One team that is "all set" for the 2012 season, is the New York Mets. Nobody really knows what the future holds for the Mets and their ownership, though every story seems to be getting worse. Is there any chance the Mets can be on their feet by the end of this season?
The almost unanimous response to my question would probably be no. But, lets play devils advocate for a minute. Lets say, for some strange reason, the Mets ownership situation resolves itself. Maybe they are forced to sell. Perhaps the real estate market changes and the value of houses goes up again. What if the Mets are the cinderella team of 2012 and a lot more fans than expected go to the games? Come up with your own scenario if you want, but the bottom line is I am envisioning something happening which will put the Mets in business after this coming season and offseason. (Sorry for taking the optimistic road, but this is what I am going with.)
Its hard to determine exactly who will become free agents after the 2012 season. Perhaps it is a bit early. If David Wright is traded, which I don't see happening, he will be a free agent after this season due to a clause in his contract that voids his 2013 option if he is traded. Many players have team or player options, where time will tell whether they are exercised or the players become free agents. So, I have decided not to mention any player who has an option for 2013. Also, among the list of top free agents, five players are most likely to remain with their current teams or sign an extension before the season's end. Those players are Mariano Rivera, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Ichiro and Miguel Montero.
Among the potential free agents I wouldn't mess with if I were the Mets are Josh Hamilton, Carlos Lee, James Loney and Jonathan Sanchez. Hamilton is a great player but his injury history makes a long-term contract scary. One could wonder what Lee even has left coming off a down season. Plus the fact his body is wearing down makes him DH- American League material. Loney plays 1B and the Mets have a first baseman. And if you don't think Jonathan Sanchez reminds you of a young Oliver Perez, you are not paying attention.
A secondary list of free agents I would consider would have to be at the right price. These are players that the Mets should consider if they can be had for below market value, because none of these players can change the landscape of the team by simply being added. I'm talking about C Russell Martin, OF Marlon Byrd and RP Juan Carlos Oviedo. I wouldn't commit more than a year to Martin or two years to Oviedo and Byrd, assuming these were team friendly contracts. If not, I wouldn't expect the Mets to pursue these players.
I have comprised a list of the top eight players the Mets should pursue as free agents, assuming they become available and assuming the team is back in business next offseason. Now, I'm not suggesting 7-10 year contracts. But to land some of these players, it will take more than the standard 1 year contract Sandy Alderson has been generally floating out there.
8. RHP Brandon League: Mariners. The hard throwing reliever finally broke through when given the chance to be the Mariners closer in 2011. He was an all star, who finished the season with 37 saves, replacing injured RHP David Aardsma. He has a good fastball and has always been known to miss bats. Scouts have always liked his stuff and he has shown signs of becoming as good as the scouts have said.
7. LHP Sean Marshall: Reds. Its safe to say Marshall is a reliever now. He may get a chance to close some for the Reds this year, along with Aroldis Chapman. The last two seasons, he has pitched in 80 and 78 games, respectively and has also struck out more batters than innings pitched. Similarly to League, scouts have been high on Marshall and he is starting to prove them right.
6. RHP Zach Greinke: Brewers. The only problem with Greinke is the throught of signing him to a ridiculous contracts that good pitchers are looking for. That may be the only reason to stay away. That and maybe the fact that theres a question of whether he could handle New York at any cost. Greinke has ace stuff, and maybe his value goes down a little bit being second fiddle to Yovanni Gallardo another year, but it is very reasonable to see how a team may overpay for his services over the next several years. Talent and ability alone makes him worthy of being further up this list.
5. OF Andre Ethier: Dodgers. For the Mets to add a corner outfielder, something would have to happen with their current OFs, mainly Jason Bay. But, in a fantasy world, anything can happen. I could see Ethier being a fit for the Mets assuming he isn't looking for $14- $16 million a season. A fair contract would be about three years and about $35 million total. For todays standards, not a bad deal. His price will go up if he has a similar season to what he had in 2009 when he hit .272, 31, 106.
4. RHP Anabal Sanchez: Marlins. Sanchez could fall under the radar with the Marlins this season. Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson are anchoring the top of the rotation and Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano are behind them. Despite an 8-9 record last year in 32 starts, (15 no decisions) he had 202 strikeouts in 196 1/3 IP as well as 3 CG- 2 shutouts. He should make about $6-$7 million in arbitration this season. As an impending free agent, that puts him at about 3 years and less than $30 million guaranteed. That could be a steal.
3. OF BJ Upton: Rays. Upton is the type of player you like to have when you trying to put together a team. He has become a very good defensive outfielder, especially considering he has only played there a couple of years. He hits for power and has tremendous speed, which can put him anywhere in the lineup. Unfortunately his batting average and sometimes his attitude have not been up to par, He hit just .241 in 2009, .237 in 2010 amd .243 last year while having the propensity for striking out a lot. He draws his share of walks keeping his OBP as respectable as could be based on his BA.
2. OF Michael Bourn: Braves. Bourn would be number one on this list if it wasn't for one reason. After Carl Crawford got his contract and Jose Reyes got his, it is quite possible that Bourn will be looking for something in that neighborhood. As good of a player as he his, he is not in the same league as Crawford or even Reyes. Therefore, teams shouldn't put him in the same catagory. But somebody may. He strikes out way too much for a leadoff batter and is more of a slap hitter than gap hitter, which better describes Crawford and Reyes. If a fair contract agreement could be reached, I see Bourn filling a hole as the Mets leadoff batter and center fielder for years to come. Another team swiping him away with a foolish contract offer is the only thing keeping me from ranking him number one.
1. C Mike Napoli: Rangers. The Rangers would be wise to lock him up when they have the chance. He is a superstar in the making, coming off a year where he hit .320, 30, 75 as a catcher. Not only that, but he handles himself well behind the plate and throws out baserunners. He through out 36% of base stealers last year and pitchers don't seem to mind throwing to him.
How many of these free agents could the Mets possibly add? At this point, none. But hopefully things improve to a point where the Mets can put a competitive product on the field. If thats the case, maybe we can talk about the additions of Bourn, Napoli, Sanchez and Marshall next offseason. But, maybe I'm just living in a fantasy world.