The New York Mets will attempt to hold onto a playoff spot should they have one in late September. The previous two years the Mets have lost a possible playoff spot on the final game of the season. The Phillies stole the division at the end of 2007, and the Brewers took the Wild Card at the end of last year.
The Mets tried to change that when they went out and fixed their bullpen, the biggest problem of 2008. After finding out that Billy Wagner would miss the entire ’09 season, the Mets went out and acquired Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz. After that, they kept the rotation strong by resigning Oliver Perez and adding starters Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding. The team has some quality pitching depth in both the rotation and bullpen, something that wasn’t there last season.
With Jon Niese lurking in the wings, the Mets are 7 deep in the rotation. It’s talented, too. Johan Santana is obviously one of the top 3 pitchers in the MLB if not the best. Pelfrey, Main, and Perez are solid middle-of-the-rotation types. And then there is all that depth in the 5th spot. The lineup is just as good as it was last year. There have been no changes at any position. They are looking really good.
It’s obvious that the Mets are much improved. Their bullpen has gone from a huge hole to a huge strength. Garcia and Redding add some nice depth to the rotation, and New York brought back Perez as well. The New York team in the Queens is in a great position to get to the playoffs. The only question is, will they be good enough to get past the World Champion Phillies? I have no idea. Everyone keeps talking about how great of a race the AL East is going to be, but the NL East is also up for grabs. The Mets and Phillies could get in, but the Marlins and Braves will also be competing. This should be an awesome race.
I have no idea who is going to win this division, but it will be a lot of fun to watch. It might not matter, because the second place team could easily take the Wild Card. I actually expect two playoff teams coming from the NL East. I just can’t wait until the season starts.
The Mets have finally made an offer to free agent starter Derek Lowe. They have proposed 3 years, 36 million.
If Lowe ends up with this, it will be a major steal for the Mets. Could you believe that after Carlos Silva nabbed 4 years, 48 million that Lowe could be stuck with only 3 years, 36 million? It makes no sense at all. Even after this year, a year in which AJ Burnett received 5 years, 82.5 million, Lowe could get less. I know that some will disagree, but Lowe is a better, more durable pitcher than Burnett. It is just blowing my mind that Lowe might only get a 3 year, 36 million dollar contract.
All the signs point to him making more, but who will give him more? Almost every mid or large-market contending team on the east coast or the mid west won’t be pursuing him.
- The Yankees officially have no money left to spend, especially not the 12 million per year Lowe will require.
- The Red Sox signed Brad Penny, filling the need for a starter.
- The Phillies have nothing left to spend after signing Jamie Moyer and Raul Ibanez.
- The Cubs would rather have a big bat for right field.
- The Brewers don’t seem willing to make any long term commitments because most of their players’ pay is rising through arbitration.
- The Cardinals don’t view starting pitching as a big need.
- The Tigers, Astros, White Sox, Blue Jays, Twins, and Indians can’t afford him.
So, when you narrow things down, the only suitor for Lowe is the Mets. There is a team, that I haven’t named, however. The Braves are a great fit for Lowe. They play on the East Coast, need a starting pitcher, are a contending team (sometimes), and have the money to spend. I predicted Lowe to sign in Atlanta in my Top 50 Free Agents, and I still love the fit. I don’t understand why there is such a lack of interest. The Braves were not shy at all about pursuing AJ Burnett. They even offered him 5 years, 80 million. If I’m GM Frank Wren, I’m making Lowe an offer of 4 years, 48 million. That would probably get him to accept, and if nothing else it will drive up the price for the Mets. The Braves should definitely get in on Derek Lowe.
As of right now, it looks like Lowe will be in a Met uniform next year. If they get him, they are going to be one hard team to stop. I think they’d win the division with Francisco Rodriguez, JJ Putz, and now Derek Lowe on the team. If they do make the playoffs, watch out! Could you imagine Johan Santana and Derek Lowe pitching 2 games each in a 5 game playoff series. Both pitchers have a lot of playoff experience, and they could pretty much end the game if they could go 7 innings each. That should be no problem for these two. Putz and K-Rod can come in and end the game. Scary!
By my calculations, the Mets have around 12 million left to spend after signing Francisco Rodriguez and trading for JJ Putz. With that 12 million, they would like to sign a starting pitcher. Below are some names that they could consider.
Derek Lowe. He seems like their top target. The only question is if they can afford Lowe. His price seems to be dropping now that the Yankees and Phillies are out, but I’m still not convinced that he will get less than 14 million per year. The Reds Sox and Braves make a whole lot of sense even though they haven’t made it public. The only way I see Lowe in a Mets uniform is if they make a trade or two to clear some salary. The problem is, they don’t have any expendable pieces.
Oliver Perez. To me, a return of Oliver Perez is the most likely possibility for the Mets. I don’t think that they can afford Lowe, and I can’t find our any other good suitors for Ollie other than the Mets. I guess the Dodgers could make an inquiry, but they seems more willing to sign a starter like Randy Johnson to a short term deal. Perez is the best option available to the Mets unless they do somehow bring in Lowe. Again, that’s not likely.
Randy Wolf. He makes sense because he is a left handed starter that could come on a 1 year deal. Wolf was very solid last year, and could be a really nice pick-up if he stays healthy. Wolf has got some upside, and I would be willing to take him on if Lowe or Perez cannot be signed.
Jon Garland. You could make the argument that he makes more sense than Wolf. Garland is younger, more durable, and has a better track record. However, Wolf was better last year, has more strike-outs, and is a lefty. I think it will pretty much come down to whomever will come cheaper for a shorter term. Garland would make a solid aquisition to the Mets’ pitching staff.
Jason Marquis. The Cubs have made it known that he is available, and they would probably even toss in some money. Marquis is from New York, will come on a 1 year deal, and is pretty much just as good as Wolf and Garland. If the Cubs bring his salary down to, say 7 million, a deal could be possible.
So, if I was the Mets’ GM Omar Minaya, I would go hard after Lowe and Perez. If both players were pushed out of my budget, I would aquire Wolf, Garland, or Marquis. Since they all are similar pitchers, I would just take on the cheapest one. The remaining money could be used on a cheap fifth starter candidate like Pedro Martinez or Bartolo Colon. You can never have too much pitching depth.
- Mets get: JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green
- Indians get: Joe Smith, Luis Valbuena
- Mariners get: Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, pitcher Maikel Cleto, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, pitcher Jason Vargas
- Mets lose: Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Maikel Cleto, Ezquiel Carrera, Jason Vargas
- Indians lose: Franklin Gutierrez
- Mariners lose: JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, Luis Valbuena
I absolutely love this trade for the Mets. They add two lights-out closers cheaply. Francisco Rodriguez got only 36 million and then they nab Putz for a bunch of mid-tier players. Could you imagine how they’ll fare in the playoffs? (I’m not saying that they’ll make it, but if they do) They could have Johan Santana go 7 lights-out innings to set it up for Putz and K-Rod to end the game. That’s sick stuff. Green and Reed also add depth to the ‘pen and outfield.
It’s not like they sold the farm, either. They gave up a lot of players, but none are anything special. Smith and Heilman were fairly solid bullpen pieces, but Heilman is coming off an awful year while Smith seemed to get lucky. His peripheral stats were terrible. Endy Chavez was a nice little fourth outfielder, but it doesn’t kill your team to lose a fourth outfielder. Besides, Angel Pagan or Reed could do just as well. Mike Carp was never going to be the Mets’ first baseman. He has some solid potential, but they would never take the below-average power he would of brought to first base because of all their money. Carrera has bad stats, but he does have speed. Vargas is doing really good in the Winter Leagues, but he’s been unsuccessful in his trips to the big leagues. Cleto has high upside because of his great stuff, but his stats weren’t anything special. Still, it is tuff to trade
a young prospect who throws a 98 MPH fastball to go along with a solid slider. He could become a closer one day if he gets his slider under control. I really like this trade, because none of these players would have had a big impact on the Mets in 2009, and probably even beyond.
It seems like a decent trade for the Indians. It was obvious that Gutierrez wasn’t in their long-term plans, and they got a pretty solid return for him. Smith was a good reliever last year, and should still be solid despite bad peripheral stats. Valbuena was solid in the minors, and could become a solid utility player eventually. This is a decent swap for the Tribe.
I’ll be honest by saying that I don’t like this deal for the Mariners. There is not one high upside player in this trade aside from Cleto, but he’s only got one great pitch. I suppose that Heilman could bounce back and become a solid back-end starter for the Ms, but he could also blow up again. I don’t see any of the outfielders —
Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, or Ezequiel Carrera — becoming anything better than a fourth outfielder. Maybe one of them becomes a fringe center fielder. Mike Carp looks like he will have an above average OBP, but his lack of power doesn’t make him a very attractive prospect. Jason Vargas is basically your AAAA player, and that’s being generous. I’m just not understanding why the Mariners felt they had to trade JJ Putz without getting a package with some solid prospects. I would’ve waited until the trade-deadline.
Whew! That was a long post, but it had to be because it was such a huge trade.
The Mets have stolen Francisco Rodriguez off the free agent market for only 3 years, 36 million. This has got to be the most team-friendly free agent deal of the winter. It would be pretty hard for some player to get this underpaid. Francisco Cordero signed for 4 years, 46 million with the Reds just last years after one good year with the Brewers. K-Rod puts up 6 straight good years and gets less years and less money. The one possible compensation for K-Rod is that he has a 14 million dollar vesting option for a fourth year. 4 years, 50 million is looking a lot better than 3 years, 36 million. If I was Rodriguez, I would have seriously considered accepting the Angels offer of arbitration so that I could enter free agency in a bad market for closers instead of a great one. I doubt he knew he would be unable to even land a 4th year, though. This is a great signing for the Mets.
Now that he is in the books, the Mets have about 13 million left to spend. They would like to add a starter, and reliever, and possibly an outfielder. I would skip the outfielder part because Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy won’t kill them in left to start the season. Fernando Martinez will be ready soon enough, though I don’t recommend rushing him. Juan Cruz should be under serious consideration. With so many closers on the market coming at cheap prices, it looks like Cruz will have to sign as a setup man. The Mets seem to make the most sense. I like the idea of trading for Jason Marquis to fill the rotational hole. Have the Cubs eat 2 million so that Marquis would come on a 1 year, 7 million dollar deal. It seems like a better idea than paying big bucks to resign Oliver Perez. I hate the Jon Garland idea if Marquis is available for the above mentioned price. Unless Garland is willing to take 1 year, 7 million or less, it will be smarter to go with Marquis. Plus, Jason could thrive in his hometown. So, it makes sense to cheaply fill the starting pitcher hole while aquiring a solid setup man. Remember, the bullpen was still bad when Billy Wagner was healthy.
It looks like with the right moves, the Mets are going to be very competitive next year. They just need to work on finishing out seasons. (they failed to do this the previous 2 years)
The deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents was 12:00 P.M. Eastern Time yesterday. You can read all about free agent compensation here, see how the Elias ranking work here, and see those rankings here. Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors for all of these links. Below are players offered and not offered arbitration that I deemed questionable. Ignore the bolded posts; I can’t find a way to get rid of the.
- D’Backs don’t offer arb. to Adam Dunn. This was the dumbest decision of them all. Not to offer Dunn arbitration for fear he would accept is just plain sily. There would have been a 98% chance that he declines to sign for multiple years elsewhere, netting the D’Backs two picks. Even if for some reason he did accept the offer of arbitration, he would be a great trade chip. Dunn on a 1 year, 15 million dollar deal would bring back a lot in return. This makes zero sense to me and proves how cheap the D’Backs are.
- Phillies don’t offer arb. to Pat Burrell. It’s like the same thing as with Dunn. These guys are great players; they deserve an offer of arbitration. I know that the Phils don’t have much money to spend, but Burrell on a cheap 1 year deal would be a great piece to their team. They could either let Jamie Moyer go and keep Burrell, or even if they really wanted to not be stuck with Burrell, they could have just traded him. Like Dunn, he would make a lot of sense for a lot of teams for a year. This one does’t make much sense either.
- Yankees don’t offer arb. to Bobby Abreu. I find this surprising, because I know for a fact that Abreu would’ve declined and signed elsewhere on a multi-year contract. There was no way he was coming back to New York, and even if he did, he would be solid trade chip. I’m not understanding their logic on this one.
- Cubs don’t offer arb. to Kerry Wood. This was just flat out dumb. First of all, what were the chance that Wood would actually accept an offer of arbitration? I’d say around 20%. We all know that he deeply wants to stay with the Cubs, but I doubt he would sacrifice a possible 15-20 million to stick in Chicago. If Woody did accept, they could always just trade him. His salary would be moveable, and they could even get a decent prospect back. To me, this was just utter stupidness.
- Phillies don’t offer arb. to Jamie Moyer. I have no idea why Moyer didn’t get an offer. Wouldn’t the Phils like Jamie back on a 1 year deal at market price? Isn’t that what they are trying to get done this offseason; resign Moyer. I know that he stood a good chance of accepting, but I don’t think that would be a bad thing. At least you know you can get a pick if he does leave for whatever reason. Ruben Amaro has not had a very good start to his general managing career if you ask me.
- Astros don’t offer arb. to Randy Wolf. Remember when the Astros were supposedly the frontrunners for Ben Sheets? Now they can’t even afford Randy Wolf on a 1 year deal. I didn’t know that their payroll was this tight. Like a lot of other players on this list, he would have been very easy to trade had he accepted. Also, wasn’t this the reason for trading for Wolf, so that they could get a sandwich pick for some AAAA reliever? I think that trade is looking even worse now because the ‘Stros had to know at the time of the trade that they couldn’t afford to offer arb. to Wolf or to resign him. The Astros are one of the worst run franchises in all of baseball.
- Dodgers don’t offer arb. to Joe Beimel. This guy made only 2 million last year, and stands a great chance at nabbing at least a two year deal on the open market. I don’t see why the Dodgers wouldn’t offer to him. Beilmel would be a bargain on a 1 year deal, so he is a tradeable asset if the Dodgers truly didn’t want him.
- Cardinals don’t offer arb. to Braden Looper. He would be a great bargain on a one year deal, and is said to be looking for 3 years, making it likely he declines. Looper would’ve provided great depth to their rotation if they wanted him. Even if the Cards didn’t want him, he would be very easy to trade. This was a dumb decision and it will cost the Cards a sandwich pick.
- Cardinals don’t offer arb. to Russ Springer. I though they wanted him back. A 1 year deal at market value would be a good signing for them. I know that they knew he would accept, but that’s a good thing. Well, at least I think so.
- Mets don’t offer arb. to Luis Ayala. I know he was completely terrible last year, but he was solid in his stint with the Mets and has had a great track record his entire career. (except for last year, of course) He made only 1.7 million last year, and would be a solid signing for a year at about 2.5 million. If he declined, they would have gotten a draft pick for him.
As you can see there were a lot of teams that I felt made a mistake by not offering a key player arbitration. It looks like the economy is hurting everyone.
Shortly after the Rockies aquired Huston Street from the A’s in the Matt Holliday trade, the Mets came asking about Street. They offered Aaron Heilman straight up for Huston. Of course, this wouldn’t get it done. The Rox countered by asking for Pedro Feliciano to be included, but the Mets declined. My question is, “What are you thinking?” Street will make only about 5 million next year. After moving Heilman and Feliciano, the money added would probably only be 1 or 2 million. So, your’re getting a solid closer for barely nothing, so you can now spend on a starter, middle reliever, and possibly some more offense.
I understand that they might be afraid to lose Feliciano and count on Scott Schoeneweis, but with the extra money you can just sign a lefty reliever. Joe Bemiel, Brian Shouse, or Arthur Rhodes would be solid aquisitions. The left over money could be used on Derek Lowe. He would make their rotation scary. Spend 16 million on Lowe, and use the other 7 million on middle relievers to replace Feliciano and Heilman.
This could have worked out great for the Mets. This is smarter than committing to Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes, isn’t it? I have no idea why they declined.
AJ Burnett is drawing a ton of interest on the open market. After opting out of his contract with the Blue Jays, he has 6 teams seriously interested in his services. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Mets, Oriols, and Blue Jays all want him. Because of all the interested teams, Burnett will look for a 5 year deal while considering nothing else. The Yankees don’t want to go to 5 years, but I’m sure they’d change their mind if the Red Sox offer that term. I don’t think the Sox will either, though. They really don’t need Burnett, they just want to keep him out of New York. It would probably be smarter to pursue a reunion with Derek Lowe. He wants to come back to Boston, and would be cheaper than Burnett even though he is probably a better pitcher. The Braves would rather have Lowe, also. They will pursue Burnett, but it’s no secret that they’d rather have the veteran durability of Lowe. The Mets will probably not be able to afford Burnett if they give Francisco Rodriguez a big contract. Maybe they’ll be the team to give him 5 years for less money than the 16 million per year he will command. The Oriols would like to add him because he would make a really nice 1-2 punch when combined with Jeremy Guthrie. When some of their great pitching prospects come up, the Oriols will be in great position to compete. I guess I could see them going to 5 years, but I really have to squint. JP Riccardi, the GM of the Blue Jays, has said that he would consider going to 5 years for AJ. If they are the only team offering this term, they’ll probably be able to resign him. I really think in the end that some team will offer Burnett 5 years, and I’m predicting it will be the Yankees. How many times have they changed their minds? A lot, and I think they will this time, too.
I haven’t done a player market in a while. Bobby Abreu seems like a pretty popular name so far. Let’s take a look at where he might end up.
Cubs (frontrunners) Now that Ryan Dempster is resigned and Kerry Wood won’t be back, the remainder of the Cubs’ money will go toward a left handed bat for right field. The Cubs are in a financial predicament, however. 130 million is already tied up in contracts, and arbitration raises could push them another 5 million or so. If it’s true that payroll won’t go past 140 million, then salary must be moved in order to aquire Abreu. Marquis could be traded. I think they’ll do that to clear at least 7 million, and then with the 12 million made available, they’ll sign Abreu. But that’s just my prediction.
Braves (frontrunners) If they miss out on other outfield possibilities, Abreu could make a lot of sense. It would give them the flexibility of demoting or trading Jeff Francoeur without having to put someone in right field that shouldn’t be there. He had very good stats last year, and would be an all around a great aquisition for any team to make.
Reds (frontrunners) He could solve their left field problems. Great American Ballpark should attract Abreu, and the Reds could use a high OBP player to replace Adam Dunn. If they can get a few big years from various young players, this team could compete for the Wild Card and maybe even the NL Central.
Mets (possible) The Mets have been saying all along that they view pitching as their offseason priorty. They would still be upgrading their pitching by signing Abreu, though. For example: The Mets trade Ryan Church to the Rays for Edwin Jackson, sign Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes, and sign Bobby Abreu. That all can fit into their payroll, and they improve the bullpen and offense while keeping the rotation the same. Abreu would take over in right field, replacing Ryan Church. I think this idea could work.
Rays (dark horse) I know that they’re running low on money, but if they want to stretch the payroll a tad, Bobby Abreu could make sense. He is a middle of the order bat that plays right field; Abreu would fill all of their holes in just one aquisition. This one is a dark horse only because of the possible salary it would take to lock him up.
The Mets have reportedly chosen which path they would like to go down this offseason: the closer road. I recently gave them two free agent options to pick from, with one having them sign a top-of-the-rotation starter and the other one having them sign K-Rod or Brian Fuentes. You can view that here. I like the decision, because you can’t win if you can’t finish off games. I guess this was the right choice since the rotation is pretty solid while the bullpen is horrendous. The Mets plan on signing K-Rod, a middle reliever, and probably a Jon Garland or Oliver Perez type of starter. Or, they could make a trade for Edwin Jackson. I still think that Ryan Church and Aaron Heilman for E-Jax makes a ton of sense. The Mets would then sign an outfielder like Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu to fill the hole left by Church. The only sticking point in the negotiations could be the Mets unwillingness to add the fourth year. They got burned when they did that with Billy Wagner, and might opt for Fuentes because of the term. I still think they’re leaning toward K-Rod, though.