It’s obvious that Jose Dariel Abreu, the 26 year old Cuban phenom, is at or near the top of many a team’s wish list this offseason. The frontrunners for the slugger have been reported as the Giants, Red Sox, White Sox, and Rangers. It has also been reported that the Mets have shown somewhat of an interest in Abreu, with his innate ability to hit the ball far impressing them the most.
That said, it is unlikely that Abreu lands with the Mets, so it does not seem unreasonable to explore the rest of the free agent options at first base. And why wouldn’t you want to explore, when your organizational options are Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and Josh Satin. Yes, each one of them has shown some bright spots, but none have shown signs of longterm consistency.
Let’s look at three other available options.
Mike Napoli: Napoli is having one of the best seasons of his career, recording 38 doubles, 129 hits, and 79 runs scored (all career highs). A natural catcher, he did not play a field position other than first base in 2013. Napoli is arguably the best hitting first baseman on the market, let alone hitters on the market in general. He is one of only 10 players to hit at least 20 home runs in each of the seasons spanning 2008-2013. Napoli’s 92 RBI in 2013 rank only behind Robinson Cano among free agents. And the good news is that the Mets have been tossed around as possible suitors for the 31-year old, along with the Twins and the Rockies. I don’t have a problem with Napoli, and I would definitely consider him as a potential starting first baseman for the Mets.
Corey Hart: Probably the next best option is Corey Hart, although he has expressed an interest in returning to Milwaukee. Even though Hart did not make it into a game this year (he had surgery on both knees), he has always been a reliable power and RBI source throughout his 10 year career. Hart is also a doubles machine; only once has he not recorded at least 20 two-baggers in a season. He has always been an above-par defender, and the only real cons are that in recent years, his steals have declined and the strikeouts have increased. Contract-wise, Hart has never made over $10 million, but he has said that he would take a pay cut to return to the Brewers. Could Hart be a realistic option for the Mets? Absolutely. I think he could slide in nicely in the cleanup or number five spot in the order, without giving fans any worries on defense.
James Loney: Perhaps another strong candidate for 2014 Mets starting first baseman is current Ray, James Loney. The 30-year old is having a solid year in 2013, coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign split between the Dodgers and Red Sox. Loney signed with Tampa Bay this past December, and has since solidified himself as the starting first baseman, playing in 158 games. Meanwhile, he belted 13 home runs and recorded 75 RBI to the tune of a batting average one tick short of .300. After hitting .331 in his rookie season, Loney has since returned to his consistent form, and is back at a high level. Defensively, ESPN recently wrote that he’s been above average as a first baseman every season of his career according to DRS. Since his first full season in 2008, Loney has recorded more good fielding plays — as defined by Baseball Info Solutions — than any other first baseman except Mark Teixeira (400 versus 398). He could project to be a low cost, high reward player and would be a nice option for the Mets at first base.
Well, there you have it. Three first baseman, three options. There are obviously other choices (such as Adam Lind and Kendrys Morales) but these are in my mind the top three. They also feel like the most realistic. So, if the Mets do indeed choose to look outside the organization for a first baseman, who do you have them signing?