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.

Catcher

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.

Second Base

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.

Outfield

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).

Bench

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.

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. Micalpalyn October 5, 2007 at 10:52 am
    as the week has past I am less angry. I think the mets will destroy the NL next year.

    Catchers: Again kendall, Yorvit, and any Molina. I think Castro is back, presuming his back is OK. I think he gets $2M which basically is back up $$
    Another guy is Damian Miller who I believe is out of contract too.

    2B I am sure Castillo will be back. Valentin? Chris Woodward is also interesting.

    I think Conine and Alou are strong bets to retire. The X factor in all these is Leadership!!!!

    I expect Glavine (ala Leiter 3 yrs ago), maybe Wags, LoDuca, to go not because of $$$ but to give new energy and leadership in the clubhouse.

  2. joe October 5, 2007 at 10:55 am
    The leadership / clean house issue is an interesting point. Any clubhouse that looks to Delgado as a leader is in trouble (not that Delgado is a bad guy, but he isn’t exactly George Gipp).

    I’m hearing rumors now that Omar is after Orlando Hudson again, so second base may not be Castillo after all.

    But then, I’m sure we’ll be hearing LOTS of rumors this winter.

  3. isuzudude October 5, 2007 at 5:32 pm
    JOE – HOW CAN YOU NOT BE JUMPING ALL OVER MIC’S COMMENTS??? You guys either have to be best buddies outside of this blog, or you know that Mic has a learning disability and won’t tell him he’s wrong no matter what nonsense spews from his keyboard.

    Ok, so let me be the bad guy.

    How many times do we have to point out Lo Duca is the best option at catcher for the Mets? He knows the pitchers, he handles the city well, he has a strong desire to win. As a #8 hitter, that’s good enough for me.

    You get a gold star for saying Castillo will be back…b/c he will. He’s the perfect #2 hitter and he fills the 2B void in the process. A no-brainer. Chris Woodward though? Hits under .200 for Atlanta and plays shitty defense in the process and he’s interesting? He’s a bum. Next.

    Alou a “strong bet to retire?” Yeah, certainly after hitting .340. Aside from his age, why is he a strong bet to retire? What did he say or do this past season to make you believe he’s ready to hang ’em up? Has he called you at home and said 2007 is his final year in the bigs? I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s going to play at least another season, and I’m 90% sure it’ll be in a Met uniform.

    Re: energy. I agree with Glavine and Wagner, although Billy would have to be traded and that’s not too easy. But Lo Duca? He doesn’t have energy or leadership? Send him packing and bring in Damian Miller or Torrealba or some other bum you mentioned, do they provide better leadership and energy? Tell me how that’s the case.

    While I’m at it, I’ll address a few other “inconsistencies” in your previos posts. Firstly, Julio is on the Rockies, not Diamondbacks. Second, I’d bet my life that Nathan’s option will be picked up by Minnesota, regardless who is running the ship there. It’s for a measley $6-mil for one of the best closers in the game. If the Twins want to trade him, it’ll be when they learn they’re out of contention in mid-July ’08, and it’ll be to a team that gives up their entire minor league system. Thirdly, El Duque has got to go. His value is high because of his 2007 performance (injuries not withstanding), and we can easily get two helpful relievers or that right-handed OF/1B Joe is talking about in return. The rotation should be built around Pedro, Ollie, and Maine. Two more should be signed via free agency or acquired via trade, and Pelfrey, Humber, and Mulvey should be retained to spell the injured or ineffective.

    Mic, everytime I read one of your posts I’m either trying to decipher your incomplete sentences or left wondering if you even know information about the players you’re bringing up. I know it’s an open forum and everyone is welcome to participate, but don’t you want to do yourself the favor and educate yourself before posting your off the wall ramblings?

  4. Micalpalyn October 5, 2007 at 6:37 pm
    isu: You are by far the most anal poster on this blog.

    1. I dont mind being wrong. most of the time all of us are.

    2. My ‘ramblings’ along with the ‘ramblings of the miscellaneous bloggers are created or founded in the blogs most of which are linked to this site.

    3. Look at the posts publications on Loduca and get a grip on reality: It is 50-50 at best he comes back. The Mets may not be airing laundry but most of the ‘press insiders’ are postulating that he is done. Personally i dont care. In my ‘ramblings”, much as Joe is, i am ranting on possibilities.

    4. Interesting that I was so chastised for sending el duque to the pen (since last yr).
    Now after his being the best guy in the rotation, he has got to go?

    5. Joe Nathan: We differ. We can throw nuts when this pans out.

    As with every offseason I am sure i will be chastizing or praising Omar for a trade or signing no one saw coming.

    AND ….a big shout out to Joe. Like several bloggers have pointed out it is great to have Joe as a sounding board for our bright, stupid absurd or just emotional outbursts……..THANKS joe!!

    PS I cant wait for Joe to change the foremat of the blog, I dont really have time-energy to write my views in Microsoft word, check the grammar, then copy and paste into the square. besides by then anger passes.

  5. joe October 5, 2007 at 11:04 pm
    isuzudude: I may on occasion (OK, often) jump on people’s comments when I disagree — and I encourage everyone to have their own opinion. I also hope to spark some debates here. However, I do not wish to foster personal attacks. (That said, if I ever personally attack someone, I expect to be called on it.) We can disagree, agree, agree to disagree, and criticize each other’s ideas — that’s the point of the blog. But personally-targeted negative remarks and belittling do not have a place here.

    Most of us here are grownups — or portray ourselves as such — and I hope we can respect each other as human beings, regardless of how insane someone’s ideas may sound. That’s my stance; in other words, let’s try to play nice and address the comments, rather than the commenter.

    As for the comments …

    I’ll agree I don’t see Woodward as an option at 2B. But not so sure that Castillo is a guarantee to return. He’s got the bum knee and Ed Coleman mentioned that the Mets mgmt. thinks he may be a negative influence on Reyes b/c of sulking (I’d imagine Coleman has a closer grip on things than us). Also, I’ve heard that Omar is after O.Hudson again and wouldn’t be surprised if he made a big-splash deal for a second sacker.

    Similar deal with LoDuca. We may all think it makes sense to have him return but Omar might prefer to deal for Ramon Hernandez — plus there is noise that he’s watching the Pudge situation.

    As for Alou: there were a number of reports from several legit sources during September that he was talking to teammates about retiring after this year. Only in the last week have we heard differently. And maybe Mic hasn’t been as “ear to the ground” on stuff as us lately.

    It would be foolish to get rid of El Duque with the current condition of the pitching market. Barely adequate arms rise in value by the week. Duque may only have 20 starts in him but I’ll take them — and unless the Mets make a blockbuster deal he might be their best postseason starter — at least a very valuable weapon out of the pen in the playoffs (yeah, I know, he’s got to be healthy for a postseason first). Though I wouldn’t plan a rotation around him.

    And BTW no I never knew Mic — nor any of the other “regular” commenters — before this blog. But one of these days we should all try to meet up — as I think you suggested once, isuzudude.

    Mic — why do you write in MS Word first and then copy/paste? If there’s something I need to fix or can add please let me know. I’d like this part of the blog to be as easy as possible for people to post.

  6. sincekindergarten October 6, 2007 at 4:57 am
    Hokay, guys, while I’m waiting at home for my daughter’s “born” status to change from “un” to “new,” let me throw my two pennies in here. (My wife is not in labor yet.)

    1) Mic wrote something about Jeff Conine. He said himself that this was his last year.

    2) Alou, I feel, will be back. He said something about not waning “to go out like this.”

    3) What will Orlando Hudson cost us? If the names “Pelfrey,” “Humber,” “Mulvey,” “Kunz,” or “Martinez” are in the discussion, pass.

    4) Catchers? I think I saw something either here or on MetsBlog about offering LoDuca a one-year deal with a vesting option. I’d do that. Again, if you’re looking for a catcher, and any of the names in 3) above come up, pass and resign LoDuca and Castro. Hell, I’d resign Mike DiFelice for his defense alone.

    5) I’ve noticed that, so far, I pretty much mirror ID. Here’s where we diverge–El Duque. He could slide into the Darren Oliver (Who was Aaron Sele? If Willie used him a bit more, maybe we’d know.) long relief/spot starter role, after his inevitable midseason stay on the DL.

    6) I’ve been wrong before about the Mets, too, and I’ll be wrong again. It doesn’t stop me from having opinions on the team that I’ve been following, well, “since kindergarten”–which has been a lot longer than I’d like to admit . . . oh, Hell, it was the fall of ’69.

    7) Somebody that I have’t really seen much discussion of, because of his injury, is Damion Easley. If he rehabs well, and that’s a big ‘if,’ maybe he fits into the 1B slot or does some time at 2B.

  7. isuzudude October 6, 2007 at 9:19 am
    Frist of all, I apologize. I didn’t mean to get personal with any of my comments. It’s just frustrating to constantly see one person make zany remarks and never get called on it by the moderator. No hard feelings, Mic. We’re Met fans, so we’re all of the same kin.

    I think SK just made a great post, especially the mention of Easley. We’re looking for a right-handed 1B/OF, and although Easley isn’t an OF by trade, I don’t think he embarassed himself playing some of that position this past season. Who knew that perhaps our best Jeff Conine replacement was right under our nose in Easley.

    This is the only website I’ve heard any rumor about the Mets being interested in Hudson. But, in my opinion, I don’t think he makes a great fit in NY. Firstly, he’s coming off of thumb surgery, so strike one. Strike two, he’s arbitration eligible, and after a .294/10HR campaign this year, he stands to get a significant raise from his $3.9-mil of this year. That Mets are much better off re-upping for less money with Castillo and spending the bucks on pitching. As a sidebar, Arizona may decide to non-tender him if he’s awarded too much by an arbitrator, so it’s foolish for the Mets to trade for a guy who may not cost you any players to obtain later in the offseason. And strike three, players’ stats usually get bloated playing at the homer-happy BOB, and I think it would be an extreme buzzkill for Hudson’s offense to go from Arizona’s band box to the caverness Shea Stadium. If you don’t believe me, look at his home/away splits from this season and you’ll see what I’m talking about. No doubt, Hudson would bring an upgrade in defense, but the difference to Castillo’s glovework is nominal. And for all the reasons listed above, the Mets are better off keeping Castillo than gambling on Hudson.

    In regards to El Duque: my best course of action, like I’ve said before, is to find a way to trade him. There’s no doubt he was the Mets most consistent starting pitcher of the season. But, when dealing with Hernandez, there’s one other consistency to deal with, and that’s late-season injury. And think about it, his last two injuries that caused him to miss significant time was a torn calf muslce he got stretching for game 1 against the dodgers in the NLDS, and a bunyon on his foot. Those aren’t really the types of injuries common to pitchers to make them miss significant playing time. I’m not saying Duque’s soft, I’m saying his injuries are fluky. Those of a guy who’s body is acting as if he’s over 37 years old, as reported on rotoworld.com. That tells me the injuries are going to keep coming, and most likely at the most inoppurtune times. If it’s worth $6.5-mil to have a guy get 8 wins from April thru August, and then take his usual spot on the DL for the rest of the season, so be it. I’d rather trade him to a team looking for SP help and get some younger, more durable arms for the pen. Isn’t that what it’s all about this offseason? Reshoring the bullpen and getting younger? Start with Glavine, and move on to El Duque.

    I don’t buy Hernandez can be a reliable option out of the bullpen. The wear and tear of a reliever would have his body torn to shreds before we even get to the all-star break.

    However, I will say that at least one new SP must be added before the Mets trade Hernandez, whether it be Silva, Wolf, Livan (who I’m not too high on), or via trade (Vazquez, Bonderman, Robertson). Better to play from a position of strength with too many SP’s than weakness with too little.

  8. joe October 6, 2007 at 11:36 am
    I’m hoping the O.Hudson buzz is hogwash. FYI it’s coming from some beat writers out west. Maybe they’re simply trying to stir up news.

    From my angle, Castillo makes the most sense at 2B — for his defense and his perfect suitability to the 2-hole in the lineup. Plus — and it may sound like a small thing, but how many non-pitchers in MLB can consistently lay down a bunt? I know statheads and “Beaneys” poo-poo the bunt but it’s amazing how a bunt can be enormously important when you have to win just one game (i.e., postseason).

    In contrast, I see Hudson as a guy who 1) is very streaky; 2) doesn’t have a set “place” in the batting order; 3) Ks too much for his power #s; 4) is a hot dog; 5) is either on the cusp of a career year or about to start dropping off.

    If anything, I like that we know what we have in Castillo. It’s easier to plan the rest of the lineup knowing exactly what he brings to the table.

    Agreed that the Mets need to find a solid starting pitcher, be it through FA or trade.

  9. […] Fukudome is a lefthanded batter, and as we’ve already discovered, there are plenty of lefthanded-hitting outfielders available on the market this […]
  10. Micalpalyn October 7, 2007 at 1:25 pm
    Thanks for the love guys:

    Yes. We blog because we need to vent. So as such i understand. AND i am gratefull we are not blogging in the Art howe age…boy that would be potentially really abusive. Plus there have been several blog sites featuring certain regulars that get really dirty and personal.

    now: On this new japanese feature: I am 50-50. I’d love to unearth a new Ichiro. But the heartbreak if the answer is no would be disappointing especially if Lastings and Gomez are really ready.

    Castillo: my oft spoken opinion is that Duquettes half hearted pursuits of Vlad, Colon and Castillo are what set this franchise back 3-4 years. Castillo if he had signed as a FA (in lieu of Kaz Matsui) might have changed alot of things. As for 2008, I d like Castillo back but health is an issue and a positive bargaining chip. As with Alou and El duque he can be a great player…if used right. specifically;
    a. 2B: give him 2/3 of the games with Gotay/Ahern as options for the other 1/3
    b. Alou: again 2/3 of the starts with Endy and Gomez mixed in.
    c. El duque: roughly 10 starts with a long relief role. It is my opinion his phantom injuries and some of his erratic performance are fatigue related. Certainly if he comes into the rotation (hopefully in June) i’d let him continue for 6-8 starts then pull him out maybe around Aug 1st, then put him back into the rotation in Sept. All just to keep him fresh. in between I think he has the ability to pitch one or multiple innings in relief, just not (necessarily ) back to back days.

    just some thoughts

  11. sincekindergarten October 8, 2007 at 6:43 am
    Mic, I’d sign on to the plan for El Duque. That sounds like a pretty good way to keep that arm fresh.
  12. […] evaluating the free-agent position players, relief pitchers, and starting pitchers, we’ve seen that there is a dearth of catching, […]