Sandy Alderson has said it numerous times over the last month or so of the 2012 regular season, and said it once again the past week on WFAN. After hopefully extending both David Wright and R.A. Dickey, he will look to overhaul the bullpen, outfield, and find another catcher to compliment Josh Thole. The organization seems more determined to find solutions through trades due to low budget flexibility, but which free agent outfielders could be in New York’s price range?
It’d be great if the Mets could make a splash and sign someone like Josh Hamilton, but Alderson has already squashed those thoughts, as he said New York won’t be players with big name free agents. Although they’re able to negotiate multi-year extensions with Wright and Dickey, they don’t plan on offering the same deals to players outside the organization. If Scott Hairston gets more than a one-year deal from another team, the Amazins have even more holes to fill in the outfield. As Rising Apple staff writer Mitch Petanick said earlier this week, if Lucas Duda doesn’t get traded, he will be expected to take a spot, as Kirk Nieuwenhuis will also have a chance to prove himself.
However, there are a few players in the free agent market that could be interesting pickups for the Mets. Unfortunately, right-handed hitters with power that will enter the market will likely be looking for multi-year deals include Cody Ross (.267/.326/.481, 22 HR, 81 RBI) and Delmon Young (.267/.296/.411, 18 HR, 74 RBI). Ross outplayed his one-year/$3 million contract with Boston this season and is rumored to be looking for a Josh Willingham contract (3-years/ $21 million). Meanwhile, Young will be entering free agency for the first time as a 29-year-old, and should be looking for a three- or four-year deal.
So, that leaves a few other options for the Mets to try and overhaul their weakest source of offense from 2012. Torii Hunter (.313/.365/.451, 16 HR, 92 RBI) could be interesting to pursue if the Angels don’t resign him. He’s been consistent with his power numbers, hitting 20 or more homers in five straight seasons before this year’s total of 16, while driving in 80 or more runs four years in a row. He’ll be entering his age-37 season, so changing teams, going to completely different markets, and a totally different stadium could all have a negative impact on Hunter. He’s expressed his desire to stay in Anaheim, and the Angels have reciprocated that feeling, making it all but certain he will stay put.
Reed Johnson should be a free agent Sandy Alderson inquires about; splitting time with the Cubs and Braves this season, Johnson put together a .290/.337/.398 line with 3 homers, 20 RBI, and 30 runs scored in 269 at-bats. Without considering his lack of power, he could be a worthy replacement of Hairston; coming off a one-year/$1.15 million contract, he’s likely worth the same kind of money, and can play all three outfield positions well, while being a good, hard-nosed veteran to have in the clubhouse. One could argue that the Mets already have a player like this in Mike Baxter, which is a valid point, but he’s still worth a look.
Lastly, there are two players that could be very cheap that could fit into New York’s plan once they break camp next spring. Grady Sizemore has been injured quite a bit over the last three or four seasons; the Indians decided to resign him to a one-year/$5 million contract for 2012, but he injured himself during the spring and didn’t play a single out this season. Meanwhile, Rick Ankiel hit 5 homers and drove in 15 runs in 158 ABs for the Nationals before they decided to cut him on his birthday in July.
Both of these players should be on the Mets’ radar, because they are the two free agent outfielders that have the most potential bang for their buck. Due to their recent performances, they’ll be looking for any type of contract, so Sandy could extend a minor league deal with an invite to Big League camp to give one of them a shot. Let them play in Spring Training and see if they’re worthy of making the roster. Both of them play center field, are still young enough to do so (Sizemore 30, Ankiel 33), and could give the Mets the solid defense and power they desperately need.
If I had to choose between the two, Sizemore should be the player New York should try and offer a deal with an invite to MLB spring training. He’s got five double-digit home run seasons, three All-Star games, two Gold Gloves, and a Silver Slugger on his resume, and his only issue is staying healthy. If he can prove he can stay on the field, there is potential for him to turn back to clock to the Sizemore of 2008 (.268/.374/.502, 33 HR, 90 RBI, 38 SB in 157 games).
Hey, if they can’t find any worthy trade partners, it’s at least worth a shot.