The deadline to tender arbitration eligible players a contract is December 2nd, and the Mets have 11 players they need to make decisions on. Those players are Scott Atchison, Mike Baxter, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Omar Quintanilla, Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner, and Eric Young, Jr.
MLB Trade Rumors put a solid piece together that projects what each of the Mets’ 11 arbitration eligible players will make in 2014.
Keep in mind that the Mets could trade any of these players before arbitration. They could also offer arbitration, come to an agreement, and trade them afterwards.
Here are my thoughts on who the Mets should offer arbitration to, who they shouldn’t offer it to, and why:
Players Who Should Be Offered Arbitration:
1. Ike Davis, 1B (projected to earn $3.5 million in 2014) - Ike Davis‘ 2013 season wasn’t pretty. He struggled mightily, was sent down to AAA Las Vegas, came back and got on base at a very good clip (but didn’t flash much power), and then suffered a season ending oblique injury. Overall, Davis hit .205 with a .326 OBP and .334 slugging percentage. He also had the highest strikeout percentage (26.8) of his entire career. Trading Davis at this point would be selling extremely low. Tendering him a contract is the way to go. The Mets will be banking on his potential (a 30 homer bat who’s a plus defender at first base). However, with first base in flux, it’s a worthy gamble.
2. Lucas Duda, 1B (projected to earn $1.8 million in 2014) – Like Davis, Duda is a polarizing figure among Mets fans, and like Davis, he spent a portion of this season with AAA Las Vegas. Unlike Davis, Duda showed flashes of power this year. He finished with 15 home runs in 384 plate appearances, and got on base at a solid clip (his OBP was .352). Duda also seemed more at ease after being shifted from the outfield (where he never should have been in the first place) to first base. If the Mets retain both Davis and Duda, the team could conceivably option Duda to AAA as a hedge against Davis not producing. Or, they could deal one of them before the season starts.
3. Dillon Gee, RHP (projected to earn $3.4 million in 2014) – This one is a no-brainer. After struggling early in the season (likely due in part to the shoulder surgery he was recovering from), Gee was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the second half. He finished with a 3.62 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He also had the best walk rate of his career (2.13 per 9). Tendering a contract to Gee would be smart under any circumstance. When you consider the fact that Matt Harvey‘s status is up in the air, it becomes a foregone conclusion. Gee, along with Zack Wheeler and Jonathon Niese, is one of three pitchers the Mets have penciled in to the 2014 rotation.
4. Daniel Murphy, 2B/1B/3B (projected to earn $5.8 million in 2014) – Murphy made $2.9 million in 2013, so the MLBTR projected salary of close to $6 million seems to be on the high side. In any event, despite having just a .319 OBP this past season, Murphy had a very solid year overall. He hit .286 with 13 homers, 38 doubles, and career highs in both RBI’s (78) and runs scored (92). He’s currently penciled in as the starting second baseman for 2014. There have been rumors that the Mets may look to deal him to fill another hole on the roster, but a trade isn’t viewed as likely.
5. Bobby Parnell, RHP (projected to earn $3.2 million in 2014) – Before a herniated disk and ensuing surgery ended his season prematurely, Parnell was having a breakthrough season at closer. He finished with 22 saves in 26 chances (3 of those blown saves were due to defensive miscues behind him), had an ERA of 2.16 and an even 1.00 WHIP. In 50 innings pitched, Parnell allowed 38 hits, struck out 44, and walked just 12. Parnell should be ready for spring training in February.
6. Ruben Tejada, SS (projected to earn $1 million in 2014) – It’s clear to anyone who’s listening that Tejada has fallen out of favor with both the manager and the front office. After a very solid 2011 campaign (he hit .284 with a .360 OBP), Tejada has fallen off both offensively and defensively, and has had his work ethic called into question. Still, he’s just 23 years old, and is slated to earn only $1 million in 2014. The Mets are looking to upgrade the shortstop position (either through free agency or trade), but having Tejada around as a backup/injury replacement is the prudent move. The only other internal option the Mets have is Wilfredo Tovar.
7. Justin Turner, IF (projected to earn $800K in 2014) – Turner won’t ever blow anyone away with his skills, but he’s a decent bench piece who can play all four infield positions. He makes contact at a very good clip (his career strikeout percentage is just 13.3), and has a career average of .260 and a career OBP of .323. With his versatility, and likely costing under $1 million, Turner is a solid guy to have on the bench.
8. Eric Young, Jr., OF/2B (projected to earn $1.9 million in 2014) – There’s been some talk that Young could find himself in the everyday lineup in 2014 (either in left field or at second base), but he simply shouldn’t be a starting player on a team that hopes to contend. Young led the league with 46 steals, but hit just .249 with a .310 OBP. While he made some dazzling diving catches in left field, those catches were due in large part to the fact that Young gets bad breaks on fly balls. He also has a very weak arm. Young should absolutely be brought back, but he belongs on the bench.
9. Mike Baxter, OF (projected to earn $500K in 2014) – Baxter spent the majority of the year with AAA Las Vegas, and he isn’t someone who should be handed a spot on the 2014 bench. Still, at a very modest salary, and with the Mets thin in the outfield, it makes sense to bring Baxter back and stash him in AAA Las Vegas.
Players Who Shouldn’t Be Offered Arbitration:
1. Scott Atchison, RHP (projected to earn $1.3 million in 2014) – Atchison didn’t have a bad year in 2013 (he had a 4.37 ERA and 1.26 WHIP). However, he’ll be 38 years old on Opening Day, and is pitching with a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow – an injury that caused him to miss time this past season. The Mets will likely have Bobby Parnell, Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen, Scott Rice, and Carlos Torres or a similar long man in the pen in 2014. That leaves one slot. It makes more sense to fill it internally with a cheaper, higher upside option, than it does to bank on Atchison.
2. Omar Quintanilla, SS (projected to earn $900K in 2014) – Quintanilla is one of the worst offensive players in the game, with a career triple slash of .221/.288/.296. If your offense is that bad, your defense better be of the plus variety – and Quintanilla’s isn’t. It’s time or the Mets to move on.