With Overpriced Free Agent Market, Sandy Alderson Should Build With Creative Trade Proposals

With the start of the Hot Stove season in full motion, teams are already looking for ways to improve their respective teams. For quite some time now, it has been well documented — and expected — for the Mets’ front office to be active in the free agent market. After all, the contracts taking up a significant portion of the team’s payroll — Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Frank Francisco — have finally come off the books, which in theory, would give Alderson more flexibility to sign more productive players.

Alderson has reportedly had his eyes set on a couple of well known free agents, such as Jhonny Peralta, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson, and others. However, the Mets’ front office has been suffering from “sticker shock,” essentially meaning the front office is surprised at the amount of money being thrown at free agents in the current open market.

For example, Mike Puma reported earlier this week the Mets believed Jhonny Peralta could be had with a two-year, $20-25 million contract offer. Turns out Peralta signed a four-year, $53 million dollar deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Last week, New York Daily News Sports Columnist John Harper reported that ownership had capped Alderson’s offseason budget at $25-30 million.  Harper has since walked back those remarks, noting that sources disputed his report.  Additionally, the club probably has closer to $35 million to spend this offseason ($7.25 million of which has gone toward Chris Young).

Still, if the Mets don’t have the financial clout or the willingness to be the high bidder for upper echelon pieces, they will most likely be outbid in making a run at many of the free agents Alderson would like to sign.  Because of this, Alderson should shift his attention to negotiating with other general managers regarding trades.

Signing a player to a contract in the open market traditionally is expensive, but it’s no secret the price of signing free agents in this current free agent market is outrageous. Jhonny Peralta is a good shortstop, but at the age of 31, with questionable defensive range, and most importantly a history of steroid use, a four-year contract worth $53 million is quite excessive.

Furthermore, Marlon Byrd, 36, signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this offseason. While Byrd is coming off a productive season, it remains to be seen if he can replicate a career year. While the Mets liked Byrd, the organization viewed him as a fourth outfielder.

On Friday, the Mets announced they agreed to terms with outfielder Chris Young. When I first heard the news, I thought it was an intriguing signing. However, once I heard Young signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal my positive outlook on this deal quickly faded. Young is coming off a disappointing season, hitting to a .200 batting average while striking out 93 times in 335 at-bats. While committing over seven million can be seen as stiff price for a player with less than impressive stats, the fact it’s only a one-year deal can potentially make this signing a bargain. Especially when you compare this deal to the lengthy contracts other teams are giving out to other free agents. Young was an All-star in 2010, when he compiled 27 homers and 97 runs batted in as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Jun 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson (left) talks with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon before the start of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have multiple holes that need to be addressed. Alderson has not been shy in publicly stating his desire to improve the club’s anemic offense. Manager Terry Collins has expressed hope in acquiring middle-of-the-lineup protection for David Wright.

Are all of the Mets’ needs going to be addressed in one offseason?  Probably not, but it is imperative the Mets add new talent to this current roster.  This could be done by trading some of the assets this team currently has.

To the credit of Alderson, the Mets’ farm system has noticeably improved since 2010, when he signed on to take over as General Manager of the club.

Outside of Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, the Mets should  listen on offers regarding any player. This includes highly regarded prospects Travis d’Arnaud, Rafael Montero, and Wilmer Flores, as well as Major League players like Daniel Murphy, Eric Young Jr., and Ike Davis.

Although Davis is coming off a down 2013 season, many American League teams value his potential power that may reappear with a change of scenery.  At this point, I think it’s a matter of when, not if Davis gets dealt by the Mets this offseason.

With regards to upgrading the shortstop position, the Mets still have options that make sense. One option being Stephen Drew, although potentially signing him will result in the Mets giving away their second-round pick to the defending World Series Champions Boston Red Sox in next year’s draft. Because of this — along with the fact that Drew is represented by Scott Boras — I would stay away from Drew.

I would look to upgrade the shortstop position via trade. One player I would prefer to see the Mets go after is Jed Lowrie. He is coming off a very respectable season for the Oakland Athletics, in which he batted .290 with 15 homers and 75 RBIs. It has been rumored that Yoenis Cespedes may be on the trade block, and if that’s the case I would definitely try to come up with offers to acquire both in a multi-player deal.  Even if that means exploring to get another team involved to create a three-team deal. As Danny Abriano mentions, Arizona’s Didi Gregorius is another player Alderson should inquire about.

Honestly, I have no problem with the Mets not offering lucrative, multi-year contracts to high profile free agents. It’s not a matter of the Mets’ front office being cheap, but rather having a smart general manager in Sandy Alderson that understands the risks associated with giving out long-term contracts.

It’s not about how much you spend, but rather how you allocate your funds. Attempting to sign the most high profile free-agents available doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the smartest decision possible. The Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have already tried that strategy and look where it has gotten them. It’s about getting the right pieces of the puzzle.

The point of the matter is there are still options available for Alderson and company to improve this team, outside of the free agent market. The question is can this front office be creative enough to acquire the right players? I’m still hopeful that Alderson will do what needs to be done to build this team into a winner.

 

Topics: Kevin Baez, New York Mets, Sandy Alderson

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  • AnakinCorleone

    “One option being Stephen Drew, although potentially signing him will result in the Mets giving away their second-round pick to the defending World Series Champions Boston Red Sox in next year’s draft.”

    Actually, the Mets pick wouldn’t go to the Red Sox. The Mets would lose the 2nd round pick and the Red Sox would get a compensation pick in the sandwich round. (In other words, the Red Sox would get a better pick than the Mets 2nd round pick but it wouldn’t transfer directly from one team to the other.)

  • AnakinCorleone

    Also, I appreciate this post. Met fans are up in arms about the non-moves made so far without realizing that it’s only November and Thanksgiving hasn’t even come around yet. If there’s one thing we know about Sandy Alderson, he’s disciplined, patient, and smart. (Perhaps because he’s an ex-Marine with a Harvard Law degree.) He’ll strike when he has to but on his terms, not the media’s or the fan base’s or players’ agents’ terms. He hasn’t really shown that on the free agent market but he has shown that in the trade market with the Beltran and Dickey deals.

    I suspect the prices for Choo and Ellsbury will come down, like Michael Bourn did last year. (Side note: How are fans that wanted to sign Michael Bourn last off-season now feeling about missing out on him?) Choo is especially intriguing because of the whole Korean factor and how that will translate into fan turnout with Flushing’s large Korean community living near the ballpark. I could see the price for Choo to come down, perhaps not as far as Bourn but enough to where it makes sense for Sandy to get involved then.

    • Herb G

      OMG! Anakin – An actual intelligent, well thought out post. I’m so tired of the “Met fans” who rant and rave about how cheap the Wilpons are, how they really don’t care if the Mets lose, how Alderson is a liar and a puppet, and even worse. You are absolutely right, AC, about how patient and prudent Sandy is. He knows just how crazy the FA market is right now and teams with desirable players are asking for the moon in return, so he will wait.
      I don’t know if Choo will still be available when prices return to earth, but if he is it woulfd do Sandy well to offer him 4 years/$76 million (with a 5th year option that could get him close to his $100 million expectation.) I dont think I’d want to guarantee that 5th year. I don’t think he’ll even bid on Ellsbury since we are oveloaded with CFs at this time. But Granderson is another possibility. Beyond that, there could be several very good outfield bats in the trade market that Sandy would have to give up either roster players or prospects for, but not lose that draft pick. But none of this will begin to materialize until a few weeks after the Winter meetings, at the earliest. So patience is the watch word.

  • e marie

    i
    I am 61 years old and have been a fan since ’62, I want Sandy to sign FAs, but this group in either too old, for long term contracts that they are asking for, (Peralta and not,very good.

  • Andrew Lloyd

    I don’t think the loss of a 2nd round pick in and of itself should preclude signing Drew. If he can be signed to the same contract as Peralta roughly, I’d take it.

    But, I’d rather sign Choo, even if it means Tejada starts at SS next year. I still bet the Mets are in on Choo, and go as high as 5/$90M, which should be more than enough to sign him. Who’s going higher? The Yanks want Beltran; the Angels are shellshocked; the Rangers just added Fielder; the Tigers want to sign Scherzer instead; the Giants have Pence; the Dodgers have 50 outfielders. What big spending team – ok besides Seattle who who’ll probably sign Ellsbury – is going to sign Choo for $100M?

    I still see the Mets being the right home for him.

  • Ken Meoni

    I agree with everything you have said Kevin. I agree, we have plenty of pieces to trade in a nice package. I don’t like the free agent market. The Mets need a power bat, Choo is not a power bat, especially in Citi.

  • chums41

    Choo would be a significant upgrade and overpaying a consistent .300 hitter is not a bad thing. If Cespedes and Lowrie are available, we should aggressively pursue them. If we need to include d”Arnaud in a package, than we should sign Pierzynski for 2 years at which time Plawecki should be major league ready. Arroyo is another free agent we should pay up for as he is an innings eater and will take some pressure off the bullpen.

  • Ken Meoni

    Heyman is saying the Mets are still in on Granderson and Cruz.

  • Joe.02

    The first move — Young — is not quite this sort of cost effective strategy.

  • Herb G

    Regarding payroll and spending, everything I hear points to a payroll of $90-$95 million, and with the Mets now at $62 (including Young, projected arb awards and pre-arbs) they should have about $30 million net to spend. If they trade and non tender players with salaries totalling about $10 million, that brings their remaining budget to $40 million. It is still possible for them to get their slugging outfielder in the free agent market if they are willing to “overspend”, allocating $15 million or so to Granderson or Cruz for 4 years. They will, however, have to get their shortstop via a trade. Here are a few trades that we might make.
    Talk about getting creative, how about d’Arnaud, Murphy, Gee, Tejada, deGrom and Vaughn for the two Joses; Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes (plus $22 million in cash to bring Reyes salary to $16 million a year over the next 4 years) Do you think Toronto would like to have TdA back? And the need a 2B and a SP. This could work.
    We match up well with the Rays. I could see Duda, (Davis, if absolutely necessary) Flores, Tejada, Vaughn for Yunel Escobar and Jeremy Helickson.
    A deal with the A’s for Lowrie and Cespedes is possible, as is a trade wth the D-Backs for Gregorius and A.J. Pollock. Aybar from the Angels, Cabrera from the Indians, and Hardy from the Orioles could also be had. I’ll leave it to Alderson to make he offers to get one of those deals done.