Ronny Cedeno was productive when healthy too so he may be worth bringing back on a similar deal. As far as Shoppach goes, I don’t think we saw enough of him to know if he’d be a quality starter. But there isn’t much better out there than him. So long as he is hitting 8th, having him in the line-up isn’t that bad.

    Rauch is unpredictable. I’d bring him back on a one year deal for less money, if he were willing to take it. The problem is he’d have value in the role he was in last year. But this likely will be Frank Francisco’s role given his contract status and the fact he sucked as a closer. The bigger question will be who will they acquire to close? If Frank Francisco is that plan, you might as well not even watch any Mets games next season.

    Beyond this, Pelfrey could be useful as a long reliever, spot starter, to add depth, on an incentive laden deal. They should let Chris Young go because he doesn’t have much use as a reliever and there are enough pitchers available to spot start to need to waste a couple million on him.

  14. Tom November 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm
    Bydak is injured and expected to miss a lot of time so I wouldn’t bring him back. I’m guessing they”ll go with Edgin and Carson as their LOOGY’s, which is alright, but it’s rolling the dice. The rest of the bullpen will probably include some mix of Jeurys Familia, Mike Pelfrey, Jeremy Hefner, Bobby Parnell and free agent signings. Possibly Manny Acosta too, but hopefully only in the 2nd half.