The Mets rebuilt their bullpen and lost Jose Reyes this offseason, lowering payroll by a record $50MM in the process.
Major League Signings
- Frank Francisco, RP: two years, $12MM.
- Jon Rauch, RP: one year, $3.5MM.
- Ronny Cedeno, SS: one year, $1.2MM.
- Scott Hairston, OF: one year, $1.1MM.
- Total spend: $17.8MM.
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
- Acquired OF Andres Torres and RP Ramon Ramirez from the Giants for OF Angel Pagan.
- Claimed SP Jeremy Hefner from the Pirates.
- Jose Reyes, Willie Harris, Ronny Paulino, Chris Capuano, Jason Isringhausen, Ryota Igarashi, Chris Young, Pagan.
Draft Picks Gained or Lost
- Obtained 71st overall selection from Marlins for Reyes. Also obtain supplementary first round pick, 35th overall.
The Mets lost their franchise shortstop, lowered payroll by a record $50MM and watched as the Marlins and Nationals spent and traded aggressively. It wasn’t a fun offseason to be a Mets fan.
Despite the team’s interest in Jose Reyes, the free agent shortstop signed with Miami for $106MM. The Mets didn’t seem willing to guarantee the dynamic 28-year-old shortstop more than five years and $75-85MM, and Reyes said they never extended a formal offer.
GM Sandy Alderson is working with a payroll in the $90MM range, but with Johan Santana and Jason Bay combining to earn $40MM of that sum, he didn’t have much flexibility. To replace Reyes, the Mets will rely on Ruben Tejada and newcomer Ronny Cedeno. Though they offer a promising balance of upside and certainty on paper, the pair may cost the Mets three or four wins relative to Reyes, who's one of the best in the game.
The Mets did spend on their bullpen, signing a pair of free agents who spent the 2011 campaign in Toronto: Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Francisco had a respectable season, pitching especially well after the All-Star break, but it took $12MM to sign him. Given that relievers such as Chad Qualls, Todd Coffey, Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins and Kerry Wood signed for $3MM or less, $12MM seems like a lot for Francisco.
Still, Alderson’s decision to improve the bullpen makes sense, since it was a clear area of need entering the offseason. The Mets also obtained Ramon Ramirez from the Giants in the trade that sent non-tender candidate Angel Pagan to San Francisco for Andres Torres. Ramirez, who has put together four solid seasons in a row, will be a welcome addition to Terry Collins' bullpen. It's also possible that relievers such as Bobby Parnell and Manny Acosta will show progress, further improving the 'pen.
The change of scenery swap brings Torres, a 34-year-old journeyman to the Mets. His career batting line is inferior to Pagan's, but Torres costs $2.7MM in 2012 and is under team control through 2013, while Pagan will earn $4.85MM before hitting free agency this coming offseason. UZR suggests Torres is an excellent outfielder and defense was indeed a driving reason for the trade.
"More than anything, we're expecting solid center field defense from Torres," vice predident of player development and scouting Paul DePodesta told MLBTR. "Offensively, we'd anticipate something in between his 2011 and 2010 performances."
The Mets' signing of Chris Capuano worked out nicely in 2011, when the left-hander made 31 starts. The team didn’t make any such additions this offseason, though swingman Miguel Batista re-signed on a minor league deal. If Johan Santana’s shoulder limits him in a significant way -- a real possibility given the nature of shoulder injuries and the trouble he encountered last summer -- the Mets may explore the market for starting pitching. So far, they haven't been as eager to sign starting pitchers as they were a year ago.
"There were two main factors at play," DePodesta explained. "One, we felt strongly about Capuano a year ago and didn't have the same conviction about someone in this year's class. And two, we didn't have the same opportunity to sell this year. With Santana coming back, we had a full rotation, assuming health. Therefore, our situation wasn't as appealing to a Capuano-esque starter."
One of the most significant moves of the Mets' quiet offseason occurred when the club officially decided to moves the outfield fences in at Citi Field. The change ostensibly creates balance between offense and defense, but it could also increase fan interest and enhance the trade value of certain Mets position players.
If David Wright drew serious trade interest, we didn't hear about it at MLBTR. The currently sidelined third baseman could rebuild his trade value in his suddenly cozy home park if he stays healthy. A midseason deal is possible, but if the Mets wait until next winter, they'd be offering Wright for a full season instead of just the pennant race.
The Mets seem content to rely on catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas for the duration of the 2012 campaign. Veteran free agents including Ivan Rodriguez were available, but it makes sense for a developing team such as the Mets to see what their young, internal candidates can do before turning to the veteran stopgap types.
Optimistic Mets fans will look to the likes of Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia and hope for big seasons in 2012. There's also Zack Wheeler, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Brandon Nimmo and the promise of the 12th overall pick this June. Talent is on the way.
Yet the Mets' offseason was at best unspectacular and at worst demoralizing. Until the team's bad contracts officially expire and the multi-million dollar lawsuit against against owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon is settled, there's no indication that the Mets will stop operating like a small-market club. Sometimes it’s hard to believe they play in the biggest market in the U.S.