Free Agent Targets: First Base
The MLBPA compiled a full list of players who filed for free agency this offseason. Out of those, there are several possibilities that stood out to me as players I would consider signing if I were the GM of the Mets (assuming I had a moderate amount of money to spend). Mind you, I’m not saying the Mets should sign ALL of these players – that would be impossible. But this would be the pool of players from which I would choose.
We’ll break them down by position. In the last post, I looked at shortstops. In this post, I’ll take a look at…
The Mets enter the offseason with the thought that they can start next year with an in-house option (or options) at first base. While they don’t have a great first baseman under their control right now, if they improve at other positions, they can live with a guy like Lucas Duda or a Duda/Josh Satin or Wilmer Flores platoon. Before you laugh, they’ll at least give you a .350 or so OBP, and Duda is good for 15-20 homers if he stays healthy. They could even take a chance on a comeback season from Ike Davis, but rumor has it they’re trying to trade him.
If they fail to upgrade in the outfield or shortstop, they may look to upgrade at first base. If they do, here are few possibilities.
Mike Napoli, 32 – When I watched the pile of Red Sox players in the middle of the diamond celebrating their World Series victory, I could have sworn I saw Sandy Alderson grabbing Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mike Napoli by the arm and ushering them out of the ballpark.
Well, no, I didn’t. Must’ve been my imagination.
Out of all the free agent Red Sox, the Mets have been most linked to Drew. But what about Napoli? All he does is put up an .800 OPS or higher every year with 20 or more home runs. He’s played his home games at hitter-friendly parks, but his splits are pretty even. He has big power, as evidenced by the no-doubter he hit to dead center field (420 feet away) in Comerica Park in the playoffs, and has vastly improved his defense at first.
He had a degenerative hip condition that moved him out of his original position of catcher. That, combined with his age, could be a red flag. Boston reportedly made him a multiyear offer last week, but Napoli will shop around before accepting it. He made about $13 million total last year between his base salary and incentives. How affordable he will be remains to be seen.
Kendrys Morales, 30 – Morales had a breakout season in 2009 with the Angels, and was in the middle of another outstanding year when he hurt his ankle while celebrating a walkoff homer. That embarrassing injury led to missing the entire 2011 season. When he came back in 2012, he was a step slower, and mostly a DH. He had a fine year last year with the Mariners, hitting .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs. The questions are, can he field, and is he really that big of an upgrade over what the Mets have in house now?
Corey Hart, 32 – Here’s an interesting fella. He’s been a very productive player for the Milwaukee Brewers. He has a career slash line of .276/.334/.491 with a 162 game average of 26 home runs. He injured his knee in 2012, then injured the other one while rehabbing the first one in 2013. Maybe if he stopped wearing his sunglasses at night, he’s be less prone to injury (sorry). As such, he’s a first baseman now, after playing most of his years in right field. If his knees are healthy enough to provide a solid foundation when he swings, he could be a low-risk, low-cost, high-reward player for the Mets to sign.
How the Mets offseason goes this year is anybody’s guess. There’s already more chatter than there has been over the last couple of years, so the team may be ready to spend some money or make some trades. If you’re looking for a Robinson Cano, don’t hold your breath. But mid-level guys, as long as their prices aren’t inflated, are probably on the table. Only time will tell.