Free Agent Market: Position Players
The Mets will be looking at the free-agent market, for both position players and pitchers. No doubt there will be a trade or two as well.
We can all agree that this is the way things stand for 2008 (if not, let me know in the comments):
C – ?
1B – Carlos Delgado
2B – ?
SS – Jose Reyes
3B – David Wright
LF – Moises Alou (most likely)
CF – Carlos Beltran
RF – Lastings Milledge ?
Bench – Endy Chavez, Carlos Gomez, Ruben Gotay, the rest question marks
We don’t know if the Mets will bring back Paul LoDuca and Luis Castillo. We also don’t know for sure if they’ll re-sign Ramon Castro, Damion Easley, Marlon Anderson, Jose Valentin, David Newhan, Mike DiFelice, Sandy Alomar, or Shawn Green. Jeff Conine is supposedly retiring; Green and Alomar may do the same. The health issues of Castro, Easley, and Valentin make them question marks. Newhan never found a role. We’ll pray Omar isn’t dumb enough to let SuperMarlon leave again. All of these Mets will be addressed in a future post. For now, let’s take a look at the potential free agents, in regard to the question marks above.
We went over this the other day; Paul LoDuca looks to be the best free-agent option — and in my mind, that includes Pudge Rodriguez. Next best after Pudge is probably Jason Kendall. Then Michael Barrett — though I’d rather have Castro back than Barrett. Some people like Yorvit Torrealba, but I don’t see him as a starter for a Championship team.
The Mets might make a deal for Ramon Hernandez of the Orioles, who have J.R. House waiting in the wings. Unfortunately, his forte is offense (his defense is only passable), and he hit only .258 with 9 HRs last year. We’d be better off bringing back Mike Piazza … or giving a flyer to Javy Lopez and hoping he can make a miraculous comeback.
Luis Castillo is the best free-agent second baseman available, and Omar Minaya said at the time of the deadline deal that Castillo would be pursued over the winter. We know he can play, we don’t know for how long on those knees. He’s supposedly getting them “cleaned out” this winter.
Others on the market include Mark Loretta, Tadahito Iguchi, Kaz Matsui, and you might throw in there shortstop David Eckstein. Slim pickins’. My guess is that the Mets either re-sign Castillo, or make a blockbuster deal for a big bat. Jeff Kent is likely available, but doubtful he’d return based on his first tour. Omar could get creative, and pull off something crazy depending on what Alex Rodriguez does. But don’t count on it — expect to see Castillo.
And no, I sincerely doubt the Mets will be satisfied going into 2008 with Ruben Gotay at the keystone. I’d be OK with it, but it’s clear that Willie and Omar and the rest of management doesn’t think as highly of Gotay as we do here at MetsToday.
Two issues here, in the corners. We’re going to presume that Alou returns, but will Endy and Gomez be enough insurance behind him? It might be nice to get another righthanded bat; having Jeff Conine around to play both the outfield and infield corners and come off the bench to pinch-hit was a nice luxury.
And then there’s Lastings Milledge. Are the Mets ready to hand him the rightfield job? Will they trade him now, while his value is still fairly high, for an arm?
Personally, I’d be very happy to see Shawn Green return — though not at the $10M option of course. The Mets will decline that option, but he might be willing to come back at a reduced salary — say, $3.5M — to be a role player. He’d be good insurance behind LMillz, Alou, and Delgado, and a good bat off the bench. But assuming Marlon Anderson is retained, Green probably will be looking elsewhere for employment.
That said, the Mets should be looking for a good righthanded bat — preferably one to play the corner outfield spots as well as first base. Maybe they’ll consider signing a starting corner outfielder too, with the idea of moving Milledge.
The top candidates:
Brady Clark, Jeff DaVanon, Shannon Stewart, Preston Wilson, Reggie Sanders, Jose Guillen, Sammy Sosa, Craig Wilson.
Yikes! Not much to choose from — and these are the better ones available! Guillen has an option for ’08, so he might be crossed off — assuming anyone cares. Sanders is there because he’s a good luck charm. Sosa … let’s hope not. Wilson was a bust with Atlanta; he might be a PED suspect considering his quick downfall. Some readers here keep mentioning Stewart, and though I’m not impressed with him, he looks to be the best outfielder available who fits the Mets’ needs.
I also like Darin Erstad, but like Green his lefthanded bat wouldn’t be needed with Endy aboard and presumably Marlon Anderson. But if Anderson is not retained, he, Eric Hinske, Travis Lee, Rob Mackowiak, or Ryan Klesko might be a nice fit (there are plenty of lefty hitters available, but strangely, few quality RH bats).
The best lefty bats available are the ones mentioned in the outfield section — but we’re going to hope the Mets bring back Marlon. As for the rest of the bench, the Mets definitely need a catcher, possibly a “supersub”, maybe another bat. My guess is they’ll try to bring back one or more of Castro, DiFelice, Valentin, Easley, and Newhan. The alternatives simply aren’t much more inspiring.
Among my favorites who haven’t yet been mentioned: Robert Fick (who can catch, play first and OF, and has a stick), Tony Graffanino, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Bellhorn (who strikes out too much), Scott Hatteberg (yet another lefty bat).
Like the relief pitching, quality free-agent position players — the ones who fit the Mets’ needs, anyway — are few and far between. My guess is that Omar will take that into consideration when choosing which current Mets to bring back.
Next up: the free agent market in regard to starting pitchers. And it ain’t getting any better.