Aardsma, Pedro, Frank, Johan, Hawk, Dice-K & More Hitting Open Market

By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
» More Columns

Get them to sign on the line which is dotted.

The free-agent period is nearly upon us. For Mets fans — although it hasn’t been the case in recent memory — it’s often the best part of the year.

There is actually some hope, some promise.

With approximately $40 million coming off the books — and COO Jeff Wilpon talking a big game — fans are expecting management to sign some top-tier free agents this offseason.

Or at the very least, bring some legitimate major leaguers into Flushing.

Yes, the pressure is on management to spend often — yet wisely — this offseason as it pertains to acquiring talent. But as is always the case, the front office must also decide what to do with its own players whose contracts have run their course.

The decisions shouldn’t be too grueling for general manager Sandy Alderson. None of New York’s free agents will be in high demand, and none of them figure to be prominent pieces for the organization moving forward. But still, the decisions must be made.

The Mets have eight players from last year’s squad who can sign elsewhere via free agency. All eight are pitchers, five of which are relievers.

Should Alderson let them all walk? Should any return for 2014? Let’s take a quick look at each free agent, one by one, and decide if he should be brought back next season.

1. David Aardsma, RHP — The 31-year-old had an up and down season for New York in 2013. At times he looked very hittable and at others he looked like the guy who saved 38 and 31 games, respectively, in 2009 and 2010 for the Mariners. His final numbers weren’t especially impressive (4.31 ERA, 19 walks and 39 hits in 39 2/3 innings), but he’s still relatively young and there’s still life in that arm. He won’t be expensive to keep, and you can never have enough pitching.


2. Tim Byrdak, LHP — After suffering an anterior capsule injury in his left shoulder in August of 2012, the left-handed specialist didn’t make his 2013 debut until September, and he struggled in eight appearances. But you can’t read too much into such a small sample size. We know that the 40-year-old can’t get righties out, but in 2012 lefties hit just .154 off him. There will be little — if any — outside interest in the veteran, so why not sign him to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, similar to the one he received last November? Also, he loves Hulk Hogan and “Seinfeld,” so that should factor into Alderson’s decision.


3. Pedro Feliciano, LHP — I was a big fan of “The Perpetual Pedro” in his first stint with the Mets. I was an even bigger fan of his in his second stint. His third stint this past season? Not so much. What’s fair is fair: In his prime, the 37-year-old was one of the best lefty specialists in the game. He was so good, in fact, that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman signed him to a two-year, $8 million deal in 2011. When the reliever was unable to pitch due to injury, Cashman blamed the Mets for overusing him. So why did you sign him in the first place, big guy? Ah, but I digress. Feliciano didn’t pitch terribly in 25 games in 2013, but it’s time to move on. And the Mets don’t need two old left-handed specialists on their roster. It’s been real, Pedro.

DECISION TIME: Let him walk

4. Frank Francisco, RHP — This is the easiest decision of them all. The biggest black eye in Alderson’s tenure was signing Frankie to a two-year, $12 million contract. The 34-year-old, brought in to be the club’s closer, was brutal in the first year of his deal, pitching to a 5.53 ERA. He also walked 21 batters and surrendered 47 hits in 42 1/3 innings, for good measure. Like Byrdak, he didn’t make his season debut until September after missing the first five months of the season with injury. Predictably, when he was called up to Queens toward the end of the season, he pitched badly. To make matters worse — if that’s possible — the Daily News reported in July that the right-hander negatively influenced Jenrry Mejia during his rehab assignment in Port St. Lucie. Not cool.

DECISION TIME: Let him walk

5. Johan Santana, LHPAs expected, the Mets declined the 34-year-old’s $25 million option for 2014, opting instead to buy the final year out for $5.5 million. New York signed Santana to a six-year, $137.5 million deal in 2008 after trading for him from the Twins. Oh, how sweet it is to finally have that massive contract off the Wilpons’ hands. The two-time Cy Young Award winner missed the entire season after  it was discovered in spring training that he re-tore his left shoulder capsule for the second time in three years. Alderson has said that he’s open to re-signing the former ace, and the four-time All-Star’s camp has stated that Santana would be willing to return to Flushing. But all of that just seems to be lip service. The changeup artist’s career in New York is done, as it should be. Thanks for the shutout on the second-to-last day of the season in 2008, Johan. Thanks for the first no-hitter in franchise history on June 1, 2012. Thanks for the memories.

DECISION TIME: Let him walk

6. Aaron Harang, RHP — The Mets signed the 2006 National League strikeout champion to a minor-league deal in early September after ace Matt Harvey was shut down for the remainder of the season. The veteran made four starts for the Amazin’s and exceeded expectations, striking out 26 batters in 23 innings and recording a 3.52 ERA. At age 35 he’s no spring chicken, but he still might have another year or two of effectiveness in him. He’s also an innings eater, something that the Mets will desperately need in Harvey’s absence. And although the Mets’ strength is their starting pitching, the old cliché rings true: You can never, ever have enough starting pitching. The best news of all? He will come very cheap.


7. LaTroy Hawkins, RHP — First of all, he’s a superhero. The 40-year-old subdued an unruly passenger on a flight to Chile last Sunday night. That’s got to be good karma, right? But in all seriousness, the reliever did a superb job out of the bullpen in 2013, pitching to a 2.93 ERA and walking just 10 in 70 2/3 innings. He also filled in admirably as a closer when Bobby Parnell went down with a herniated disk in his neck in early August. The Hawk converted 13 of 16 save opportunities, and we all know that coffee is for closers only. By all accounts, the 19-year veteran is loved in the clubhouse. Initial reports have suggested that both Hawkins and the Mets have mutual interest in coming to terms on a new deal, although the longtime Twin is expected to test free agency.


8. Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP — Do we really want more four-and-a-half hour games? Do we want more 37-pitch innings in which there is 45 seconds between each pitch? Do we want the count to go 3-2 on EVERY SINGLE HITTER? Didn’t think so. Dice-K was signed on August 22 to be an innings eater and he immediately entered the starting rotation. Not only did the 33-year-old not eat innings, but he struggled mightily to get outs right off the bat. The junkballer settled down in the final weeks of the season, finishing 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts. But for the sake of the fans’ enjoyment, and for the sake of Keith Hernandez’s patience in the broadcasting booth, let’s turn the page.

DECISION TIME: Let him walk

So there you have it, Sandy. Re-sign Aardsma, Byrdak, Harang and Hawkins, and then lure Jacoby Ellsbury to Citi Field.


Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.

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