Here is part 1 of my offseason recommendations series. I’ll start with the lineup. First, a couple notes. Per MLB rules, teams are only allowed to sign a certain number of “Type A” or “Type B” free agents each offseason, depending on certain circumstances I won’t delve into too deeply here. For the sake of this series of posts, I project that the Mets will sign up to 4 of these Type A and B free agents. Read here for a summary of these confusing rules. The complete list of Type A and Type B players is released after the postseason ends. Click here and here for last year’s lists as a point of reference.
Also, I realize the need for trades this offseason, but I’m not going to make proposals when I have no insider information if either team is actually interested (i.e. “How about we send Jose Reyes to Seattle for Felix Hernandez?”). This is a worthless endeavor, which I’ll leave to WFAN callers. I will instead comment on players I think should be traded, and what type of player they should look for in return. If I read confirmed reports of players on the trading block, then it is useful to discuss.
Projected starting position players, prior to trades/signings:
Catcher – Brian Schneider/Ramon Castro
1st Base – Carlos Delgado
2nd Base – ????
3rd Base – David Wright
Shortstop – Jose Reyes
Left Field - ????
Center Field – Carlos Beltran
Right Field – Ryan Church
Luis Castillo will almost certainly not return, leaving via trade in which the Mets will have to eat a lot of salary. Perhaps they can package him with expendable Nick Evans to acquire a young prospect or a major league ready starting pitcher. The Mets plan to pick up Delgado’s option, and they’d be foolish not to. If the bought him out, they’d have to pay $4 million, so his $12 million option only costs $8 million. Barring a “f*cking A” trade opportunity (i.e. Reyes for Albert Pujols), I wouldn’t trade any of the Mets’ Big 3. I’m apprehensive about anointing Daniel Murphy a starter at 2B. However, I’m a big fan of his (I sponsor his Baseball Reference page), and he earned atleast the opportunity to fail after his play in August and September. His progress at 2nd base in the Arizona Fall League will be monitored. Here are free agent options, with projected status (Type A or B):
Mark Ellis, 2B: Ellis is coming off of season ending shoulder surgery, and finished 2008 with an unimpressive line of .233/.321/.373. He is a strong fielder, and would probably garner only a 1-2 year contract wherever he ends up. He would come cheaply, freeing up more $$ for other positional needs. Ellis could be an insurance policy should Murphy fail to progress at 2nd base.
Orlando Hudson, 2B (Type A): Known more for his excellent defense (average FRAA of +16 the last 6 seasons), Hudson is strong at the plate as well. Since learning to be more patient at the plate a few years back, Hudson has posted OBP’s of .354, .376, and .367 the last 3 seasons. He will be 31 next season, and is looking for a 3-4 year deal.
Bobby Abreu, LF (Type A): Even at age 34 this season, Abreu posted a very similar line to Carlos Beltran. (Abreu: .296/.371/.471; Beltran: .284/.376/.500) He still knows how to get on base, which would be useful in the 2-hole. This is not a Moises Alou-type injury prone older player – Abreu has played atleast 151 games each season since 1998. However, he is a butcher in the field, and won’t be improving anytime soon.
Milton Bradley, LF (Type B): Milton is known more for his hilarious name and insanity streak, but quietly put up one of the top 5 offensive seasons in baseball in 2008 (.321/.436/.563). He made it clear he is looking for a multi-year deal, which is problematic mainly because he is injury prone, averaging just 100 games played per year since 2003. One thing is for sure – when healthy and not bringing the ruckus, Milton is a very productive major league hitter.
Adam Dunn, LF (Type A): Probably the most polarizing player available this offseason, Dunn elicits more angry comments at MetsBlog than even Aaron Heilman. I am a Dunn fan, because he gives you 40 homers and 100+ walks like clockwork (seriously, he's hit exactly 40 homers each of the last 4 seasons). He is also quite durable. The downside is his poor defense, high strikeout rate and low batting average (which is not a big problem as long as he’s OBP is .380+, as it has been every full season of his career). I don’t think the Mets will aggressively pursue him, but if he’s still available late this offseason and the Mets need a left-fielder, he could come cheaply.
Raul Ibanez, LF (Type A): Ibanez reminds me of Abreu, in that he is very durable and is good for a solid OPS around .825 every season. He is also 36 years old. He was a late bloomer, as he didn’t start everyday until age 30. Historically, he has not been an exceptional defensive player, but had an acceptable 2008 in the field. I’m a fan of his, and maybe he’d want to come back to the city where he was born for a 3-year deal.
Manny Ramirez, LF (Type A): Even at age 36, Manny is just as good as he ever was. His work ethic is apparently maniacal, and his destruction of NL pitching in 2008 has been historically good (213 OPS+ in 53 games). The Mets lineup would be the best in the NL immediately upon signing Manny. However, I’m weary of him after the garbage he pulled this season with the Red Sox, and I think his production would slip after getting that desired 4 year, $80+ million deal.
Juan Rivera, LF: Newsday writer Ken Davidoff has recommended Rivera for the Mets. He’s had some recent injury problems, but would come cheaply after a subpar 2008 in which he OPS’d .720. One benefit of signing Rivera is that more money would be freed up to potentially acquire higher priced player, and he probably won’t be a Type A or Type B free agent.
Fernando Tatis, OF: Fernando must pass a physical after that nasty shoulder injury he sustained in September. He would be useful off the bench, or as a starter in the OF should the decide not to upgrade in the LF. A slight dropoff from his great 2008 performance would be expected, but I think he is a safe bet to OBP .350 and SLG .450, even in limited PA's.
I would love for the Mets to sign Orlando Hudson to a 3-4 year deal at $7-8 million per. However, based on the projected Type A/Type B free agents they can sign, I don’t think Hudson would be the best way to go. Instead, I would look at Mark Ellis as a backup to Daniel Murphy at 2nd base. It may be tough to lure him from Oakland, as A’s GM Billy Beane is apparently a fan of Ellis. Also, it may be hard to get Ellis to switch coasts.
I don’t think the Mets should aggressively pursue Manny Ramirez. If signed, the Mets would have to go cheap in the rotation and bullpen. Instead, I like Raul Ibanez for 3 years and $24 million give or take a few million. Many fans will look at his age as a negative, but as I noted Ibanez is quite durable. For those interested, Ibanez is a career .305 hitter with RISP. If Ibanez is off the market, I would be pleased with Bobby Abreu or an undervalued Adam Dunn. Additionally, re-sign Fernando Tatis.
I would not be heartbroken if they signed Hudson rather than an outfielder. Ellis may be unavailable, and there are few other viable options at 2nd base. Plus, there are a number of solid OF free agents available following the 2009 season (Jason Bay, Matt Holliday), meaning a 2009 LF manned by Fernando Tatis, Murphy, and Evans may be serviceable. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. This offseason, Omar Minaya will probably have to choose 2nd base or LF to commit major $$. Based on their other needs, the Mets probably can’t afford to sign both Hudson and a Type A OF.
Projected 2009 lineup, if I had it my way:
1. Jose Reyes, SS (2008 OPS: .833)
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B (.871)
3. Carlos Beltran, CF (.876)
4. Carlos Delgado, 1B (.871)
5. David Wright, 3B (.924)
6. Raul Ibanez, LF (.837)
7. Ryan Church, RF (.785)
8. Brian Schneider/Ramon Castro, C (.707/.753)
(note: I spent about 30 seconds with this lineup order, so it’s probably not the most efficient one possible)
C Brian Schneider/Ramon Castro (.707/.753)
2B Mark Ellis (.694)
OF Endy Chavez (.638)
1B/OF Nick Evans (.706)
OF Fernando Tatis (.853)
As I've written previously, the lineup was not a huge problem this year. I think the big $$$ should be spent on the pitching staff. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of this, and check back for my starting rotation recommendations.