Coleman: Mets Need To Proceed With Caution On Some Free Agents
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By Ed Coleman
It is a tough time and a rough market for the Mets.
They are a team that needs to make a splash — and a quick one at that — to energize a dormant fan base that has just watched a division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies, sign a player that was theirs for most of 2013, Marlon Byrd, to a two-year, $16 million contract, further driving up the price for corner outfielders, which just happens to be a primary need for the Mets of 2014.
Ahh, the sweet irony.
This is not the perfect market for the Mets, not the best time to have a ton of money coming off the books, but it does dovetail with the fact that this team has a lot of holes to fill. And it really doesn’t matter that the free agent class of 2015 is better than this year’s — especially when the URGENT sign is flashing for 2014.
Look, the Mets have to make moves and perhaps they can’t be picky in a flawed market. They just have to be careful. The market features players who have holes or major question marks that will get the big bucks because they possess power, a sought after quantity, and the ability to play power positions, like corner outfield spots.
The Mets would like to corner a corner outfielder quickly and they wouldn’t mind a shortstop as well, thus their interest in Curtis Granderson and Jhonny Peralta. Nelson Cruz would make three. They just need to proceed with caution.
Granderson may be the one to be most wary of. Don’t get me wrong, he is a lovely guy who easily fits into any clubhouse he’s in. The “Grandy Man” was been crosstown in the Yankee clubhouse for the previous four seasons and was quite successful. His best Yankee season was 2011 when he hit 41 home runs, drove in 119 runs and scored 136, along with 26 doubles and an on-base percentage of .364. Anyone would drool over those numbers and that season.
But Granderson will be 33 next season. He still hits home runs — and strikes out a lot. His speed has diminished with age, naturally. Back in 2007, Granderson hit 23 triples, but he had 23 combined during his time with the Yankees.
His strikeouts are a big red flag to me, and should be to a team trying to cut down on them. Granderson struck out 169 times during his stellar 2011 campaign, a number that jumped to 195 in 2012. He had 69 strikeouts in 245 at-bats during his injury-plagued 2013 season, and if you project that over a full season he’d end up with 193. That’s a lot. His on-base percentage also dipped the last two years to .319 and .317, respecitvely.
So he’s probably not the best long-term investment.
Cruz and Peralta are both Biogenesis guys. Cruz is also 33 and has hit at least 22 over each of the last five years, averaging 27 per year. He’s also averaged a little more than 80 RBI over that same span. I’d like to see a little more production from a corner outfielder, especially one who’s been based in hitter-friendly Texas. But there is a need for his abilities.
Peralta is the one that seems like the best bet and fit. It was a smart move by him and his agent to show up in person at the GM Meetings in Orlando, affording the Mets an opportunity to meet him early on.
Peralta will be 32 this coming season, and had 11 homers and 55 RBI in 107 games before serving his suspension, along with a slash line of .303/.358/.457. And after serving his 50-game suspension and rejoining the Tigers, Peralta hit .333 with a homer and 6 RBI in two playoff rounds for Detroit. He’s durable, as evidenced by the fact that he’s never been on the disabled list, averaging 149 games played per season.
Peralta has over time improved defensively as a shortstop, and while his power has fluctuated, he’s averaged almost 17 homers per season as a shortstop. He doesn’t walk much, and his strikeout rate jumped to 22 percent, but overall he’s been a solid contributor and a good presence in the clubhouse.
On the trade front, the Mets should at least investigate Oakland’s Jed Lowrie, even though the A’s say he’ll be their shortstop probably until phenom Addison Russell arrives, and despite the recent signing of reserve infielder Nick Punto.
Lowrie is one of those guys who has the “extra” attributes, someone who brings more to the table than his already pretty good numbers. And while the Tigers sort out their rotation, Rick Porcello may be a guy who shakes out available and would be well worth considering. New Jersey born and raised, Porcello is still young, durable, and an innings-eater whose strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved each season. He’s well worth looking into.
Follow Ed on Twitter at @EddieCWFAN
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