After scanning the free agent list, these are some guys I would target that will be within the Mets budget.
- Pudge Rodriguez
- The Mets need a back-up catcher. I know many of you would have preferred Ramon Hernandez, but I think Pudge is better for the Mets in both the short term, and long term. Seems confusing right? He is 40 years old and in an obvious decline as a ballplayer. However, despite those two seemingly very important things, Pudge might be the best leader of any free agent available. He would be a great mentor for Josh Thole, and an even better leader, and teacher for the Mets young pitching staff. Maybe Pudge is the cure that Mike Pelfrey has always needed. With Niese, Gee in the rotation and Wheeler, Harvey, Familia and Mejia all so young and on the way, Rodriguez would be a tremendous source of experience and knowledge, to aid in their development. While I don’t know how much money he is looking for, he may not find a better situation to find some playing time, sitting only 156 hits away from 3,000. He hit only .218 last year, but he still generated 0.4 WAR in only 137 at-bats. Current Mets backup Mike Nickeas hit .189, and Thole hit a solid .268 but only generated 1.0 WAR in 386 at bats, so Pudge adds value here. In addition, with the Mets looking for a catcher who hits lefties well, throughout his career, Pudge has been more productive hitting against left handed pitchers, hitting .289 against them over the past five seasons. On a one year deal, there is very limited downside, with great long term upside potential.
- Jerry Hairston Jr
- Versatility. Versatility. Versatility. Having played all the outfield positions, second base, third base and short stop in his career, Hairston can play just about anywhere, making him a great guy to have on the bench, especially in the National League. While his bat is nothing special, he did hit ten home runs in both 2009 and 2010, and has a career .258 BA and .326 OBP, so he would still contribute wherever he was on the field. Another thing to consider is, if the Mets are out of playoff contention at the trading deadline, Hairston will be an asset that can bring back some value. Hairston signed a one year deal for two million last season, so another deal like that seems reasonable for both sides.
- Punto is another versatile player that would be a great addition for the bench, capable of playing second, short and third. Unlike Hairston however, that is not why he makes my list. He is here because of the way he plays the game. Punto is a hard-nosed player, the type of player who plays hurt but doesn’t tell anybody. The type of player who hustles out every play, backs up every throw; leads by example. It is not a coincidence that every team he has played for has been a winner, and his attitude would be a much needed boost to this Mets team. With that, he can still swing the bat. He has generated 2.9 WAR in 454 at-bats over the last two seasons, but has always struggled to stay healthy. I think Punto could definitely be had on a small guaranteed major league deal, or possibly on a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, depending on league-wide interest.
- The man who only needs one name. Had some things gone differently in 2006, Endy Chavez would be a Mets legend (the picture is fuzzy, but I had to give you something with Gary Cohen as the announcer). Looking forward to 2012 however, Chavez would be another great fit as the fourth outfielder starting every fourth or fifth day or filling in for an injured starter. Not only would he be a fan favorite, but with his exceptional defense and ability to put the ball in play, he would be a great late game defensive replacement for the adventure that is Lucas Duda roaming right field. He showed last season he can still hit and run, with a .301 batting average and ten steals in limited time, so for ~ $1-2 million, he would be a relatively cheap option for the bench.
- As a potential platoon outfielder, Gomes will be looking for a bounce back season after a down 2011. Jonny hit .209 last year, but he was very unlucky, as his BABIP was 33 points lower than his career average. After hitting .266 and .267 in 2009 and 2010 respectively, his average should bounce back to around .250 next season. Gomes has never been known for average, and would be signed as a power hitter who crushes left handed pitching. His splits are pretty drastic, with a .281/.375/.501 against lefties, and only a .224/.306/.427 line against righties, but as a platoon player and spot starter, he would have plenty of value. Like Nick Punto, one of the main reason Gomes is on this list is NOT because of what he does on the baseball field, but rather what he brings to the clubhouse. All the Rays players who played with Gomes rave about his enthusiasm and energy, reminding me of what Nick Swisher currently does for the Yankees. These two may not be the best players around, but as this article says Gomes is “on the short, short list of best teammates.” That type of player cannot be overvalued.
- Much like Gomes, Thames represents an ideal bounce back candidate the Mets should take a chance on. Thames missed much of last season due to injuries, but he has always been a great power guy off the bench that crushes left handed pitching. For his career, Thames has a .496 slugging in 786 at-bats against lefties, not to mention a very respectable .476 slugging against righties. While the Mets need to see what Lucas Duda can do as a full-time player, if it turns out he cannot handle lefties, Thames would be an ideal platoon candidate. Marcus does not play good defense, and he strikes out a crazy 25% of the time in his career, but in a limited role he would fit in very nicely. As a former role player coming off an injury played season, I think he could be had on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.
The only player who the Mets currently have who seems capable of this role is Justin Turner, as he produced clutch hit, after clutch hit last season. Adding guys like Pudge, Hairston, Punto, Thames/Gomes and Endy to the bench would give the Mets capable injury replacements at every position. With the experience and leadership of Pudge, power and outfield platoon partner in Thames/Gomes, speed and defensive replacement from Chavez, plus the intangibles and versatility of Hairston/Punto, the Mets could have themselves a great bench at an affordable price.
|2011 Bench||2011 WAR||2012 Bench||2011 WAR|
|Ronny Paulino||0.3 (248 at-bats)||Ivan Rodriguez||0.4 (137 at-bats)|
|Brad Emaus||-0.1 (42 at-bats)||Jerry Hairston||1.2 (376 at-bats)|
|Chin-Lung Hu||-0.5 (23 at-bats)||Nick Punto||1.8 (166 at-bats)|
|Scott Hairston||0.3 (145 at-bats)||Jonny Gomes||1.5 (374 at-bats)|
|Willie Harris||-0.3 (283 at-bats)||Endy Chavez||1.5 (274 at-bats)|
|Marcus Thames||-0.3 (70 at-bats)|
The combination of Paulino, Hairston, Harris, Emaus and Hu made $4,084,000 total last season and combined for. This season, the total could come to around $6-7 million. To be able to generate six more wins for only $2 million, especially for a team on a limited budget, how could you ask for more.
Even with the additional expenses for the bench, the Mets should still have around $20 million for the rotation and bullpen. Next week I will delve into some viable options that should be available that will be within the Mets price range.
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