Being that we are in a “Met-conomic downturn” if you will, the coveted free agents this winter are nothing more than overpriced commodities the Mets can only stare agape at through a store window while other teams snatch them off the shelves. Instead, the Amazin’s are forced to look in the “Clearance Sale” bin and try to find a nice bargain. Here are some of those who I think could be a nice, economy fit for the now-frugal New York Mets. I made this list about a week ago so I know rumors have since begun to float about several of these players:
Bench: Endy Chavez, Omar Vizquel, Scott Hairston: As I have stated in a previous article, the Mets should bring back Endy Chavez in 2012. He has a decent bat, blazing speed and exceptional fielding capabilities, as seen in Game 7 of 2006. He is a fan favorite and would be a nice 4th outfielder as a backup to Angel Pagan, who is a big question mark in 2012.
Omar Vizquel is not known for his bat, but his defensive capablities are something not seen since the days of Ozzie Smith. I would bring him in as a mentor for Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy should Reyes skip town, which is becoming all the more likely. Murphy especially needs some serious help at second if he is going to be the everyday second baseman, and Vizquel could be just the guy to teach him.
Scott Hairston was a very nice, bottom-of-the-barrel pickup on the part of Sandy Alderson last year. He served as the go-to bat off the bench last year and provided some much-needed power up until he went out for the year with an injury. Hairston is a bit streaky, but an ideal bench player, and relatively cheap at that.
Backup Catcher: Jason Varitek or Dioner Navarro: Either of these veterans would be a solid addition to the 2012 Mets. Although my first choice for a backup catcher would be Pudge Rodriguez, Varitek or Navarro could work too.
Varitek is a legend in Boston and has played his entire career there, but after the collapse of 2011 and the supposed clubhouse issues, they may want a change in leadership. Varitek at 39 is exceptional with pitchers and still even has a little pop left in his bat, hitting 11 home runs in 222 at bats. The only issue is that like Pudge, his agent is Scott Boras, so he won’t be a bargain.
Navarro does not come with the same benefits as Varitek of being a leader or having a reliable bat, but would also be a solid, inexpensive veteran backstop to work with the younger pitching staff. He made $1 million last year while batting .193, so the Mets might be able to get him for 6-figures.
Starter: Paul Maholm, Oliver Perez: Maholm could be a solid mid-rotation starter who could give the Mets some innings. He is slightly above average in walks, but is not afraid to have the ball in play and is able to get that “big out” if needed. Although likely to be seeking a multi-year deal, Maholm could very well be worth the commitment at a relatively inexpensive price.
As for Oli… Psych! That mess is someone else’s problem now.
Closer/Bullpen: Vincente Padilla, Todd Coffey, J.C. Romero, Mike MacDougal, Jason Isringhausen, Frank Francisco: I saved the best for last; that unsightly, heart-wrenching time for Met fans that is innings 7-9, where promising games for Flushing’s Finest go to die. To ease the burden a bit, I have come up with several names that I believe would be both inexpensive and efficient.
Closer: Frank Francisco: Francisco had a respectable year with Toronto after coming over in the Mike Napoli trade with the Rangers. After struggling mightily the first half, Francisco settled down to end with a 3.55 ERA and 17 saves. He made $4 million last year with the Blue Jays and will likely command similar money, which is not too steep for a closer.
Bullpen: Vincente Padilla, Todd Coffey, J.C. Romero, Mike MacDougal, Jason Isringhausen: Vincente Padilla does have his share of injuries, but if healthy, can provide some consistent outs while also being a reliable spot-starter. Todd Coffey is not only a fast runner, but can get righties out like nobody’s business. He is a veteran, proven, and always hustles. J.C. Romero holds his own when facing righties, he knows the division and has a .211 BAA with two outs and a runner on third. Mike MacDougal had an absolutely dominant year, he is worth the risk and could be a nice set up man to Francisco. Finally Jason Isringhausen, as we saw this year, is a great mentor to younger guys like Beato or Parnell and can still pitch even though he will surpass the age-40 mark in 2012.
I estimate that all of this would cost about $18-$22 million to sign everyone on this list, bring the total payroll to about $100-$110 million in 2012; exactly where Alderson was expecting payroll to be at.
This is what I got when I dove into the bargain bin, any other suggestions?