Featured Post: Eight Free Agents That Could Help The Mets

ESPN’s Keith Law released his Top 50 Free Agents for this offseason on Tuesday. With the Mets rumored to have some payroll flexibility and a willingness to spend, this would be a great opportunity to take a look at some of the interesting names who may or may not be linked to the Mets this winter.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby-Ellsbury-homers-Red-Sox-win-0893DL4-x-largePosition: Centerfield 

Age: 30

2013: .298/.355/.426 | 9 HR | 52 SB | 5.8 WAR

Law’s take:

If, for the moment, we ignore Ellsbury’s injury-marred 2012 season, we’re looking at a 30-year-old centerfielder who plays outstanding defense, is a plus runner who adds value with his baserunning, and has generated over 14 WAR overall across his past two healthy seasons.

His 2013 skill set alone makes him the second-best free agent available, and the hope that he can recapture some of the power he showed in 2011, when he started to drop the bat head more often to drive pitchers on the inner half, likely will lead teams to bid him up over that $20 million mark.

My take:

I think Ellsbury is an intriguing name. He’s essentially Jose Reyes in the outfield. I say outfield and not centerfield because I’m a huge fan of Juan Lagares and if the Mets were to sign Ellsbury I would prefer it be as a leftfielder. However, with an annual average salary set to top $20MM I don’t see the Mets getting involved. This is a player you splurge on if you’re a bat away from contention and looking to maximize his value by playing him in center.

Masahiro Tanaka

tanakaPosition: Starting Pitcher (RHP)

Age: 25

2013 (NPB stats): 212 IP | 1.27 ERA | 183 SO | 32 BB

Law’s take:

Comparisons to Yu Darvish are unfortunate, and wrong, but if we must keep to former NPB players, Hiroki Kuroda is a better fit: A potential No. 2 starter with outstanding control and at least one above-average to plus off-speed weapon to miss bats.

The optimistic view of Tanaka sees incredible control and at least one pitch, possibly two, to miss MLB hitters’ bats, making him worth the $15 million-plus it’ll take in annual salary to sign him.

My take:

I think this is the player the Mets should be all-in on this winter. Most of you will scream about how the Mets need offense– and you’re right. However, under the current landscape of baseball a 25-year old potential #2 starter is never going to hit free agency. Teams are locking up their young players at much higher rates than ever before. Most of the pitchers reaching free agency these days are older, often injury prone or just flawed. Adding a pitcher of Tanaka’s ilk would help ease the loss of Matt Harvey while also freeing up the Mets to trade another one of their pitching prospects in an attempt to add offense.

Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo ChooPosition: Outfield 

Age: 31

2013: .285/.423/.462 | 21 HR | 20 SB | 5.2 WAR

Law’s take:

Choo is among the best free-agent position players on the market, one whose WAR stats probably understate his value, as he was asked to play out of position (in center field) in 2013. Five years is probably too much given his age (32) and injury history, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he got that, and he’s worth close to $20 million a year to a high-revenue contender.

My take:

As I’ve previously written here on MMO, I’m not a proponent of the Mets signing Choo. I think his struggles against LHP are too large to ignore. He’s a borderline platoon player, another sentiment expressed by Law (which I didn’t include in this article as to not steal all his material). I agree with Keith that he’s a great sign for a high-revenue contender. While most fans want the Mets to be just that, they aren’t yet, and the price-tag that would come attached to Choo would also come with expectations I don’t think he’s capable of fulfilling. He’s a table-setter, not an impact bat that’s going to turn around an offense and franchise.

Stephen Drew

stephen drewPosition: Shortstop

Age: 30

2013: .253/ .333/.443 | 13 HR | 6 SB | 3.4 WAR

Law’s take:

In a market with few shortstop options, that should make Drew a hot commodity. He looked as good in the field as he had before he got hurt. Replacement level is so low at shortstop that the offense he provides against right-handed pitchers makes him a 3-4 WAR player when healthy, worth three years and $12 million to $14 million a year to discount for his durability.

My take:

Drew is a nice player, solid all-around aside from his platoon issues. The issue is that contending teams seeking a shortstop are going to overlook his injury history and hand him too many years at an inflated annual salary. That will probably take him out of the Mets range– and I that’s probably a good thing. I think you can find a player at the same position who will give you 80% of Drew’s value at a lesser cost.

Matt Garza

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee BrewersPosition: Starting Pitcher

Age: 29

2013: 155.1 IP | 3.82 ERA | 7.88 K/9 | 2.43 BB/9 | 2.2 WAR

Law’s take:

Garza followed the Ryan Dempster model one year later, pitching well for the Cubs, going to Texas in a trade, and pitching worse after the deal, hurting his stock a little as he heads into free agency. Assuming the 2012 elbow issue or 2013 lat strain don’t cause him to flunk a physical, he’s a three-year deal candidate in the $12 million to $14 million a year range.

My take:

I’m not hopeful that the Mets will throw themselves into the Tanaka bidding, so Garza should be their backup plan. He’s a solid mid-rotation pitcher who can pitch above that level on some days. The move to Texas saw both Garza’s HR/9 and HR/FB ratios bump up a decent amount. I think he could thrive in a big ballpark like Citi Field, especially with the Mets likely to have a solid defensive outfield.

Curtis Granderson

Curtis+GrandersonPosition: Outfield 

Age: 32

2013: .229/.317/.407 | 7 HR | 8 SB | 1.4 WAR

Law’s take:

In 2011, Granderson was worth 6.7 WAR (per FanGraphs), among the most valuable position players in the league.. His 2012 season was a step back, as his defense declined and he swung and missed more often just to maintain the same level of power output.. Sign him for three years and $40 million to $45 million, run him out to left field every day, and hope that he stays healthy.

My take:

Granderson could be an excellent buy-low candidate, and one who wouldn’t come with hefty expectations. He could provide the Mets with the power they’ve been completely lacking over the past couple seasons. Granderson, while no longer a center field option, could slide into left and provide adequate defense– something the Mets were lacking until the arrival of Eric Young last year. Coming to Queens would allow Granderson to stay in the same market, something that may appeal to him. I’m hoping this is a player the Mets are looking at closely.

Jhonny Peralta

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit TigersPosition: Shortstop

Age: 31

2013: .303/ .358/ .457 | 11 HR | 3.6 WAR

Law’s take:

Peralta’s a competent hitter for an infielder who created a ton of value for Detroit in the past three-plus years by standing around shortstop and playing adequate defense at a position where replacement value is currently somewhere in the crawl space under my house. It doesn’t look pretty, but it doesn’t have to. A fringe shortstop who posts a .340 OBP with 15-20 homers is practically an All-Star these days.

My take:

Many will be hesitant to add a player like Peralta because of his recent suspension due to alleged-PED use. I don’t like to get involved in the PED discussion, mostly because I don’t feel comfortable with the amount of information we have on the actual affects it has on on-field performance. Peralta is a solid player at a premium position of need for the Mets– that’s the important part. The fact that he may come at a discount makes him even more attractive.

Corey Hart

corey_hart_BrewersPosition: 1B/OF

Age: 31

2012: .270/.334/.507 | 30 HR | 2.2 WAR

Law’s take:

Hart missed all of 2013 after undergoing surgery on both knees, making his availability for full-time duty in 2014 something of a question mark, but making him one of the better high-risk/high-reward plays on the market.

A team like Tampa Bay, with a hole at first and a history of going after guys like this, could see great value on a one-year, $3 million to $4 million deal.

My take:

I’m a huge proponent of the Mets signing Hart. He could provide a huge boost for the Mets offense at an extremely low cost. Of course there are injury concerns, and nobody knows how Hart will come back from surgeries on both knees. But I think at the very least Hart could be a dangerous first base platoon-mate with either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda. At best he could be 2014’s version of Marlon Byrd— a player who provides much needed power and could be a trade chip come July.

Surely there’s a ton of names I didn’t cover here. With a team with as many holes as the Mets there’s dozens of players out there who could help them going forward. However this post was starting to run a bit long, and I wanted to cover the names you hear most associated with the Mets. Perhaps I’ll turn this into a two-parter. If there’s any players you feel I’ve overlooked just let me know in the comments.