With the 2011 season over, the old saying, “There’s always next season,” instantly becomes all Mets fan’s credo. But before we can think about riding the 7-train out to Flushing again, there is a whole off-season to project and pontificate about. Considering the amount of holes the Mets will have, this coming off-season holds a lot of importance.
In this new on-going series, Rising Apple will analyze potential off-season targets for the New York Mets. Today’s targets at-hand are non-tendered players.
Last night’s non-tender deadline came and went, and the Mets parted ways with Ronny Paulino and Mike Baxter. Paulino and Baxter are now free to sign with any other team, as are a host of other players who were non-tendered. A lot of the time, players are non-tendered because they are projected to earn more than their former clubs think they deserve, as was the case with Paulino (Baxter was let go to clear room on the 40-man roster). Given the Mets limited financial resources, it is likely that most non-tendered players will be out of their price range, but with the team still looking to round out the Opening Day roster (despite the fact that the 40-man will soon be full), here are some recently cut players who might be on Sandy Alderon’s radar:
Jeremy Hermida: The Mets are in the market for a backup outfielder, which is precisely what Hermida would be. The lefty split last season between the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres, hitting just .198/.288/.362 in 66 plate appearances. However, he batted .319/.400/.524 with 17 homers in 450 plate appearances at triple-A Louisville, and has a more respectable .257/.334/.415 line during the course of his career. Hermida has experience in both corner outfield positions, but doesn’t grade out well defensively at either one (career LF UZR of -7.2, career RF UZR of -9.6, although he has been trending positively as of late). Projected to earn just $500,000 in arbitration, the former first round pick of the Marlins would be a cheap lefty bat off the bench.
Jeff Keppinger: The former Met was let go by the Giants after projecting to earn $2.7 million this offseason. Since leaving New York, Keppinger has established himself as a contact hitter, striking out just 6.2% of the time during his career. On the flip side, he’s only walked at a 6.8% clip and has virtually no power. While his .281/.332/.388 slash line might be of some use off the bench, Keppinger doesn’t possess much defensive value, owning a -6.0 career UZR at second base (although to be fair, he was just about average until this last season, when he posted a -5.8 UZR) and a -12.4 career UZR at shortstop. Keppinger’s price would probably have to drop significantly in order for him to reunite with the Amazins.
Will Rhymes: Let go by Detroit, Rhymes hit just .235/.323/.271 in 99 PA last season after posting a solid .304/.350/.414 line in 213 PA in 2010. Rhymes, a lefty, is basically a career minor league second baseman who also has spent some time at shortstop (30 minor league games) and third base (25 minor league games). In short, he would likely be a cheap, backup infielder with some speed (in the minors, Rhymes has stolen 138 bases in 178 attempts).
Luke Scott: Projected to earn $6 million, the Orioles non-tendered Luke Scott, perhaps in the hope of bringing him back for a lesser salary. Scott struggled last season and underwent shoulder surgery in July, but is a lifetime .264/.349/.843 hitter and does even better vs. righties (.271/.357/.501). In an ideal world where the Mets have money, Alderson would sign Scott to platoon with Jason Bay. In reality, Scott will cost too much.
Doug Slaten: The Mets have already revamped their bullpen, but the idea of adding another lefty to go along with Tim Byrdak is appealing, especially when you’re facing Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jason Heyward (among others) several times per season. The southpaw battled ulnar neuritis in 2011 and only appeared in 31 games, posting a 4.41 ERA (5.01 xFIP), 2.143 WHIP and 1.44 K/BB. Those numbers are ugly, but Slaten is just a year removed from a solid 2010 season when he appeared in 49 games, pitching to a 3.10 ERA (4.36 xFIP), 1.303 WHIP and 8.0 K/9 (although his BB/9 was 4.2). For his career, Slaten has held lefties to a .241/.304/.361 line while posting a 3.17 K/BB. He was projected to earn under $1 million in arbitration this winter, so he could be brought into spring training camp for the right price.
Andy Sonnanstine: Spending all of his career with the Rays, Sonnanstine has posted mediocre career numbers: a 5.26 ERA (4.45 xFIP), 1.394 WHIP and 2.52 K/BB. What Sonnanstine would give the Mets is depth and flexibility, since he has both started and relieved during his career. He was projected to earn $1.1 million in arbitration and could be worth an invite to spring training.
Ryan Spilborghs: Spilborghs is interesting in that he can play all three outfield positions (although none of them particularly well based on UZR-LF: -2.4, CF: -3.7 and RF: -12.3) and has posted a solid .272/.345/.423 line over the course of his career, primarily as a part time player. The red flag is his home/away split. At Coors Field, Spilborghs is hitting .306/.379./.483; away from Coors, he’s hitting .239/.313/.366. Projected to earn around $2 million this upcoming season, he might be worth a look if the price tag comes down.