Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.
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Wilpons Apparently Limit Budget to $25-30 Million

According to John Harper of the New York Daily News, Mets ownership is changing their tune about the team’s budget.

Following the season, Jeff Wilpon stated that finances were no longer a problem for the team.

“It’s all in the rear view mirror,” Wilpon said about past financial woes.

If that were actually the case, then the high cost of free agents wouldn’t matter, right? What am I missing? In this article from October 29th, Wilpon was paraphrased as saying:

…the Mets will have the financial wherewithal to address those needs. After years of working with a bloated payroll thanks to big contract to Johan Santana and Jason Bay, and the financial burden of pending legal matters from the Bernie Madoff scandal, Mets Sandy Alderson will be unencumbered when the Mets hit the market, Wilpon said.

Fred Wilpon has made similar assertions, even as far back as February. And in every case, they seem to present GM Sandy Alderson as the only roadblock to spending. From Fred:

Asked if the team payroll, which is now about $90 million, will soon enough return to the $140 million level it stood at several years ago, Wilpon said: “I asked Sandy about that. He said he couldn’t invest that much money.”

From Jeff:

“Depending on how it all presents itself, that has always been part of the plan, to use the money coming off the books and improve the team,” Wilpon said.  I can’t tell you exactly how it’s going to happen, as we get further into the offseason, we’ll know a little better.

It’s the Wilpons’ money, and now, according to Harper, they are dictating to Alderson how much to spend. That was the case all along. They told previous GMs Omar Minaya and Steve Phillips how much to spend (and when to spend it) as well. The GMs proceeded according to their marching orders.

Having a lavish budget doesn’t guarantee a contender, but it certainly gives a team more flexibility to acquire the pieces it needs. If what Harper says is true, Alderson once again has to get creative on a relatively limited budget dictated by an ownership group that is still financially limited, no matter what they’ve said publicly.

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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…

First Basemen

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.

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Free Agent Targets: Shortstops

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 outfielders. In this post, I’ll take a look at…

Shortstops

The Mets have several holes to fill, but the position that has the most room for improvement is shortstop. Mets shortstops had a combined -0.1 WAR last year. They were bad in the field and even worse at the plate. 23 year-old Ruben Tejada took a big step back in his development this year, and it’s clear the Mets don’t have confidence in him to be the everyday shortstop in 2014.

There are two major free agents this offseason who would be a significant upgrade at short. Most every team who needs a shortstop has interest in them, including the Mets.

Stephen Drew, 31 – Drew is good fielder with a decent left-handed bat. Playing mostly in hitter-friendly parks, he averaged a .264/.329/.435 slash with 15 homers over a 162-game average. He truly showed off his glove this postseason, covered a lot of ground, and made sure-handed plays with strong, accurate throws. He hardly hit a lick until he homered in the clinching game of the World Series, but his defense was extremely valuable to the Red Sox en route their World Championship. Now Drew is ready to settle in somewhere with a long-term deal – perhaps 3 or 4 years in length. He’s expected to go for about $10 million per year.

Jhonny Peralta, 31 – Peralta is similar to Drew in many ways, particularly at the dish. He has a career .268/.330/.425 slash line and averages 18 home runs over 162 games. A right handed hitter, Peralta has displayed power while playing his home games in less hitter-friendly parks. He’s had 4 years in which he’s hit 20 homers or more, most recently in 2011 with the Tigers. This year, he was having an outstanding season (.303/.358/.457 and 11 HRs in 448 plate appearances), before he was suspended for the last 50 games of the season for his association with the Biogenesis clinic. Because of that black mark, his price may be discounted, as some teams will be reluctant to sign him. How much of his performance was enhanced by less-than-natural means? We don’t know, but the fact that he played so well after his name was publicly linked to Biogenesis is a good sign. His glove isn’t as highly regarded as Drew’s, but he did have a 3.5 UZR last year, and a UZR over 10 in 2011 and 2012.

Coming up next: Free agent first basemen

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Free Agent Targets: Outfielders

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 relief pitchers. In this post, I’ll take a look at…

Outfielders

So many outfielders, so little time (and possibly money – but that’s been talked about ad nauseam).

The Mets seem happy with Juan Lagares and his defense in centerfield, but would like to upgrade the corners. Here are some possibilities:

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Free Agent Targets: Relief Pitchers

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 starting pitchers. In this post, I’ll take a look at…

Relief Pitchers

The Mets bullpen had another poor season statistically in 2013, but a lot of their failure came from a few sources, like Brandon Lyon, Rob Carson, Greg Burke, and Josh Edgin (during his first stint in the majors).

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Free Agent Targets: Starting Pitchers

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 this post, I’ll take a look at…

Starting Pitchers

The Mets would like a veteran starting pitcher to anchor a young, Matt Harveyless rotation in 2014. Not really an ace, just someone to eat innings while Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, and Noah Syndergaard grow into the top-tier starters the team thinks they can be.

Tim Hudson, 38, RHP – Hudson should be fully recovered from his ankle injury (inflicted accidentally by Eric Young) by Opening Day. He had a 3.97 ERA and 1.19 WHIP before going down. He’s coming off a 4-year, $36 million deal, and should be affordable.

Paul Maholm, 31, LHP – Aside from Jon Niese, the Mets are thin on left-handed starting pitchers at the major league level, and the high minors. Maholm would give them a decent lefty arm for 150 innings or so. He wasn’t great against right-handed batters, but he held lefties to a .226/.262/.297 slash line. His last contract was 2 years, $11.25 million.

Scott Feldman, 30, LHP – Feldman is a more intriguing lefty. Once a prospect for the Texas Rangers, he started 2013 with the Cubs, and finished with the Orioles. According to MLBTR, the O’s are keen on keeping Feldman, and are looking at a 2-year, $17 million contract. If he falls through the cracks, however, he and his 2013 ERA of 3.86 and WHIP of 1.18 would be welcome in the Mets rotation.

Scott Kazmir, 29, LHP – Perhaps a return home for the prodigal son is in order? After several years of injury and ineffectiveness, Kazmir rebounded to post a 4.04 ERA, 1.32 ERA, and a 9.2 SO/9 ratio with the Cleveland Indians. Given his injury history, however, he’s still a question mark.

Aaron Harang, 35, RHP – Harang threw his final 23 innings of 2013 with the Mets, and had a 3.52 ERA and a 10.2 SO/9 ratio. However, he also walked an average of 4.7 batters per 9 innings. He looked sharp enough to be considered for a return. His last contract was 2-years, $12 million, but he may be available for less than that.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, 33, RHP – Matsuzaka spent his last 38.2 innings of 2013 with the Mets. Early on, he walked a lot of batters and took forever to deliver the ball to home plate, both hallmarks of Dice-K’s career, but in his last 4 starts, he went 26.1 innings, won 3 games, and had a 1.37 ERA. He held opposing hitters to a .461 OPS. He’s still a gamble, but he might be worth another look if they can sign him on the cheap.

Dan Haren, 33, RHP – Haren had a bad year in 2013. He had a 4.67 ERA and 4.09 FIP. However, he still struck out 8 batters per 9 innings, and had a 1.23 WHIP. His fastball velocity is down from the level it was in his halcyon days, but good pitchers figure out how to pitch without their best stuff. He’s coming off a 1-year, $13 million contract. If he asks for anywhere near that, the Mets should pass.

The Mets would be wise not to spend a large percentage of whatever offseason budget they have on starting pitchers. They have some organizational depth (as long as they don’t trade any of it), even if it’s somewhat inexperienced. They have more glaring holes to fill at other positions.

Coming up next: Free agent relief pitchers.

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