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.