Now that the hot stove season has officially begun, ’tis the season to take a hard look at potential Mets free agent targets. Today, I’d like to take a look at the top two free agents at the shortstop position, a position at which the Mets need dire and immediate improvement.
The 2013 season saw a major decline at SS for the Mets.
After playing in 114 games in 2012 and posting a line of .289/.333/.351 and a solid WAR of 2.0, 24-year old Ruben Tejada became a major disappointment in his 2013 follow-up effort.
He only played in 57 games, due in large part to a demotion to AAA following an injury rehab. In those games he posted a WAR of -0.9 with an absolutely abysmal line of .202/.259/.260. Ruben is still only 24 years old and has time to turn his career around, but Mets coaches and officials are concerned about his overall work ethic which could stunt his further development as a player.
Tejada’s “replacement,” Omar Quintanilla is the classic quad-A type player that the Mets have been touting out to fans disguised as deserving big leaguers the past few years. The Mets even go the distance on the costumes they give these players and dress them in authentic hats and jerseys so that fans are tricked into believing they are paying to watch major league talent.
Omar, god bless his big heart, gave it all he had in 2013. Unfortunately his all was a -0.8 WAR featuring the deplorable line of .222/.306/.283. in 359 plate appearances, Quintanilla smacked a seriously underwhelming 13 extra base hits, two of which were home runs. This 31 year old journeyman minor leaguer is certainly not the answer at shortstop for the Mets.
So yes, after it was looking like Tejada could hold down the fort following 2012, the 2013 campaign leaves the Mets looking hard to upgrade at short. Not where they wanted to be, but luckily there are two players that are more than capable of filling the holes and they can hypothetically be signed within the Mets self-inflicted budget constraints.
Candidate number one is newly crowned World Series champion Stephen Drew. Drew was given a qualifying offer by the Red Sox, so signing him would still cost the Mets their second round draft pick.
This is something the front office has stated they are willing to part with, but the pragmatist in me sees this as either lip service to restless fans or as something that the front office admits could happen but likely won’t happen. Regardless, for the sake of comparison, let’s take a look a Drew’s numbers.
Last season the 30 year old Drew was good for a 3.1 WAR and a line of .253/.333/.443. His 2013 season was not far off from his career numbers: .264/.329/.435. Drew should be good for a WAR of anywhere from 2.0-3.0 for the Mets if signed. As a Scott Boras client, he will likely command around 4 years and around $50 million, something the Mets can certainly afford, but at a slightly greater price than what he is actually worth, especially with the surrendered draft pick.
Candidate number two is Biogenesis tainted Jhonny Peralta. He was suspended 50 games this past season for his connection with PEDs and the illegal clinic Biogenesis. The looming shadow of his PED use will cause many to balk at a big contract for the 31 year old shortstop.
Peralta was not given a qualifying offer from the Tigers, so the Mets would not have to surrender a draft pick to sign him.
In my mind, this immediately ups his value for the Mets and his likelihood of being signed by Sandy Alderson and his staff. Jhonny Peralta, even with a 50 game suspension, played in 107 games for the Tigers and was able to compile a line of .303/.358/.457 and a WAR of 3.3 in 2013.
While Drew is younger and the better defender, Peralta is still an above average defender at his position. Teams are not likely to break the bank on him and Davidoff suggests that he’ll get a three-year, $36 million deal.
In my opinion, Peralta is an absolute bargain and must absolutely be targeted and signed by the Mets. This is a player who has compiled a solid career on both offense and defense and should be good for at least a 2.0 WAR next season. He will not require a large number of contract years nor will he break the bank. The icing on the cake is that he will not cost the Mets a draft pick in 2014.
Get on it Sandy. Sign this man.