The first signs that baseball is beginning to awake from hibernation came yesterday as the non-tendered players were announced and a wealth of free agents entered the pool. While the Mets bid farewell to Manny Acosta, Mike Pelfrey, and Andres Torres, they’ll undoubtedly be exploring several of the newly available options.
The New York Mets’ most pressing needs are in their bullpen, outfield, bench depth, and catching, and there are many players who potentially fit the bill to help supplement their lineup heading into 2013.
Ben Francisco: Most known for his time in Philadelphia, Francisco posted consecutive 15 home run campaigns in 2008 and 2009 before his power began to dip considerably in the proceeding years. His career high .447 SLG% in 2009 has been downgraded to a paltry .385 in 2012 with time split between Toronto, Houston, and Tampa Bay. With Francisco’s power being reduced to little, the 30-year old isn’t likely to have many options this offseason beyond exploring minor league options. Francisco’s low OBP isn’t likely to fit into the Mets system, but if Hairston signs elsewhere he could potentially end up signing a minor league deal.
Ryan Sweeney: Sweeney was acquired by the Boston Red Sox in 2012 with the Andrew Bailey trade. Oakland viewed Sweeney as an expendable option because of his limited power and declining batting average, and his tenure in Boston was limited as well. There’s reason to be concerned about Sweeney heading into 2013, as his statistics in Boston raise several red flags. His strikeout rate jumped from 16.1% in 2011 to 19.6% in 2012 while his walk rate dipped from 11.0% to a staggering 5.5%. While Bill James suggests that his 2013 levels will even out to career norms, his wRC+ of 79 in Fenway Park means that he’ll likely have to sign a minor league deal as well. As with Francisco, it’s unlikely that he dons the blue and orange in 2012, but he could be a fit if there are moves made that necessitate a depth signing.
Brandon Snyder: This is the first candidate that I’m exploring that I feel could make a big impact in Queens if given the opportunity. The 26-year old is a product of the Baltimore Orioles system and was traded to Texas Rangers before the 2012 campaign began. At 26 years old, Snyder has been limited to only 106 major league plate appearances, but has an impressive track record in the minor leagues. In 2011 (his most recent full season), Snyder posted 14 home runs and 21 doubles in 494 PA to compliment a .261 average and a .312 OBP. He won’t be a perennial 20 home run threat, but he could be an alternative to Scott Hairston and not be a liability if he’s needed to start for an extended period of time.
Nate Schierholtz: Schierholtz will likely find a starting job on a non-contending team if he so wishes to pursue one and could be a nice fit for the Mets if Lucas Duda is elsewhere in 2013. Schierholtz is far from the power bat the the Mets need in their lineup, but he’s far from a slouch. His .257/.321/.430 line in 2012 is right in line with his career averages as he has never been a full-time starter. In fact, Schierholtz has never amassed 400 PA in a full season. That said, he’ll likely command a salary of under $3M and wouldn’t be the worst option. It’s unlikely that he lands in New York, but with the depth as poor as it stands today, there are no wrong answers (especially on short term deals).
I see Snyder as the most interesting candidate, and Schierholtz as someone who could fit in New York. It’s highly unlikely that the Mets will pursue either Francisco or Sweeney, but one of them could land a minor league deal depending on how the winter meetings play out for the club.
The Bench Depth:
Mark Reynolds: If there’s one man I’ve been an ardent supporter of the Mets exploring, it’s Reynolds. Reynolds was non-tendered by the Baltimore Orioles after posting 20 home runs for the 5th consecutive season. The problem? He’s a huge strikeout risk, leading the league for four consecutive years. The good news? He cut down his strikeouts by nearly 50 in 2012 and could learn a lot from Dave Hudgens and the team’s hitting philosophy. He’s an option at both 1st and 3rd when Davis or Wright need a day off, and has no real weakness against LHP or RHP. It’s likely that he’ll find a more regular role elsewhere, but he could reasonably have 200-300 AB in 2013 in Flushing.
Ian Stewart: Minor league star Ian Stewart was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs after yet another disappointing campaign. Stewart has thrived in the minor leagues throughout his career, but has yet to figure out major league pitching. While he may never figure it out at the big league level, he hits righties at nearly a .240 clip and has a respectable .427 SLG%. He’s likely to land a minor league deal as well, but could be interesting as a back-up corner infielder in spring training. Especially if he can finally put all the talent he has together.
Jesus Flores: Wait, you mean Omar Minaya SHOULD have protected him from the Rule-5 draft several years ago? Hindsight is always 20/20, but coming off of a disappointing year in Washington, Minaya doesn’t seem as wrong as he did when Flores appeared to be on the verge of becoming a starting catcher in 2008 and 2009. Flores was came off of an injury-riddled 2011 to post a meager .213/.248/.329 line at the major league level, but for perhaps no other reason than the fact that he’ll be 28 and could regain his stroke, he could be worth a minor-league contract. He won’t be landing a starting gig anywhere, but could be interesting if invited to spring training.
Geovany Soto: In 2008, Soto was named the National League Rookie of the Year and made the All-Star game, posting a .285/.364/.504 line while blasting 23 home runs while helping to lead the Cubs offense. Unfortunately, Soto has never been able to come close to those numbers since. While he has remained a power threat at the plate, his average and OBP have dipped each year to his career-low 2012 line of .198/.270/.343. If the Mets don’t trade for a catcher and fail to retain Kelly Shoppach, Soto could be an option.
Tom Gorzelanny: Gorzelanny being non-tendered speaks volumes for the pitching depth the Washington Nationals organization has. Gorzelanny had previously been a league average to below-average pitcher, but found his niche in 2012 as he appeared in 45 games (44 relief appearances), pitching 72.0 innings and posting a 2.88 ERA. His WHIP was actually right in line with his career numbers (1.319), and both his strikeout and walk rates decreased. He’s likely to have some regression in 2013, but the Mets have a very young bullpen and if Gorzelanny can post another campaign similar to 2012, he’ll be very helpful to the team.
Daniel Schlereth: The 26-year old had an injury plagued campaign, but could be a good investment to a club looking for bullpen depth. In 2011, Schlereth pitched 49.0 innings to the tune of a 3.49 ERA, recording a 8.1 K/9 rate. Unfortunately, he has always been a walk-happy pitcher, which reflects in his high WHIP (1.607 in 2010, 1.366 in 2011). He’ll frustrate as a closer, but his primary need would be in the middle-innings, where he has found success historically.
Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Any players missing that you believe could contribute in 2013? Let us know in the comments section.