It’s early for this kind of stuff, but we may as well get as much information as possible ahead of time. Surely you’re all like me, scribbling out depth charts and potential targets on a chalkboard or dry-erase wall in your office, right?
A fairly thorough list of potential non-tenders can be found here. I reiterate, they are POTENTIAL non-tenders. This means there is a possibility that their current team does not offer them a contract, thereby making them a free agent. Some of the players on this list likely will be “tendered” (offered a contract) rather than “non-tendered” (let go). For example, Joe Crede of the White Sox is one that jumps out right away as a player who likely will be tendered. Additionally, Jayson Werth, Clay Condrey, Chad Qualls, Wily Mo Pena, Xavier Nady, Scott Podsednik, Sergio Mitre, John Patterson, David Bush, Daniel Cabrera, Luis Ayala, Juan Cruz, Mark Prior, and Brandon Lyon are almost guaranteed to be tendered — much the same as Endy Chavez and Ollie Perez are certainly to be offered contracts by the Mets.
Still, check out the list for yourself, to get more of an idea of how the market is looking this winter. You’ll see that in regard to the Mets’ top priorities — catcher, second base, and bullpen — this particular vehicle doesn’t offer much promise.
Here are a few that strike me as possibilities, and worth considering as ST invites:
Neal Cotts (Cubs) – a highly sought-after lefthanded relief pitcher a year ago, Cotts had a terrible time after moving across town from the White Sox, and spent most of the year in AAA. Perhaps a move out of the Second City is what he needs to rediscover his former promise.
Kiko Calero (Athletics) – Calero was one of the keys to the Mark Mulder deal a few years back, and pitched well as a setup man for the A’s — until last season. His ERA ballooned by over 2 full runs (to 5.75) his WHIP jumped to 1.64, and his strikeout rate dwindled considerably. His poor performance is the result of a mysterious shoulder issue, which landed him on the DL during the season and forced the A’s to shut him down in September. It’s possible the A’s will non-tender him because of health concerns — and if so he’s a guy the Mets absolutely should take a gamble on. If healthy, he could be a legit 8th-inning guy. He throws a live, moving fastball, a good changeup, and a hard curve, can retire both lefties and righties Another thing going against him: age — he’ll be 33 when spring training opens.
Shawn Camp (Devil Rays) – He pitched in 50 games for the Devil Rays and was godawful. Terrible. He made Guillermo Mota’s season look effective. A 2.02 WHIP and 7.20 ERA. So why consider him? Because in 2006 he showed a bit of promise, actually tabbed as the Rays’ closer for a few weeks, throwing a hard sinker and changeup for lots of strikes. That’s his main issue — he’s hittable — but he pitches to contact and doesn’t walk many. He also has never pitched in the NL, so he could have that to his advantage for the first two months of the season (see: Joe Smith).
Horacio Ramirez (Mariners) – The Braves swindled the Mariners into taking this lefthanded starter in return for fireballing reliever Rafael Soriano. Ramirez was a bust, posting an unsightly 7.16 ERA in 20 starts. He showed some promise with the Braves in his early 20s, but has regressed since. Still, he’s only 27 and a lefty, so worth taking a flyer on. He could be a fifth-starter candidate, and would likely benefit from both a change in scenery and a return to the National League. He throws in the low 90s, mixes in a good overhand curve, and had excellent command before heading to Seattle. It’s hard to figure out what went wrong with this guy — but likely there is a sabermetrician who can tell us about BABIP or something.
Mike Maroth (Cardinals) – Maroth was a solid if unspectacular back-end starter for the Tigers when the Tigers were cellar dwellers. However he’s had a flurry of elbow issues dating back to 2005, became very hittable, and failed miserably in a move to the NL with the Cardinals this past season (except for, ahem, a stellar performance against the Mets). Chances are, his days are numbered as a Major Leaguer. But, he’s a tireless worker, a lefty, and just turned 30 — perhaps with a little luck he can resurrect his career. Based solely on his attitude and previous success, he could be one of the cans of paint to throw on the wall and see if it sticks.
Brendan Donnelly (Red Sox) – The goggled reliever was having a nice year for the Red Sox before succumbing to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in August. He’s scheduled to miss all of 2008, so he won’t be much help to the Mets next season. But he will have a new elbow come ’09, if you want to look that far ahead.
Tyler Walker (Giants) – This former Met came back from Tommy John surgery to become the Giants’ closer in mid-September, posting a 1.26 ERA in 15 games. However, the Giants had few leads in the late innings so he didn’t notch any saves. Though he made a great recovery, he’ll be 32 next year and the Giants are planning to go with youth in 2008; maybe that means they’ll let him go — but don’t count on it.
Wilfredo Ledezma (Padres) – spent time with three clubs in ’07 — the Tigers, Braves, and Padres — and was miserable with all. He’s a tall (6’4″) and skinny 27-year-old lefty who throws heat from an unusual angle, but hasn’t figured out how to put it all together — some scouts believe it’s a confidence issue. The San Diego bullpen is pretty well stocked and they may cut him and his 6.28 ERA loose. If so he’s worth a spring training invite.
Ryan Wagner (Nationals) – This 25-year-old righthander was part of the deal that sent Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez from Cincinnati to the Nats in return for a pile of garbage. Wagner had rotator cuff issues in 2007, and finished the year on the 60-day DL. Before the injury, he threw a nasty slider and a good sinker in the low-90s, and was considered the Reds’ closer of the future. His health questions make him a gamble, but he has age on his side. And the Mets will need to roll several pairs of dice if they want to re-stock the bullpen.
Eric Munson (Astros) – He was once a jewel of the Tigers organization, a slugging corner infielder. But he never made the offensive transition to MLB pitching and was converted to catcher. So now he’s an offensive-minded catcher who can’t hit. Considering that there are currently no catchers under contract, and he has the versatility to play first base, he may be worth a look. Plus, I like catchers named “Munson”.
Josh Phelps – A big, strong, heavy-hitting catcher and first baseman. Unfortunately, his skills behind the plate and first base remind one of Mike Piazza at the same positions — and he’s not half the batter of Piazza. Still, you have to like his pop off the bench and ability to both catch and back up Delgado at first.
Kevin Cash (Red Sox) – He’s Mike DiFelice, only ten years younger.
Miguel Olivo (Marlins) – If he didn’t swing at everything within a yard of the strike zone, he might be a decent offensive player. He does have a cannon for an arm, and is aggressive with it. He can outrun Luis Castillo, but his right hook is no match for 60-year-old Sandy Alomar Sr. After his meltdown in Game 161, not sure if the Mets are high on him. But then, what’s the difference between him charging Jose Reyes and Paul LoDuca’s “fire”? If he’s non-tendered as expected, don’t be surprised to see him serving his 5-game suspension as, ironically, a Met.
Adam Stern (Orioles) – If by some strange development Endy Chavez is non-tendered or unable to return to the Mets in ’08, this speedy, lefty-hitting Canadian would be a potential replacement.
Kevin Mench (Brewers) – The free agent market is devoid of righthanded-hitting outfielders with punch. Not sure if the Brewers will non-tender him, but Mench would be a nice pinch-hitting contrast to Marlon Anderson and Endy Chavez. Of course, a lot depends on what the Mets decide to do with Lastings Milledge this winter. If the Mets use LMillz in a trade, I’d be all for a “supermensch” platoon of Mench and Shawn Green.
Hector Luna (Blue Jays) – Luna was a fine utilityman for the Cardinals from 2004-2006, hitting around .285, but was a flop with the Jays this past season. I doubt he’s a platoon option for second base, but he has good speed, makes contact, is a good defender at all four infield positions and can play the outfield in a pinch. Basically, he’s a righthanded version of David Newhan. If the Mets did invite Luna to camp, it would behoove the Mets to let Willie Randolph know that his value is that he plays multiple positions — as Randolph apparently missed the memo on Newhan.
Alex Cintron (White Sox) – Not long ago, Cintron was an up-and-coming second baseman. A line drive hitter with good speed and a steady glove, Cintron hit .317 with 14 HRs with the Diamondbacks as a 24-year-old in 2003. However, he has regressed in all areas since then, and hit only .243 as a part-timer. If the Mets don’t re-sign Luis Castillo, Cintron might be a good platoon partner for Ruben Gotay.
Any other ideas from the potential non-tenders? Post them in the comments.