The Mets are in money trouble, in case you hadn't heard. Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz got some bad news this week, and may be out $300 million or so come the offseason. That will severely limit them when it comes to building for 2012 and beyond through free agency. Of course, given what we've seen the Mets do with money in the past, maybe it's not such a bad thing for Sandy Alderson to have an allowance.
Of course, the new model in baseball differs greatly from the last decade. There's been a paradigm shift away from signing big money free agents, and toward drafting well and locking guys up early. Great young players just don't hit the open market anymore because teams are too smart to overpay for their own players.
There is not much talent available this year, besides the very top tier guys. Let's assume that the Mets money issues preclude them from signing Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. If those guys are off the table, who should the Mets be chasing this winter?
Obviously. Priority number one is Reyes, and by refusing to trade the shortstop in the middle of his best season ever, the Mets made it clear they will make a big push to resign him. The doomsday scenario is that Reyes leaves for nothing, but even that would probably net the Mets compensatory picks in the draft. Of course, losing the premiere shortstop in the league for some 19-year-old kid is a terrible consolation prize. If the Mets are serious about retaining Reyes, they will have to at least double his $11 million salary from 2011, and probably offer at least six years. My preference? $125 million for five years, with a team option for the sixth. Maybe the high annual salary will convince him to stay for less time. The reality? Carl Crawford length, perhaps for less total money because of Reyes' injury history. If Jose wants to stay, he can, but if he wants to bolt to Boston or San Francisco or any number of teams who would love his services, he can shatter the bank.
Well, we know he doesn't want to play in Oakland. The 30-year-old lefty and California native may want to stay with the team that drafted him, Texas, or return home to play for one of the other Cali teams. But the Mets would love to pair another potential ace with a presumably healthy Johan Santana, and Wilson is a very good player.
Yankee's ace CC Sabathia will be the best pitcher on the market by far, but there is no way the Yanks won't pay him what he wants to continue to anchor their rotation. The problem is that CC's contract will drive up the price of all pitchers, so let's hope the Mets can approach Wilson or another free agent pitcher before they get priced out.
Other than Wilson, there is not much available. Former Mets John Maine, Scott Kazmir and (shudder) Oliver Perez will be on the market, as well as New York native Jason Marquis. If the Mets want to make a splash and have a decent rotation for youngsters like Zach Wheeler and Brad Holt to step into down the line, they may have to go big. If the money is an issue, there are some other options for pitchers.
This would be a classic high risk, high reward signing. Harden is apparently so damaged that the Red Sox backed out of a last minute trade after taking a look at his medical records. But imagine if the Mets give him an incentive-laden deal, maybe a year worth up to six million dollars if he starts a certain number of games, and give him a chance to rebuild his career. Maybe Harden won't accept something like that. But if the guaranteed money is low enough, this could be a boon for the Mets.
Not a free agent, but definitely a candidate to be traded in the offseason. Carmona has had a bad year, but last year he threw 210 innings with a 3.77 era, and he is only a few years removed from his 19 wins, 3.06 ERA 2007 season. Most importantly, he turns 28 this winter, so there is always a chance for a turnaround, and he may be available for someone like Angel Pagan or Mike Pelfrey or a broken prospect like Fernando Martinez.
For whatever reason, it seems like Sanchez's name is always coming up in trade talks, even surfacing during the Carlos Beltran talks last month. If the Giants don't want to hold on to him, the Mets should jump at the chance to get him - he will turn 29 this offseason, and had a 3.07 ERA with 205 Ks in 193 innings last season.
The Mets need outfielders, bad, and the market is pretty weak. Cuddyer is a great hitter and plans to test free agency this offseason, and is maybe the only impact bat that might come at a discount. The Twins have tied up tons of money to Joe Mauer and may not be able to afford Cuddyer. Granted, the Mets may not be able to afford him either, but the right fielder is from the same area as David Wright and may relish the chance to play for a big market team after spending his career in frosty Minneapolis.