The last article I wrote
, and getting a contract extension. For this article, I am taking a different route; the Mets do not necessarily need to make a big splash for an offensive free agency this offseason to be competitive, or even to improve, going into next year.
It is no secret that the Mets would not be in the playoffs without Yoenis Cespedes’ bat down the stretch, nor would they have won the National League Pennant Daniel Murphy’s torrid (totally unsustainable) pace at the plate in the NLCS and NLDS. Be that as it may, it may be prudent for the Mets to use that money that would be allocated to Cespedes and Murphy into building the team in other ways.
With adding in arbitration raises, the Mets are expected to have around a $93m payroll before acquiring anyone; I can see them adding around and extra $25m to that. While signing Cespedes is (probably) doable, that leaves very little room to improve elsewhere; mostly because he is
, which is much too much for a one-dimensional player (who is even more one-dimensional with his career long lack of power).
The biggest problem with that Cespedes contract for the Mets is the length; starting in 2018, the Mets pitching staff will start becoming arbitration eligible, and soon after that become free agents. In order to even have a chance in signing more than one of Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz and Wheeler, there needs to be a plethora of cap room; giving an outfielder trending to the middle of his thirties is not prudent in that case.
While Murphy almost never strikes out, neither player fits the organizational mold of a high on base percentage; both are get a hit or get out players.
Met fans, do not expect a contract longer than three, or four, years given out by GM Sandy Alderson.
The Mets have obvious holes with Cespedes and Murphy leaving, at center field and at second base. At center field, the Mets seem to be interested in
. For the middle infield, there has not been many rumors but I can safely speculate on one name.
Although Met fans want to believe this, shortstop is not the issue. Wilmer Flores was 8th among all Major League shortstops in WAR, and 7th in wRC+; he is a big league shortstop, and can handle that position. He improved drastically defensively, and his bat is solid for a shortstop. It is not an issue. The middle infield issue is purely a second base one.
For second base, there is one name the Mets love; Ben Zobrist. They nearly acquired him at the trade deadline this season, and he would have been well worth it. He spent the first half of 2015 with the Athletics, and was traded to the eventual World Series Champion Royals at the deadline. He hit .276 with 13 home runs and 76 RBIs, and had a 123 wRC+ and a 2.1 WAR. He can play a multitude of positions, and he can play them all well. He can easily slot into second base, and move around the diamond as the Mets need him. He also sports a high OBP (.359) and OPS (.809) which is something the Mets covet. He is an absolute perfect fit, but he has to want to leave Kansas City (
), and the Mets want to have to pay him; also, he will be turning 35 and father time can hit someone hard and unexpectedly.
The Mets may look internally at second base, which would not be the worst option. The Mets, as a front office, are extraordinarily high on Dilson Herrera. The 21 year old has struggled in limited plate appearances in the MLB (a .215 batting average in 49 games), he has absolutely destroyed the minor leagues since being acquired by the Mets from Pittsburgh. Since 2013, he has never hit lower than .307 (2014 A+ ball), and has topped out with 11 home runs (2015 AAA ball) and 50 RBIs (2015 AAA ball). The Mets love him; he can hit at the top of the order, and has a decent amount of power for a top of the order hitter. He is a better fielder than Murphy (everyone is), and can hit at a solid rate. He also walks a lot more, as evidenced by a career low .355 OBP in 2014. He has all the tools to be a good player, he just needs the time, and I would not be surprised if the Mets gave it to him.
In center field, the Mets will probably go a different route than the high power, low average, Yoenis Cespedes. They want a lefty hitting center fielder who will platoon with Juan Lagares (who is dreadful against right handed pitching). Dexter Fowler, Denard Span, and Gerardo Parra are the three on that list. Fowler is the least likely, since the switch hitter only hit .228 against lefties this year, and .326 against lefties; that split is the opposite of what the Mets want. However, he is still very good, and the poor lefty split may be an outlier. Another issue is that he was offered a qualifying offer, and I doubt the Mets will sacrifice a first round pick in consecutive seasons.
The Mets love Parra much as they did Zobrist (they almost acquired him at the deadline), but there are issues with him. He struggled at the end of last year, after being traded to the Orioles, and he has not played much center field since 2012, and the corner outfield positions are locked down by Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson. He was ineligible for a qualifying offer, since he was traded midseason.
The other option, Denard Span, seems to be the most attractive. He has a career line of .287, with 37 home runs and 567 runs scored, with a 23.9 WAR. He has stolen 152 career bases, and he is a solid fielding left handed center fielder. It seems perfect, but there is a drawback; last year’s injuries. He only played 61 games, with various injuries to his back, and his hip. That is a scary year for a contact and speed player, but he has been healthy for the majority of his career; these injuries may be an unfortunate outlier, and I think it would be prudent for the Mets to take a risk, because if he is healthy that is a huge addition to the team. He also did not receive a qualifying offer.
Also, adding a leadoff hitter allows Curtis Granderson to move to the middle of the lineup, where he, a full year of Michael Conforto, a healthy Travis d’arnaud and David Wright make for a middle of the lineup that will replace Murphy’s and Cespedes’ production.
A lineup of:
Is incredibly solid, and that does not even include signing Zobrist (who I would put in the two hole and Wright gets moved to around the 6 spot). That lineup can compete, and Cespedes and Murphy will be replaced by players who are already on the roster.
Note: All statistics are taken from fangraphs.com